BOOKMAKERS have priced up Jet Jamboree as the hot favourite for Saturday’s R1m Emerald Cup at the Vaal — the richest race on sand in Africa.
Trainer Dominic Zaki was beaming from ear to ear after his sand star drew pole position at the big race draw. “His prep has gone perfectly and I believe he’s the one to beat,” he said.
However, some may view the 15-10 on offer about Jet Jamboree as “skinny”, as a number of rivals have also drawn favourably including Shadow Line, Whiteline Fever and KwaZulu-Natal raider Storm Surf.
Shadow Line booked his place in the 1,450m contest with a good recent win in the hands of Gavin Lerena, but the talented Highveld rider is booked for Jet Jamboree, so trainer Scott Kenny has had to shop around for another jockey.
Both promising apprentice Ryan Munger and Chase Majeaun, who has just returned from injury, were on Kenny’s short list, but he eventually decided to plump for the experience of Gunter Wrogemann.
Kenny knows a wide draw is usually the death knell in races over the Cup distance, so he was relieved when his five-year-old drew barrier five.
In contrast, last year’s winner, In A Rush, who jumped from barrier one 12 months ago, has a wide gate to overcome this time, which makes life tough for the Port Elizabeth raider. Bookies rate trainer Gavin Smith’s gelding at 25-1.
Anger is what trainer Corne Spies will have felt after his horse of the same name drew widest of all at barrier 14. The August Stakes victor has a mountain to climb from that position.
Highveld punters have seen little of former champion Anton Marcus in recent months so they’ll be delighted he is making the trip to partner Charles Laird’s runner, Rio Carnival.
His mount is quoted at 10-1 in the ante-post market.
Piere Strydom, now just 38 winners shy of a career total of 5,000, is always a man to be feared in big races and he has been engaged for Sean Tarry’s top performer, Whiteline Fever. The big worry for the gelding’s supporters is that the Cup will be his first outing on sand.
The Vaal hosts two meetings — on Monday and Thursday — as “warm-ups” for Cup day, and jockey Anthony Delpech makes the trip from KwaZulu-Natal on Monday with possibly his best mount being Everest, who contests the final leg of the jackpot.
Delpech has an each-way chance on Crown Of Roses in the seventh race, but the filly who makes most appeal here is Aussie-bred Echuka who caught the eye with a good performance at Turffontein last time out.
Trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren introduces a well-bred Aussie in Gasoline in the fourth race and the import would not have to be anything special to win on debut.