Though the action is taking place behind closed doors, SA racing has thrown a lifeline to UK punters and bookmakers with this country — and Hong Kong — the only betting venues on Wednesday.
“Viewers and punters will have to adjust their schedule as SA racing leads off with an eight-race meeting at 10.50am,” the UK’s Racing Post reported.
Further restrictions were placed on local racing on Wednesday with Phumelela Gaming & Leisure stating that only those indispensable to holding a meeting will be allowed access to racecourses. Only one trainer per stable, jockeys, grooms, officials and a bare minimum of staff may attend.
The UK has already cancelled April’s popular Grand National meeting, but the Dubai World Cup meeting on March 28 will take place without spectators.
One jockey who will have to miss the Dubai meeting is top Hong Kong rider Joao Moreira. The former British colony has introduced a rule whereby anyone arriving in Hong Kong will have to undergo a 14-day self-isolation period.
Moreira was due to partner Bigtime Baby in the Golden Shaheen and Elusive State in the Godolphin Mile. These two horses will now be ridden by Ryan Moore.
Turffontein will stage a 10-race programme on Thursday and the spotlight will be on trainer Stephen Moffatt’s filly Rio’s Winter, who rates a banker bet in the final leg of the Pick Six.
After the running of the recent SA Fillies Classic, Moffatt sat with his head in his hands as if he had lost a family member.
The 48-year-old had journeyed to the city track believing Rio’s Winter, second in the Fillies Guineas, could take advantage of pole position and give his small Vaal stable a grade 1 winner.
To say that jockey Piere Strydom had an “off day” in the Classic is being kind, as the hugely experienced rider switched his mount in running and failed to take advantage of his good draw.
Moffatt revealed that Gavin Lerena had asked for the ride, but the trainer said he had to keep faith with Strydom after finishing a close second in the Guineas.
Lerena is reunited with Rio’s Winter on Thursday — he won on the three-year-old in January — and his only danger is likely to be Lucky Houdalakis’s runner Wisteria Walk.
With jockey Marco van Rensburg injured in a fall at Turffontein last Saturday and predicted to be sidelined for six weeks, Houdalakis will have to find a new jockey for Wisteria Walk who ran third in the grade 1 Ipi Tombe Stakes in November.
The pick of the other runners in this 1,450m contest may be Wylie Wench who won her second start in good style. The daughter of Wylie Hall has the advantage of a favourable barrier draw.
Mike de Kock’s powerful stable will send nine runners to Thursday’s meeting. They include three-year-old Marshall, who reverts to handicap company after an unplaced run in the SA Classic.
The swinger coupling Marshall and Candice Dawson’s grey gelding Indy Go looks a safe wager (if there is such a thing) as the latter did not finish far behind the De Kock inmate in the Egoli Mile.
First race: (9) Takagari (10) The Contractor (3) Expression Session (11) The Eighth Lord
Second race: (8) Mynage (11) Swiss Bank (4) Java House (3) Flaming Winter
Third race: (3) Dice The Bullet (2) Stunning (1) Hot Gossip (4) Riqaaby
Fourth race: (1) Psycho King (2) Crank It Up (3) Waltzing Al (8) Fairy Godmother
Fifth race: (7) Marshall (8) Indy Go (4) Full Mast (5) Dan The Lad
Sixth race: (4) Glider Pilot (6) Marshall Foch (2) Duke Of Spin (7) Fact
Seventh race: (2) Major Return (6) Gentleman’s Wager (1) Popsicle Toes (9) Poppycock
Eighth race: (7) Hear The Trumpet (2) Green Gunston (1) Undisclosed (4) Waimea
Ninth race: (1) Rio’s Winter (4) Wisteria Walk (7) Wylie Wench (5) Golden Belle
Tenth race: (8) Bassam (4) Lazarus Tree (1) Pop Icon (2) Seven Patriots