Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

Randjesfontein trainer Stuart Pettigrew finds himself between “a rock and a hard place” when it comes to the sixth race at the Vaal on Tuesday.

If his Gary Player-bred sprinter Vars Vicky continues his successful season with his fifth win of the campaign, it can only delight the former Zimbabwean trainer. On the other hand, if Vars Vicky beats his main rival Battle Force it will somewhat dent the chances of Pettigrew’s entry ExpressfromtheUs for the Vodacom Durban July.

It is hard to desert Vars Vicky who has been this column’s selection on numerous occasions this term including the gelding’s win in the Senor Santa Stakes at Turffontein in March. Even so, the three-year-old has to concede 8.5kg to Battle Force which will be no easy task.

Battle Force has excelled this season for trainer Paul Matchett and his past seven starts have yielded four wins and three seconds. However, the son of Act Of War’s merit-rating is now up to 98 and it remains to be seen whether the handicapper has got his measure.

Tuesday’s 1,200m sprint is not a two-horse affair. Waiting to take on Vars Vicky and Battle Force is Fabian Habib’s grey gelding Mardi Gras. After a spell in the wilderness, the six-year-old bounced back to form when winning at Turffontein last month.

Mardi Gras clearly caught connections by surprise that day as he started at 25-1 — those odds will not be available this time and he has been priced up at 7-1 in early betting.

Though Wisteria Walk and the admirably consistent Mind Reader both rate each-way chances, the exacta boxing Vars Vicky, Battle Force and Mardi Gras (cost R6) could be the right play for punters.

Whatever the fate of Vars Vicky, Pettigrew will be hoping his two-year-old Follow Me can keep her unbeaten record by winning the first race. Her chief danger is Eternity Ring but she beat Barend Botes’ youngster on her debut at Turffontein.

S’manga Khumalo will have been disappointed that Belgarion was a late withdrawal from Sunday’s WSB 1900 at Greyville, but he still rode two winners at the Durban meeting.

Possibly Khumalo’s best mount on Tuesday’s eight-race programme is White Fang who will be favourite to leave the maiden ranks in the third race. The Futura gelding faces some modest rivals.

While Sean Tarry is certain to surrender his champion trainer crown to Justin Snaith at the end of July, he sends a team of six to the Free State track and is unlikely to return home empty-handed.

His R2.3m Silvano colt, Pyromaniac, won on debut in March and looks to keep his 100% record in the second race. However, there are a number of choicely bred newcomers including William Robertson, a R500,000 son of promising new sire, Rafeef.

Tarry’s four-year-old filly Senescence looks a worthy favourite in the fifth race, but could be given a run for her money by Gavin Lerena’s mount Smiley River. The recent Spook Express was a bridge too far for Phillip Labuschagne’s four-year-old who now reverts to handicap company. 

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