A QUALITY FIELD – but ‘confusing’ is the operative word

Duffi's Call Brendon

A quality field will contest the 2000m Breeders Champions Cup (L) at Borrowdale Park on Sunday. Not often can it be said that four of the runners – Mathematician, Eurakilon, Rock The Country and Duffi’s Call – have won every major event that can be won at Borrowdale.

Obviously they are the main players on Sunday but perhaps Principled Man, Comanche Brave or Noble Peer can throw a spanner in the works…. but it seems unlikely.

In 2016 Mathematician won the Bloodstock SA 2000 and 2400m Zimbabwe Derby, then ran half a length behind Rock The Country in the Castle Tankard (2000m) at level weights (52 kgs). Eurakilon on 55.5 kgs was three lengths further back.

The Derby winner finished fourth to Duffi’s Call in the 2000m OK Grand Challenge, conceding 3kgs , then went on to take the 1900m Republic Cup beating Duffi’s Call and Eurakilon by 2 lengths and 4.50 lengths respectively. That day Duffi’s Call received 0.5 kgs from Mathematician, while Eurakilon gave the winner 2 kgs.

Mathematican has only raced three times this season and two of these races were over distances far short of his best. On February 19 he ran two lengths behind Windigo in the 1600m Ipi Tombe Stakes, trailed by Sunday’s runners Comanche Brave, Eurakilon and Principled Man. That day the field met at level weights.

On Sunday Mathematician will be distance suited but now pays a price for his successes as a three-year-old. He is set to carry top weight (60 kgs) but Apprentice Calvin Habib will claim 1.5 kgs so Eurakilon and Rock The Country will only receive 0.5 kgs from the younger horse.

Bridget Stidolph’s second runner, Duffi’s Call, carries 55.5 kgs and will be ridden by Brendon McNaughton. This will be the filly’s first outing at Borrowdale since coming second in the Republic Cup, then campaigning without success at Turffontein. However, back on her home turf Duffi’s Call probably remains a force to be reckoned with. As a three-year-old she won the Fillies Classic, the TBA Silver Slipper, and the Zimbabwe Oaks, as well as the Ok Grand Challenge (Gr2).

Eurakilon won the Breeders Champions Cup in 2016, carrying top weight, and Rock The Country, three lengths back, received 2 kgs. Next time out in April he won the 1600m Independence Trophy and, although Eurakilon has not won since, is usually thereabouts so respect him. This seven-year-old has won seven races, and is now trained by Amy Bronkhorst, as is Comanche Brave. Randall Simons rides.

Since moving to Zimbabwe in November 2014, Rock The Country has won four races, including the big one, the US$ 50 000 Castle Tankard in 2016. He is now trained by Penny Fisher, who will also saddle Noble Peer and Principled Man. Rock The Country’s last race was in the Republic Cup in July, so it is difficult to guess where he is at this point in time. On Sunday Hennie Greyling will be in the irons.

Seriously, one must expect to find the winner amongst this quartet. There is a wealth of confusing previous form to work with…confusing being the operative word.

The Stidolph yard has a strong hand with Mathematician and Duffi’s Call providing they bring their three-year-old form to the table, when competing against older horses and up in weight? Is Rock The Country the same horse that won the Tankard?

As for those waiting in the wings to confound us, Principled Man won the 2016 Ipi Tombe Stakes, beating Eurakilon at level weights. This year he finished well back in the Ipi Tombe but perhaps did not act in the heavier going. Sherman Brown rides on Sunday.

Comanche Brave is not handicapped to win (Callan Murray being likely to ride at 53 kgs) but he finished an 8 lengths third to Windigo in the Ipi Tombe Stakes in February, when also out at the weights. Previously he finished five lengths clear of Noble Peer over 1800m, when receiving 2kgs, but has yet to try further.

Ryan Munger rides Noble Peer who is a three-time winner from 1400m to 1600m, but has placed up to 2000m. He may be outclassed here but I am always prepared to be surprised.

Looking ahead to the premier races later this season, the outcome of the Breeders Champion Cup will be interesting, to say the least.
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Photograph: Brendon McNaughton teams up again with Duffi’s Call.

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