JACK MILNER: PYLON may have needed five runs to shed his maiden tag but it just took one to reveal his liking for the Vaal sand track.
Like so many other progeny of Fort Wood, the Mike Azzie-trained three-year-old cruised to victory on debut at the track, beating home ever-consistent New York by 4.25 lengths. A length back in third ran Mr Premier, who in his next start ended the unbeaten run of Mr Tobin at this track.
Pylon was given a 3.5kg penalty for that victory but Pylon could still be ahead of the handicapper and looks the runner to beat when he lines up in Race 5, a MR 83 Handicap over 1800m at the course. His last victory was over this distance so that will not be an obstacle. Gavin Lerena, who has made up the stagger on his two other title-chasing opponents following his leg injury a couple of months back, is in the irons.
While Pylon has been off the track for the 63 days, New York has been a busy individual. He won his next start and then finished a 5.50-length second behind Zebulon in his penultimate run. His last outing saw him finish a two-length third to Dual Alliance. All three races were over 1600m at this track.
On paper Roy Magner’s charge – another son of Fort Wood – should finish substantially closer to Pylon as he is now 3kg better off. He is well drawn at No 4 and runs well for jockey Francois Herholdt. However, one wonders whether he is not a better horse over 200m shorter.
A better option for second could be Zebulon, although – as so often happens on the sand – there are a number of confusing form lines. Tyrone Zackey’s runner finished fourth behind Pylon and they now meet on the identical weight differential. In his next start, Zebulon could only finish 4.75 lengths behind New York but a run later, the seven-year-old gelding reversed that to beat his rival by 5.50 lengths.
New York is 5kg better off but, once again, we come back to the longer distance which will be no problem for Zebulon because in his last start, run over this course and distance, he beat Kruger Gold by 1.25 lengths. In fact, his record over 1800m on the Vaal sand reads two wins and two places from five starts.
His chances are further boosted by the fact that Anthony Delpech will take the ride but he will need to pull something out of the hat if he is to beat Pylon.
Zackey has some competent back up in the form of American Gangsta, who like his stable companion has won his last two starts. The six-year-old son of Opera King has been racing in far weaker company but comes in with just 53.5kg to carry. Karl Zechner has been in excellent form since relocating to the Highveld and he is aboard American Gangsta.
Azzie can notch up a quick double if Magic Smoke takes to the sand in Race 6, a FM 86 Handicap over 1600m. She looks well above average, having won her first two starts before taking on the likes of Katy’s Lane.
She was out of action for just over seven months but ran on well when finishing a two-length fourth behind Mount Carmel over 1600m on the Turffontein inside track late last month. She will have needed that run and should be a lot fitter here.
This is her first outing on the sand but she is also by Fort Wood and gives Lerena another winning chance.