It’s a big day at Borrowdale Park on Saturday. This will be the 30th running of the $40 000 OK Grand Challenge over 1800m. All the fields on the 7-race card are interesting but the main race certainly requires the most thought, and I haven’t reached any satisfactory conclusions.

Included among the 15 carded runners are Roman Discent, Simona, Kilrain, and Phantom Major, who finished in the first five in the 2000m Castle Tankard, with only 1.55 lengths separating the winner, Roman Discent, and Phantom Major. Saturday’s runners

Comanche Brave, Master Switch and Amsterdam also ran in the Tankard but disappointed on that occasion.

It is tempting to place too much emphasis on how these horses finished in the Tankard – but this is a different race, over a shorter distance and on a different day. There were only eight competitors in the Tankard, and different tactics may be employed in this much larger field which includes a number of horses who are probably really surprised to be there.

That said… remember Roman Discent!

The question is whether Roman Discent, who shocked most punters rigid on Tankard Day, can prove this was no flash in the pan? He got up to beat stablemate Simona by 0.05 lengths. The fancied Kilrain, who was giving both Roman Discent and Simona 7 kgs, was only a whisker behind.

Bridget Stidolph, trainer of Roman Discent and Simona, won this race with Duffy’s Call in 2016, and Royal Honour (ex-Paul Matchett), in 2017. She will saddle seven of the 15 OK competitors this time and none can be discounted. All of Comanche Brave, Life Is Good, Super Good (third in the OK in 2017), Raven Girl (the recent Zimbabwe Oaks winner) and Peggson will have support.

Kilrain, previously trained by Mike de Kock, is now in the Fisher stable. Penny Fisher will also send out Master Switch, Master ‘n Commander and Kevin Barry on the day.
Kirk Swanson is pinning his hopes on Amsterdam, Phantom Major, Heir Line and Cool Solution.

In a way it’s quite exciting, and relaxing, when one admits one hasn’t a clue about the eventual outcome of a major event. We know this will be a great race and I really hope the best horse (whoever that may be) will win.

Photograph by Andrew Philip of the 2018 Castle Tankard finish.

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