Thanks to the two most fancied horses, Merhaba and Mica Point, last Sunday’s Zimbabwe Derby, third leg of the Triple Crown, became a race to refer to whenever anyone hints that Borrowdale Park three-year-olds can’t produce the goods over 2400m.
As expected the Second Empire (IRE) filly, Second Light, set a blistering pace with the rest of the pack staying seven or eight lengths behind until approaching the home turn. With about 600m to run the field moved up to her and by the 200m mark it was obvious Merhaba and Mica Point would fight out this finish.
And what a finish it was watching Mica Point and Merhaba matching strides up to the line with Merhaba getting the verdict by a head.
Although neither earned a place in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the 1600m Zimbabwe Guineas, this pair dominated the second leg, the Bloodstock SA 2000, when Mica Point went down to Merhaba by 1.25 lengths.
By Mullins Bay (GB), Merhaba is trained by Gokhan Terzi, was ridden by Apprentice Wesley Marwing, and bred by Shadwell Stud. He is owned by Mr S. Armstrong, whose other runner, River Waltz, ran third. The early leader Second Light was fourth, 11.10 lengths off the winner.
At this meeting the Corne Spies yard teamed up with jockey Kevin Derere and produced three winners. Ebony Silver (22/1) triumphed in the first race, a 1000m Maiden Plate, and the Derere/Spies combination scored again with Prince Fireball (25/1) in a 1600m Maiden Plate, first leg of the Pick 6. Their third success was with Amas Amat in the last leg, a 1200m Graduation Plate where the son of National Emblem got the better of Wat’s Up Sarge and Supa Challenge.
Kirk Swanson’s stable was also firing on all cylinders. Road To Dubai and Francois Herholdt gave the 1200m MR 55 Handicap field a galloping lesson, going clear by 6 lengths. In the next race, a 1600m Maiden Plate, Goose Green held on to beat Neptune’s Rock in another nail-biting finish.
Some real excitement, however, erupted in the 1800m MR 50 Handicap where Swanson sent out the favourite, Nugget’s Effect, and Stirling Road. Nuggett Effect, with Apprentice Norbert Takawira aboard, did all he was supposed to, winning by 2.5 lengths – but that was after Stirling Road had broken through the stalls, dislodging JP van der Merwe, and cantered up and down the course for a while.
The start was delayed by 10 minutes while the peanut gallery in the stands (including me) decided Stirling Road definitely could not race. Passed fit to run by the “vet” the Judpot (USA) gelding not only raced but was placed third, narrowly deprived of second place by Sword Of Truth.
Gee Racing saddled Call Me Earl, winner of the 1200m Maiden Juvenile Plate, while Amy Bronkhorst’s charge, Say So Tiger, came to the fore in the 1800m MR 75 Handicap.
I just have to tell you that had anyone taken all the horses I happened to mention for the Pick 6 he or she would have done well – apart from the first leg. I failed to find Prince Fireball but was obviously not alone as the Pick 6 paid R132 828.00. The Quartet with Prince Fireball, Wee Doch ‘n Dorris, Casey’s Dance and Briar Rose was R43 496.29.
We will have to try harder!
Below: 2015 Derby winner, Merhaba, with Apprentice Wesley Marwing in the irons, and his trainer, Gokhan Terzi.