Certainly well worth a Quartet…or two
The $13 000 HRIB Gold Cup to be run at Borrowdale Park on Saturday is the major sprint everyone with even half a chance wants to win. That includes punters, as well as owners and trainers, but the bad news is the red hot favourite doesn’t often deliver.
The 2016 field includes two previous winners, Approval Rating and Road To Dubai; ten-year-old Flax, a 10 time winner who collected most of his laurels in Singapore, as well as Zimbabwe Derby winner and 2015/16 Horse Of The Year, Mathematician. The rest of the field comprises up and coming hopefuls Comanche Brave and Nimble Dancer, plus usually trustworthy sprinters like Newton Power, Principled Man and Gotago – and fairly recent arrival, Sheik’s Brashee.
By The Sheik, Sheik’s Brashee is a paternal half-brother to Road To Dubai and the six- year-old gelding arrived in Zimbabwe from South Africa with 5 wins from 1000m – 1200m to his credit. His first outing at Borrowdale, in July, was in the 1450m Breeders Sprint won by Flax. Newton Power ran second that day, with Approval Rating, closely followed by Sheik’s Brashee, four lengths back, all at level weights.
Next time out Sheik’s Brashee went down by 0.35 lengths to Approval Rating in the 1000m AFZ Borrowdale Charity Sprint when receiving 2.5 kgs. Saturday’s runners Nimble Dancer, Sheik’s Brashee, Newton Power and Road to Dubai all finished within half a length of the winner and you can’t get much closer than that.
Nimble Dancer (second) was receiving 8 kgs from Approval Rating, Newton Power (fourth) was 4.5 kgs to the good and Road To Dubai (fifth) received 4kgs.
On November 6 this famous five, plus Gotago, took each other on in a 1200m MR 95 Handicap and Sheik’s Brashee , carrying 57 kgs and in receipt of 3.5 kgs from Approval Rating, finished three lengths clear. That day Road to Dubai (55.5 kgs) and Newton Power (55 kgs) were 6.50 lengths and 8.0 lengths off the winner. Nimble Dancer (52 kgs) was close behind Newton Power and Gotago (52 kgs) even further back. Not quite the blanket finish some of us expected.
While taking nothing away from Sheik’s Brashee I am assuming most of those runners were having a bad day. The penetrometer reading was 13 and, thankfully, we have had rain since then.
However, Penny Fisher’s charge, Sheik’s Brashee, is obviously no pushover. He and Approval Rating both carry 60, 5 kgs in the HRIB, while Mathematician and Flax are set to carry 63 kgs and 62.5 kgs respectively. Quite a tall ask.
Road To Dubai, trained by Kirk Swanson, won the 2015 HRIB Gold Cup, carrying 52 kgs, and Principled Man (52 kgs) was third. Gokhan Terzi’s Approval Rating, fifth and conceding 8.5 kgs, was 1.30 lengths back.
So let’s not kid ourselves. Weight counts. In 2012 the HRIB was won by Penthouse (52 kgs), Approval Rating (55.5 kgs) won the race in 2013, while On This Rock (54,5 kgs) scored in 2014.
Taking the gloomy view, and bearing in mind there might be a change in the going, let’s look at the top weighted horses.
Flax only raced once over 1200m at Kranje , and that was on April 29, 2011, in the Whitehall Stakes. The son of Silvano (GER) carried 57.5 kgs and came from a long way back in a field of 14 to win by 3.8 lengths.
He has raced four times at Borrowdale, winning his last start in May over 1450m. Newton Power was second, with Approval Rating and Sheik’s Brashee further back – all carrying 60 kgs.
Mathematician, has been out of sight since he won the 1900m Republic Cup in July. In January he won a 1300m Maiden Plate at Borrowdale, beating Nemba Beach. His other races have been over distances ranging from 1600m to 2400m and he wouldn’t be my first choice in any sprint at this stage. However, I could be wrong.
Both Flax and Mathematician are trained by Bridget Stidolph who also sends out Nimble Dancer, carrying 52 kgs. By AP Answer, Nimble Dancer finished about three lengths off the pace in the 2015 Gold Cup but he has since been gelded and shown some improvement when lightly weighted.
Amy Bronkhorst has entered Comanche Brave, also on 52 kgs. By Kahal (GB) this four-year-old’s Borrowdale form can’t be faulted as he has won three of his six starts, and been placed second three times. He is bound to have ardent supporters but I am not sure this is his race – so watch him win.
This field has ability and on their day any one of them could be victorious. Those who are particularly skilfull, and can juggle the turnovers in weights combined with previous results, will no doubt solve the problem. As for the rest of us, after the race, we will be able to make a case for the winner – and say we should have seen it coming.
This will be a thrilling race ….and worth a Quartet or two. Choosing the first four might be easier than finding the actual winner.
The first race on Saturday is due off at 12 55.
Photograph Andrew Philip – AFZ Borrowdale Charity Sprint Finish 2016