One would have to be extremely reckless to predict the winner of Saturday’s OK Grand Challenge to be run over 1800m at Borrowdale Park – so caution will prevail.
The US$ 40 000 event has attracted a field of 16, including the winner of the 2000m Castle Tankard and nine other Tankard runners. The three-year-olds, Duffi’s Call and Call Me Earl, missed the Tankard, as did Madigan, Newton Power and Super Trouper, and the South African raider, Whiteline Fever, definitely comes into the reckoning.
Rock The Country, trained by Gokhan Terzi, won the 2000m Castle Tankard on May 7, with Mathematician, Windigo and Eurakilon in the minor places. The first three past the post all carried 52 kgs, with Eurakilon, 3.50 lengths back, on 55.5kgs. That day Eurakilon’s jockey suspected something was amiss although the ‘vet’ found nothing untoward after the race.
On Saturday Rock The Country will carry 56 kgs and give most of those who finished behind him, at level weights, between 1 kg and 2 kgs.
Flax carried 60 kgs on May 7, finishing four lengths off the winner. Sherman Brown rides him in the OK, weighted 62 kgs, and this is a tough ask. However, in the Tankard Flax was giving away about 8 kgs to all except Eurakilon. Despite the 62 kgs he now meets most of those runners on slightly better terms.
I believe Flax’s Singapore form suggests the nine-year-old Silvano (GER) gelding will prefer the 1800m trip, but he still has lots to do, while all of Mathematician, Windigo, and Print The Pounds, with a little weight on their side, look dangerous.
Both Equina and Lucky Sam disappointed their Tankard supporters, but neither can be written off at this stage. Former Tankard and OK winner, Equina, will have to retire before I dismiss her, while Lucky Sam, employing different tactics, could surprise.
Although the Ormonde Ferraris trained Fah Fee finished 4.75 lengths off the pace on Tankard Day, this was his first outing at Borrowdale. He knows the course now, has previously won up to 1600m, so may prefer a shorter trip.
Lava Flow, carrying 59 kgs at the last meeting, won a 1600m Graduation Plate, beating Super Good. He moves up in class again but with 52 kgs on his back may improve on his Tankard form.
Now we come to Madigan, Super Trouper, Triple Tiara winner Duffi’s Call, Call Me Earl and Newton Power– all of whom skipped the Tankard.
I have always been a fan of former Triple Crown winner Madigan, trained by Kirk Swanson. On Sunday he only carries 52 kgs, but has the worst of the draw. I would love to see him win and remain convinced he could do it if he’s in the mood.
Newton Power, drawn 4 and weighted 52.5 kgs, has recently performed well up the straight. This six-year-old gelding has never raced beyond 1600m and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him set the pace. Kevin Derere rides.
Super Trouper seems to do his best when Brendon McNaughton is aboard, but McNaughton has been equally successful with Duffi’s Call whom he rides on Saturday. Andrew Fortune will be in the irons on Super Trouper. This pair have teamed up once before in October 2015 over 1800m. Super Trouper carried 60 kgs and was beaten 3.75 lengths by Print The Pounds. I could drive myself mad juggling weights…but let’s just say one cannot ignore Fortune.
The Bridget Stidolph trained Duffi’s Call has enjoyed a brilliant season to date and will go into the OK Grand Challenge wearing Zimbabwe’s Triple Tiara. This time she takes on the big guns but looked very good on April 24 when winning a 1800m MR 80 Handicap by five lengths. Saturday’s runners, Windigo and Madigan, finished further back that day, conceding weight.
I think six-time winner Print The Pounds takes on her young sister, Duffi’s Call, for the first time here, conceding 1,5 kgs. Interesting
In 2015 the Penny Fisher trained Call Me Earl got the better of Duffi’s Call on two occasions, over 1200m and 1600m. He ran just behind her in the Guineas, where neither of them collected any laurels. He was second to Mathematician in the Bloodstock 2000, five lengths back, following up with a close second to Eurakilon in the 1600m Independence Trophy, with Lucky Sam, Print The Pounds, Rock The Country, Equina and Lava Flow behind. On Saturday Call Me Earl carries 53 kgs, is drawn 10 and I include him among the possibles.
The lightly weighted horses came to the fore in the Castle Tankard so don’t leave the likes of Call Me Earl, Equina, Print The Pounds and Duffi’s Call out of Exotic bets.
Mathematician, another Stidolph runner, is set to carry 55 kgs. The son of Black Minnaloushe (USA) has won three of his five starts at Borrowdale Park, including two legs of the Triple Crown, and he ran second in the Tankard. He will jump from the number 3 stall. The weight worries me a little but Mathematician hasn’t done anything wrong to date.
Those mentioned are the horses we know …but most of us have at least heard of Sean Tarry’s Whiteline Fever who completes the line-up. This will be his first race at Borrowdale and if he has travelled well and the course suits him, Whiteline Fever is a formidable opponent.
The son of Right Approach (GB) has been aimed at the Vodacom Durban July several times. He ran brilliantly in the 2014 J & B Met when finishing fourth behind Hill Fifty Four, Yorker and Punta Arenas, weighted 58 kgs. He won the 2014 Hawaii Stakes (GR2) over 1400m – is in fact a multiple Grade 2 winner who has earned over R1.8 milllion.
Although the seven-year-old has not won beyond 1600m reference to Sporting Post’s archives has established that 1800m is not beyond him. I quote from an article published some time back… ‘The fascinating aspect of Whiteline Fever is that the jury is probably still out as to what distance he is best suited to. He could also just be one of those above average horses who runs on powerfully over no matter what distance he is tried.’
Drawn 13 for the OK and carrying 58.5 kgs, the classy gelding teams up again with Raymond Danielson, and we are set for a very exciting race.