Not for the faint­hearted

Tricky hand­i­caps to have pun­ters guess­ing

Weekend Witness - - Games -

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.

PHOTO: GOLD CIR­CLE

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.

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