Not for the fainthearted
Tricky handicaps to have punters guessing
RACING in the off season is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to handicaps.
Horses at the top of the ratings are mostly consistent and generally run to their numbers, which makes things a tad easier for punters. At the other end of the scale you find the lame, lazies and just plain slow. Horses that for a myriad of reasons — physical, mental and quite often both — cannot be relied upon to produce their best consistently, despite a trainer’s best efforts.
Adding to the puzzle is that over Champions Season when competition is at its strongest, many trainers bottle up their lesser lights to have them primed for when the competition is weaker. The problem here for punters is working out which trainers have their horses ready.
Clairwood tomorrow is a case in point, where a few tricky handicaps will have punters guessing. However, the up side is that dividends mostly match the degree of difficulty and there is money to be made.
The Oceanwide Clearing & Forwarding MR 96 Handicap is towards the top end of the handicap scale, but the problem here is that all eight runners have some form to back their claims. This is borne out by the betting, where six of the eight runners are within two points of each other in the market.
Desert Raptor and Concatenation are the market leaders bracketed on 3-1 and it boils down to a choice between a lightly raced but progressive four-year-old and a seasoned older horse.
In 13 visits to the track, Desert Raptor has only finished out of the money three times and has mostly finished less than a length off the winner. After winning his last start on the Highveld, Alec Laird shipped his charge back to Durban where he ran up a close third behind the De Kock pair of Rocco’s Luck and Mercurial Brave. If anything, one can expect another solid effort from Desert Raptor.
Frank Robinson will have a busy afternoon saddling 10 runners including Concatenation, who looks to be his best chance of a winner. Assistant to Herman Brown Jnr for many years, Robinson took over the yard when Brown handed in his brief. Concatenation was a late starter, only making his debut in February this year as a late three-year-old. It proved to be a pipeopening sprint and once stretched to a “mile” and further he won two races on the bounce.
Concatenation has not been out since midMay, but he does have that come-on look about him and may well prove much better than his current rating. If that’s the case he will make things uncomfortable for Desert Raptor, given his light weight.
One can make a case for all of the runners including the longest priced runner Dark Wind. Neil Bruss has spent his winter in KZN tending a small string of horses and enjoying the sunshine, but will be expecting Dark Wind to pay for his travel expenses back to Cape Town.
Talking about horses with problems, Skitt Skizzle in the opening leg of the PA has been priced up favourite in the face of some healthy opposition despite being off the track for nearly a year. The five-year-old entire only had five starts two seasons back, but showed that he has plenty of ability when running the smart Coffee Sheik to a length in a Pinnacle Stakes. That showing is what probably prompted Sean Tarry to persevere and if Skitt Skizzle brings that form to the track tomorrow he could prove difficult to beat.
However, stable companion Mercado strikes as a more reliable proposition while Captain On The Run and the blinkered Albert are also expected to give some cheek.
The Mike de Kock-trained Bridge Too Far proved to be a bum steer for punters when not living up to her billing on debut where she started at odds-on. She showed early toe in that Scottsville sprint, but could not go with them when under pressure. On that evidence she should prove a better proposition in the opening leg of the Pick 6 where she has a reasonable draw over 1 450 metres and can make amends.
Too Much Fun and Sakania are obvious dangers, while Arak Attack should also appreciate the extended trip and is likely to improve.
Desert Raptor is running in the seventh race, over 1 800 metres, at Clairwood tomorrow. The five-year-old gelding is in good form and makes a strong appeal.