The Zimbabwe Oaks – the major Classic for fillies – will be run over 2000m at Borrowdale Park on Sunday. Initial reaction shock and horror, such a small field, what can one say about a four horse race?
Fortunately one can say plenty. For a start Zimbabwe’s two fabulous three-year-old fillies, Solinski and Wylde Style, are part of the equation, and secondly, the two previous races on the card are so tricky, I am more than happy to hone in on The Oaks.
Three of the four Oaks runners are locally bred – what an achievement for the diminished and beleaguered Zimbabwe Breeders. The exception, Crystalline, is South African bred and the Oaks will be her fourth race in Zimbabwe.
Wylde Style and Solinski have only met once before, in the 1600m Fillies Classic, in February, when Wylde Style beat Solinski by three-parts of a length. Now they take each other on in one of the most prestigious of races, having reached this pinnacle by very different routes.
The West Man (USA) filly, Wylde Style, has won 7 of her 13 starts and been placed five times. She was Spey Bridge Champion Two-Year- Old in 2015/2016 and achieved that by triumphing in the 1000m TBA Sales Stakes, the 1200m Champion Juvenile Stakes (Gr3), and the 1450m Champagne Stakes (L). Her only defeat at two was her first start over 1000m in February 2016 when beaten a whisker by Rhythmical Reply.
Wylde Style’s first start as a three-year-old was in the 1200m Jacaranda Free Handicap where she went down by a length to Kevin Barry who was receiving 4 kgs. Next time out she won the 1600m Tote Free Handicap, following up with two creditable thirds against some of Borrowdale Park’s top sprinters. Then came the Fillies Classic, where Wylde Style met and beat Solinski; followed by her second to Flasher On The Run in the Zimbabwe Guineas, and then top of the walk again in a 1100m Pinnacle Plate 100, where she just kept her nose in front of subsequent Castle Tankard winner, Comanche Brave.
Both Wylde Style and Comanche Brave are trained by Amy Bronkhorst, who is no stranger to success in big races. Wylde Style lined up on May 6 with her stable mate for the 2017 Castle Tankard, run over 2000m. She finished 7.75 lengths off the winner but perhaps we should not take too much notice of that. This would have been a tough task for any three-year-old filly. On Sunday Wylde Style will be ridden by Randall Simons, and meet her peers at level weights.
Solinski did not race as a two-year-old but has won four races and been placed twice in six starts. Her first outing was in December 2016 when, giving no indication she was about to set the world on fire, she came fourth to Nemba Beach over 1200m. Next time out she won a 1200m Maiden Plate, finishing in front of King’s Wager and The Catcher. Then second to Wylde Style in the 1600m Fillies Classic, an encouraging reminder that Solinski’s trainer, Kirk Swanson, is a master when it comes to identifying and preparing horses with Classic potential.
The daughter of Fencing Master (GB) went on to score an impressive hat-trick. On March 19 she won the 1800m TBA Silver Slipper, finishing 1.25 lengths ahead of Crystalline, and on February 4 beat her stable companion, Flasher On The Run, to the line in the South Africa Bloodstock 2000 (Gr3). Her last outing in the 2017 Zimbabwe Derby (Gr3) run over 2400m was a race those watching are unlikely to forget. Solinski made every post a winning one, with Life Is Good four lengths back, followed by Flasher On The Run (4.75) and Crystalline (6.25). Karl Zechner rode Solinski and has the ride again.
Apologies if I have led you to believe this is a match race. Prior to moving to Bridget Stidolph’s yard Crystalline had five starts in Gauteng and KZN under her saddle, and she has not been disgraced in her three starts at Borrowdale Park. She usually comes from behind and looked a champion when trouncing subsequent winner Whatsnewpussycat by 8 lengths on February 4.
By Biarritz out of a Goldkeeper (USA) mare, Crystalline has had time to settle into her new surroundings and 2000m will suit her. Regular jockey Fanie Chambers will be in the irons.
Explorer’s Club, by Seventh Rock (AUS), is a very dark horse indeed. Prior to Gokhan Terzi’s departure to greener pastures she was in his yard and, between the end of July and December had five starts ranging from 1000m to 1800m, finishing sort of thereabouts. After that she went home to Rumbavu Stud for a break and on her return joined the Swanson stable.
The rest is history. On April 30 Explorer’s Club stepped out in a 1200m Maiden Plate that her stable companion, Maid In The Moon, was expected to win, having completed a hat-trick of seconds. Some very late scratchings reduced the field to three, making Maid In The Moon even more attractive. Explorer’s Club had been rested for 133 days and would probably need a race. However the hot favourite had to chase her most of the way, settling for second (again) one length behind.
Sherman Brown was Explorer’s Club’s partner in crime that day and retains the ride. Can’t help wondering if they plan to be the cats amongst the pigeons again….I am sure Gokhan will be rooting for this pair.