Comanche Brave Evert Pheiffer 2017 Tankard

 Comanche Brave and Evert Pheiffer.  Pheiffer rides the Castle Tankard winner again on Saturday.  Photograph by Gavin Macleod:

The $40 000 OK Grand Challenge run over 1800m comes hard on the heels of the 2000m Castle Tankard so, inevitably, the Tankard form comes into the reckoning.

Nine of Saturday’s OK Grand Challenge runners took part in the 2017 Castle Tankard, won by Comanche Brave, and an additional five are now in the mix.

Tankard winner Comanche Brave has more to do this time. On May 6 he jumped from the number 5 stall and carried 52 kgs.  He was chased by Royal Honour (drawn 1, carrying  52 kgs, and 0.75 lengths behind); Mathematician, drawn 2, carrying 60 kgs and 3.25 lengths behind the winner;  with Windigo (56.5 kgs, drawn 4) 0.25 lengths off Mathematician. Then came Cool Solution , 52 kgs, drawn 7, and 4.25 lengths off Comanche Brave.

Now Comanche Brave, drawn 10, will carry 55.5 kgs, giving Royal Honour 1 kg, Cool Solution 3.5 kgs, and meeting both Mathematician (60 kgs) and Windigo (56.5 kgs) on worse terms. The shorter distance will probably suit most of these runners and I believe the first five home in the Tankard have to be considered the main players on Saturday.  I expect them to finish closer together but who knows in what order.

Let’s have a look at the rest of this field.  On their Tankard form Wylde Style, Ashton Park, Eurakilon and Roman Discent will have to improve considerably but, that said, Wylde Style and Eurakilon will probably prefer the shorter trip.  Ashton Park and Roman Discent have had more time in their new surroundings, and it is worth remembering that the latter travelled to Harare after racing at Kenilworth on April 18.  He is a son of Dynasty and Brendon McNaughton rides.

So we are left with the five who did not take part in the big race in May – Road To Dubai (58.5 kgs), Super Good (54 kgs), Life Is Good (52 kgs), Fah Fee (52 kgs) and Newton Power  (52kgs).

Road to Dubai, Super Good and Newton Power have won most, in some cases all, of their races over shorter trips and are proven speedsters.  However Road to Dubai, much earlier in his career, came second over 1800m from a very wide draw, before coming into his own in sprints.   At three years Super Good ran third to Mathematician in the SA Bloodstock 2000 and the Zimbabwe Derby.  In September he finished 7.50 lengths behind Comanche Brave over 1600m when giving away 3.5 kgs.

Similarly Newton Power is formidable over shorter trips but won a 1600m event at Clairwood.  Hard to say where these undoubtedly classy types will finish.

Life Is Good was strongly fancied in the 2400m Zimbabwe Derby but had to settle for second place. This will be his third start at Borrowdale.  This son of Var won over 1200m and 1400m at Scottsville and the Vaal, and narrowly beat Cape Cod over 1600m at Borrowdale on April 16 in soft going.  He carried 59 kgs to Cape Cod’s 60 kgs that day, winning margin half a length. Mathew Thackeray rides.

And  finally, Fah Fee.  By Ideal World, Fah Fee has only raced four times in Zimbabwe.  He finished two lengths behind Duffi’s Call, winner of the 2016 Ok Grand Challenge. That day he was behind Windigo and Mathematician who finished second and fourth.  Fah Fee’s next outing was in the Republic Cup in July 2016 – better draw a line through that – and  his only start since then was over 1200m on May 6 when he finished  well back in soft going –  a prep run no doubt.  Obviously there have been issues, but if he recaptures his South African form ……

I have not mentioned the stables fielding these runners.  Amy Bronkhorst  has a strong hand with Comanche Brave,  Eurakilon,  Life Is Good,  Wylde Style and Newton Power.  Road To Dubai, Windigo,  Fah Fee and Cool Solution will represent the Swanson yard.  Bridget Stidolph will saddle Mathematician, Super Good, Royal Honour and Roman Discent.  Penny Fisher sends out Ashton Park,

This should be a great race.  It looks fairly straightforward – or as straightforward as any big race is likely to be.  However with 6 of the 14 runners carrying 52 kgs there is always the chance of a major upset… those that are, won’t know, they are in under sufferance.

Racing starts early on Saturday with the first race due off at 11.25 am. The main event will take place at 15.25 pm.  Once again there are eight races on the card, including one over 2700m.

Photograph by Gavin Macleod: Comanche Brave and Evert Pheiffer.  Pheiffer rides the Castle Tankard winner again on Saturday.

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