Betfair's Andrew Riddell takes a look at Vaal's stellar Saturday card, including the Emerald Cup...
"The race starts on the cusp of a bend so a low draw is vital..."
It's spring in South Africa and the racing season switches from Natal to Gauteng. We start the new season with the richest race on the sand in Africa, the Emerald Cup over an extended seven furlongs at the Vaal Racecourse. The race starts on the cusp of a bend so a low draw is vital, otherwise hold-up tactics will need to be applied. Spring also means the rain has come, which can often lead to a slow track, a negative for the hold-up horses. It'd be wise to watch earlier races to determine the speed the track is racing.
A maximum of 14 go to post for the big one, with raiders from the Cape and Port Elizabeth getting involved. Sean Tarry has four runners including the defending champion, The Mouseketeer. Mike De Kock, the champion trainer of 2012 has two runners, Meadow Magic and Right Beauty. The champion jockey of 2012 Anton Marcus has chosen to ride one of the Cape raiders In A Rush. It is a wide-open betting event including horses that have never been on the sand, good horses that are drawn very wide, but that makes it more exciting. If you don't back the winner and you're on track you can enjoy the sunshine, barbecues and three bands that the track have put on for the bumper crowd they are expecting.
The supporting races do not look any easier but I will be having a few small bets to try and bolster the betting bank before the Emerald Cup.
Race 2, 11:40 (BST)- Always Al looks to be the wrong one in the Tarry three-way coupling, switches back to sand where he wins when he dictates the pace, will go close.
Race 4, 12:50 -Lay Contador, 1st time on the sand and takes on two tried-and-tested winners over course and distance in Peanuts and Mogok's Desire.
Race 5, 13:25 -Hotel Royale (each way) may not have her ideal trip (she prefers further), but the pace will be hot and she will be running on strongly at the finish.
Race 7, 14:40 -Winter's Song (each way) has come back to his optimum trip and is back on his favourite surface.
Now for the big one...
1 - 10 MR TOBIN - Has only been beaten once in 10 starts at this track and two from two over course and distance, had a hard race last week and is held at the weights by a few, lay at the price, place at best.
2 - 1 PRIME MOVER - Has the plum draw of 1, the only positive for me, not sure to get the distance and been unplaced all three starts over course and distance.
3 - 2 MEADOW MAGIC - Well drawn and likes it here, not sure if this is his trip, will be in the firing line when it matters and definite chance.
4 - 15 IN A RUSH - Champion jockey's choice, first time on the sand, badly drawn, lay both win and place for me.
5 - 9 BOB 'N WEAVE - PE raider, optimistic entry, first time on the sand, nothing to recommend him.
6 - 16 RIGHT BEAUTY - Drawn widest and will struggle from there as likes to race handy, classy sort but cannot have him today.
7 - 3 CAPTAIN'S SECRET - Cape raider, not his first time on the sand but the jockey's, has had a prep on the sand and well-drawn today, with improvement could feature.
8 - 7 THE MOUSEKETEER - Defending champ and Striker rides, performances of late have been disappointing but can improve and feature. Not for me though.
9 - 5 ACROSS THE ICE - Currently the joint favourite, ran fifth in this race last year and if steps up to the trip will be hard to beat, I cannot back him at the price and the worry regards the trip.
10 - 14 FOLLOW THE PIPER - Badly drawn, is three from five over course and distance, will be held up and come late, top apprentice on board and place chance for me.
11 - 8 CALANISH - Good prep for this race, has won four times over course and distance, is held by the favourites on a few runs, will be having an each-way bet on him at a double-figure price.
12 - 12 EASTERN COBBLER - Is held on weights by lots of the runners who have beaten him consistently, wide draw as well, not for me.
13 - 11 ASTRO NEWS - Improving four-year-old, has been campaigning over longer trips, not well drawn, first time on the sand, not for me.
14 - 6 BEACON FLARE - Lightly weighted, well drawn, likes it on the sand, a course and distance winner and currently 10/1 looks value to me.
15 - 13 CARYL'S LAW - Badly drawn and not for me, needs further
16 - 4 KISS AGAIN - First time on the sand, well drawn and if he gets in and enjoys the track may run a place.
As mentioned earlier, in an open race I am backing two horses, Beacon Flare and Calanish, as they look the best value for me. I will be laying Mr Tobin in the win market and In A Rush in the win and place markets.
Highly competitive and will be great viewing, you can watch the race via the Live Video stream on Betfair, the race is at 15:30 BST.