Few would dispute that the main highlights of the Borrowdale Park racing calendar are the $50 Castle Tankard (Gr 1), the $40 000 OK Grand Challenge (Gr 2) and the Republic Cup (Gr 3), now with an increased stake of $50 000.
The 2000m Castle Tankard took place in May and was won by Rock The Country in a tight finish with Mathematician and Windigo, while Eurakilon, giving weight to those in front, finished fourth, 3,50 lengths back.
In June the talented three-year-old filly, Duffi’s Call, added the OK Grand Challenge to her Triple Tiara laurels, with Windigo, Whiteline Fever and Mathematician and Fah Fee following. The winner was receiving weight from the vanquished and in both major events we were reminded weight counts
First three past the post in the Tankard carried 53 kgs and 52 kgs, while in the OK only Whiteline Fever carried 58.5 kgs for a 1.50 lengths beating.
On Saturday in the 1900m Republic Cup Sean Tarry’s hopeful will meet Duffi’s Call 2.5 kgs to the good. The seven-year-old gelding has the right credentials. He arrived in Harare days before the OK and now, used to his surroundings, may be even more of a force to be reckoned with.
The inclusion of former Kranje star, Flax, has skewed these big race weights and once again Flax is set to heft the top weight. He carried 60 kgs in the Tankard, 62 kgs in the OK, and on Saturday is on 61 kgs. To date this has proved to be a step too far.
This time he will be giving Whiteline Fever 3,5 kgs; Approval Rating and Eurakilon 5,5 kgs; Rock The Country 6 kgs, Mathematician 6.5 kgs, and Duffi’s Call, Super Trouper and Windigo 7.5 kgs. Let’s not get too technical but working on 1 kg for one length Flax will need winged hooves here – and he has drawn 16. The nine-year-old was not disgraced in either the Tankard or the OK, finishing around three to four lengths off the pace but it remains a big ask.
With the exception of Thriller In Manila, Approval Rating and Perfect Grace all the Republic Cup acceptors ran in at least one of the first two events, and it is hard to look beyond those who have already featured.
However other factors have to be taken into account. Lucky Sam carries 52.5 kgs, and Print The Pounds, Madigan, Lava Flow, Perfect Grace, Thriller In Manila and Merhaba are all on 52 kgs. Fanie Chambers on Print The Pounds may not quite make that weight but you can’t write any off on these terms even if some are in under sufferance. Madigan showed his field a clean pair of heels at the last race meeting, carrying 60.5 kgs.
I don’t doubt that this year’s Republic Cup will be both exciting and interesting….but. The MTC no longer bothers to send me the TAB sheet on Tuesday. At 11.15 am on Thursday I was unable to buy a race card at the course because they were “Not ready”, and I have neither the time nor inclination to scrabble around trying to trace race reference numbers.
On top of that finding a winner in a big race is always fraught with peril because anything can happen, and usually does.
I began going to the Durban “July” gallops with my grandfather when I was four so have been suspicious from an early age, having learnt these things at his knee. However I do remember he backed a horse called Gay Jane and she duly won….his thinking being that any well mannered colt or gelding would naturally let the filly win.
So, what about Duffi’s Call, or Print The Pounds? Equina, after all, won this race in 2015.
Photograph: Gavin Macleod. Equina won the 2015 Republic Cup, with Super Trouper, Yer-Maan and Thriller In Manila in the minor places.