Zimbabwe Guineas – tough test for three-year-olds

Traditionalists expect equine boys to beat equine girls in the main three-year-old Classics but, in the US$9 000 Zimbabwe Guineas (Gr3) to be run over 1600m at Borrowdale Park on Sunday, the fillies could reign supreme.

Alyson Wright’s Gee Racing stable is sitting pretty with the well performed Picalilly and Tallie Two – both sure to be well fancied.  Gokhan Terzi will send out the winner of the Breeders Fillies Mile, Eversolucky, while Bridget Stidolph is responsible for four-time winner Print The Pounds, who triumphed in the recent Fillies Classic.

Of the seven male contenders (all geldings) in this 13-horse line-up only Mica Point, from the Stidolph yard, can boast a feature win over Sunday’s distance. The son of West Man won the 1600m Guineas Trial on January 10.  However Guineas Trial is a bit of a misnomer as it is a Merit Rated Handicap and apprentice allowances may be claimed.

On the day Mica Point carried 52 kgs, beating Tallie Two (57.5 kgs) by 3 lengths; Eversolucky (56.5 kgs) was 4.25 lengths behind him and the Soar With Eagles gelding, Supa Challenge (58,5 kgs) a quarter of a length behind her.  I will say more about Supa Challenge later. Neither Print The Pounds nor Picalilly ran in the Guineas Trial but Guineas candidates Autumn J (52kgs), Young Antwun (58kgs) and So Ruler (52kgs) were further back.

In my opinion Mica Point cannot be considered a good thing at set weights but part-owner Rosie Dorward, who keeps a watchful eye on her horse, reports he is working very well.  To be fair I have to admit that on October 5, in a 1600m MR 52 Handicap, Mica Point was only 0.25 lengths behind the winner, Eversolucky, both carrying 60 kgs.

In the Breeders Fillies Mile on July 27 Eversolucky finished 3.50 lengths ahead of the then favourite Tallie Two, at level weights, and went on to narrowly trounce Atso’s Scheme in the 1600m Tote Free Handicap on November 29, but only carried 52 kgs.  Atso’s Scheme was followed home by Supa Challenge (55kgs), Mica Point (52kgs) Amy Bronkhorst’s Young Antwun (54,5kgs) and Autumn J (48kgs).

Although Tallie Two disappointed in the Fillies Mile she quickly made amends, winning impressively over 1700m and 1600m in open company. She has not raced since coming second to Mica Point in the Guineas Trial, missing out on the 1600m Fillies Classic due to a slight injury.

When Print The Pounds won that race on January 25 she was completing a hat trick of wins around the turn. The Champion Two-Year-Old of 2014, Picalilly, was having her first trip around the bend so there was pre-race speculation about whether she would see out the distance. She finished like a train although beaten 1.50 lengths by Print The Pounds.  Eversolucky and Autumn J filled the remaining places.

So it seems several fillies are within reach of the first leg of Zimbabwe’s Triple Crown – but what about Supa Challenge, a very good horse, with issues?

As a juvenile he clashed with the brilliant Picalilly and beat her in the 1200m Champion Juvenile Stakes.  He has won two races up the straight and tossed two over 1600m by hanging badly when victory was within his grasp.  In his last start up the straight on January 25 he lost the race, after an objection on the grounds of interference, and was placed third.

Supa Challenge will be ridden by Sherman Brown in the Guineas, and will be wearing pacifiers for the first time.  If the new equipment solves the problem then watch out – but Kirk Swanson’s charge must also overcome his No. 13 draw, next to Picalilly who is drawn 12.

Draws have been significant in two previous Zimbabwe Guineas.  In 2013 the winner, Approval Rating, was drawn 5, then came Newton Power, drawn 1, and Mighty Sha, drawn 2.

Ernie Or Else won the 2014 Guineas and jumped from the number 1 starting stall; Let’s Fly High, second, was drawn 2, and Princess Kate, third, was drawn 4.

The lucky ones this time are Eversolucky (1), Mica Point (2), Autumn J (3), Merhaba (4), Young Antwun (5) and Tallie Two (6).

In addition to Tallie Two and Picalilly, Assistant Trainer Penny Fisher of Gee Racing, will also saddle So Ruler and Zita, both one-time winners.  Gokhan Terzi fields Merhaba, a recent winner of a 1600m Maiden Plate, as well as Eversolucky.

Corne Spies has entered three – Amas Amat, What About Me and Autumn J –also one-time winners.  Autumn J ran second to Gotago over 1200m on February 8, but looks well held on Guineas Trial form.

What About Me had her first race in Harare in the Fillies Classic, and was quietly fancied. This was definitely not her day as she was kicked in the chest, passed fit to race, and then lost two lengths at the start.  The Tiger Ridge filly will be ridden by Francois Naude and is drawn 8.

Amas Amat did better in his fourth start in Harare on February 8. It looked as if stable companion Full Court would win the 1200m Maiden Plate comfortably when Amas Amat began picking his way purposefully through the field, but was still not really in with a shout.  Then, there he was, the winner by three-parts of a length at long odds.

By National Emblem, Amas Amat could be coming right but is drawn fairly wide here.  He has run over 2000m at Borrowdale when well beaten by So Ruler…but…if you are looking for a long shot?

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