…but difficult to find the winner in this open race

Fourteen horses will line-up for the prestigious $50 000 Castle Tankard (Gr 1) to be run over 2000m at Borrowdale Park on Saturday, and I am prepared to be surprised by the outcome. Most of the runners have claims to fame but also come equipped with queries.

The field includes 2014 Tankard winner, Equina; Lucky Sam who beat Equina in the subsequent 1900m Republic Cup, and three South African raiders – Yer-Maan, Norgay and Warcraft. These three will be racing at Borrowdale for the first time, they have come here for a purpose and must therefore be taken seriously. However, local punters tend to be over-awed by newcomers and we are not always right.

The Joey-Ramsay-trained Coltrane (ARG), carrying 58kgs, took part in the 2014 Tankard and ran a great race, but was narrowly beaten by Equina, followed by A King Is Born. This time the visitors don’t have massive weights to contend with but are they likely to outshine Coltrane? St John Gray’s duo, Yer-Maan and Norgay, will have supporters but I am going along with Alyson Wright’s Warcraft, mainly because this yard has won the Tankard twice previously, with Code Rock in 2012 and A King Is Born in 2013, so must know what is required. Not that I am convinced that Warcraft, despite his recent South African successes, is a sure-fire winner.

It is difficult to overlook Equina and Lucky Sam who have clashed magnificently before. In the 2014 Ok Grand Challenge (GR2) (1800m) Equina beat Lucky Sam by 1.25 lengths, receiving 1,5kgs. The Imperial Stride gelding reversed that in the subsequent 1900m Republic Cup (GR3), finishing 2,50 lengths in front of Equina at level weights. Both horses have been lightly raced since then, with Lucky Sam recently coming back to form. He gives Equina 1,5kgs on Saturday and their rivalry is expected to be renewed.

Super Trouper and Menacing both performed well in the 2014 Tankard, finishing 1.25 and 2.30 lengths behind Equina respectively. Super Trouper met the Silvano mare at level weights then, he has been hugging the headlines since, and now receives 1,5kgs. The Go Deputy gelding, Menacing, is 6.5kgs better off.

In addition to Equina, Amy Bronkhorst will saddle Gentle Bird and Thriller In Manila, the last mentioned racing beyond 1600m for the first time. Stable jockey Karl Zechner rides “The Thriller”, Kevin Derere will be on Gentle Brook while Ian Sturgeon has Equina.

This season Gokhan Terzi has enjoyed a feast of feature wins and he sends out Super Trouper, Glorious Jet and Rock The Country. Norgay and Yer-Maan have been in his care since arriving in Harare about a week ago and he reported they were fit and raring to go upon arrival.

Although Lucky Sam and Menacing from the Bridget Stidolph yard are attracting more attention, she also fields the Dynasty gelding, Killa Man, who had shown signs of a return to his best after a long lay-off.

I haven’t mentioned Two Gun Kid and Mighty Sha but with surprises on the cards don’t let us ignore them. Seb d’Aquino’s charge, Two Gun Kid, hasn’t lived up to expectations since relocating to Zimbabwe but should be fully acclimatised by now.

Mighty Sha, from the Swanson stable, has had his problems, resulting in a lengthy holiday, but prior to that this son of Gharir showed his class. In 2013 he won the Bloodstock South Africa 2000 (Gr3). He enjoys the 2000m trip and hasn’t raced often, if ever, carrying 52kgs. He is owned by Zimbabwean racing stalwarts, Paul and Ursula Gorringe, John Koumides, Alan Smith and his son Murray. Despite some evidence to the contrary I am hoping Mighty Sha proves to be in with a shout.

There is something about the Castle Tankard which gets regular racegoers’ hearts pumping, regardless of whether there is a red-hot favourite or not. It is always a fantastic race and the tension in the Owners & Trainers bar beforehand will be terrific – not to mention the noise generated during the actual event.
We remain grateful to the Delta Corporation for their continued sponsorship of this great race which has, over many years, become an integral part of Borrowdale Park.

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