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CHAMPION trainer Charles Laird has nominated no less than seven runners for the Emerald Cup, to be run over 1450m on the Vaal sand track on September 26.
With stake money of R600000, The Grade 2 event is the richest race on sand in the southern hemisphere.
While most pundits expected Galahad to top Laird's list of runners, Smart Banker is the surprise entry.
The son of Strike Smartly has won eight of his 15 starts, including the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Champions Challenge, both Grade 1 events.
Those performances saw him win this year's Highveld award for Horse of the Year and also earned him an Equus award nomination.
Smart Banker has never raced on sand while Belorus has won six of his seven starts on the surface.
Laird's other entries include Crown Of Power, winner of Monday's Racing Association Mile at Flamingo Park in Kimberley, as well as runner-up Space Captain. Cyber Case, who won the Sprint at Flamingo Park in the amazing time of 56.38 seconds, is also among Laird's entries. The other two are Hurricane Force and Anaboo.
Two former champions have also been nominated - Narc, who won the race in 2007, and last year's victor, Alimony. Narc has been racing in Dubai for the past season but is now back in training with Bradley Maroun.
Alimony, one of three entries from the St John Gray yard, has not visited the winner's box since last year's event but showed his promise with a promising second to Dealsdunn at the Vaal last Saturday.
Mike de Kock has two entries - Braggadacio and Centaur. Braggadacio was strongly fancied to win last year's race but failed to run to his best ability.
Supplementary entries close on Monday after which the weights will be published. Final declarations have to be submitted by 11am on September 16.
A live draw will take place that evening.