Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Veteran jockey Anton Marcus, SA’s equivalent of the UK’s celebrity rider Frankie Dettori, is as much in demand as ever due to his superb 30% strike rate of winners to rides.

Unlike Dettori, Durban-based Marcus does not own his own helicopter to hop between race venues. However, he has in recent years enjoyed the privilege of being flown around the country by owners and trainers keen to ensure that their runners get the best possible assistance from the saddle.

Owner Mario Ferreira is probably footing Marcus’s flight bill for the privilege of two rides for trainer Ashley Fortune at the Vaal on Thursday. Since he has taken no other rides but the pair, bookmakers have already taken notice and will not be offering any favours.

Marcus’s first ride, Invidia, (race 1 over 1,200m) opened deep in the red at 6-10 on Tuesday, trimmed to 5-10 on Wednesday. While this colt by Twice Over looks to have his race all but in the bag, Marcus’s second ride, Sweet William, (race 3, 9-1) has it all to do against the favourite African Rock (5-2).

Sweet William was transferred to Fortune’s stable after two improved runs in Cape Town recently. While it may only be a ride intended to kill some time before Marcus’s return flight, he is likely to shorten significantly if Invidia wins, because any number of the jockeys’ devotees will be splashing out on the double, for which 15-1 admittedly looks quite tempting.

Trainer Paul Peter, only seven short of his career best 80 winners recorded last season, has a bright chance of picking up the double in races 6 and 7.

Peter’s runner Whitehaven caught the eye when giving smart Alyaasaat a hard time in an Assessment Plate over 1,400m in April and, back in a handicap, presents some value at 4-1 considering that he is probably a few lengths better than his official rating.

Peter’s new acquisition Big Blue Marble (race 7) is the highest rated in an Assessment Plate over 1,000m. He has always been a much talked about young horse and this contest will show whether he has settled down in his new environment.

Vaal selections

Race 1: (5) Invidia (14) Your Pace Or Mine (3) Gunner Runner (6) Iron Henry

Race 2: (4) Jay Bomb (1) Jungle Jane (8) Just My Luck (10) Sweet Tafia

Race 3: (1) African Rock (2) Captain Flynt (4) Sweet William (12) Royal Siege

Race 4: (2) Golden Lion (7) Shortstop (6) Varimax (3) Fire And Rescue

Race 5: (1) Senor Lizard (2) Chariot Of Gold (8) Indy Ice (4) Woodlands Forest

Race 6: (7) Whitehaven (3) Mythical Bolt (1) Bold Coast (2) State Trooper

Race 7: (5) Big Blue Marble (1) Topmast (8) Royal Cavalier (3) Three Stars

Race 8: (4) What A Captain (5) Brigtnumberten (9) Rebel Renegade (6) Eastern Healer