says C. John Smith writing from the U.K.
This weekend sees the renewal of the Zimbabwe Derby. I have raced for almost forty years at Borrowdale and in that time I have been fortunate enough to have had/been involved with some cracking horses, excellent trainers and some superb jockeys.
For old farts like me can I mention The Toff, Bayshore Towers, Glen Monarch and Earl Of Surrey, then Roy Magner, Sharon Patterson, Noelene Peech, Lisa Harris and Geoff Woodruff, then we had Ivan Moore, Reid Patterson, the brilliant Dewi Williams and two Riddles, Noel and Quinton – not to mention Gavin Lerena (world class) Johnny Geroudis and Richard Fourie.
And I have been jammy enough to have won every significant race at Borrowdale and a few good ‘uns in RSA.
Sprints, middle distance and stayers races, from Champion Juveniles – plus the Golden Horse Casino Group 1 to the Guineas over a mile, the Bloodstock 2000, three Derbys and the Carlton Cup over 3200 – plus two Triple Crowns.
But can I say, without equivocation, the most important races of all that good fortune gave were the Derbys. Certainly not financially, but the Derbys are, in my mind, the pinnacle of all races and it is to the Mashonaland Turf Club’s tremendous credit that they have kept this amazing Classic alive and well for all these years.
The race winner is a special sort of horse, training requires a special type of skill and the jockey needs to have more than one grey cell – he needs to have an understanding of pace, tactics and a feel for when the button should be pressed. These components are far scarcer than those required to win up the straight or even over a mile. The Derby, in my view, over the classic mile and half, is the ultimate test – all other races are, in my view, mere sideshows. The fact the sprinter Earl of Surrey won the Derby underscores the real class of Dewi Williams – I salute you Dewi for both Earl and Glen.
So to those taking the field on Sunday – I salute you too. To the breeders, I know its tough and a long game – but the real test of your discipline is that of producing a Derby winner and for the owner – this is the race you need to have on your CV
These are just my own views and likely to be challenged by many racing aficionados – but nothing will change my view – the Derby is the ultimate racing goal – be it Epsom or Borrowdale – only the Derby counts.
Photograph: Rosie Dorward. Earl Of Surrey with Lisa Harris and Quinton Riddle.