Borrowdale Park’s 2017/2018 racing season has come and gone… (did someone say “Thank God?”).
It was a hard year whichever way one looks at it – but we are still here. Our horses continue to provide the usual thrills and excitement but, although it is customary to concentrate on their efforts in this sort of wrap-up, I would rather talk about people. All those who have continued to hang in there, buy horses, show up at race meetings and remain enthusiastic, regardless.
In terms of progress, this has been a period of marking time rather than surging forward, both on the racing front and in Zimbabwe generally. However, we must believe next year will be better. We are good at that and have been doing it for years.
The Chairman, Stewards and Staff of the Mashonaland Turf Club have been unable to achieve all they hoped for, due to extremely difficult circumstances. We like to criticise but must also give credit where it is due. Racing has continued and they have not thrown in the towel. The major race meetings were staged, and traditions such as the Zimbabwe Derby maintained.
There have been issues including problems with starting stalls, lack of communication and poor attendance – but we are not the only racecourse having to contend with that.
The committee of the Mashonaland Owners & Trainers Association have also done their bit behind the scenes and held card calls and a successful Ladies Luncheon. The Ipi Tombe Room is still the place to be, during and after a race meeting, and long may that continue. The social side of racing is so important.
Zimbabwe owners all deserve a Bells – and so do the South African owners who have given us support. As for our diminished line-up of trainers, words fail me. They have had to face almost unimaginable problems but their horses look good, and so far no-one has gone completely mad.
We desperately need more trainers – and more horses to go with them. Well done Bridget Stidolph, Penny Fisher and Kirk Swanson. Gavin Macleod is operating with a very small string, which is never easy – he is also busy transporting horses and taking photographs.
Pictures can take the place of a thousand words – which is very evident on Facebook. Personally, I am so grateful to Gavin, Andrew Philip and Jenny Stocks for the constant stream of pics.
I haven’t mentioned our faithful sponsors, jockeys – both local and visiting – the grooms, and the MTC ground staff. It goes without saying that we couldn’t have done without you and thank you for being there.
And then there are those people, who do not serve on Boards and Committees, but come to the party when the situation is dire and rescue is needed. You know who you are and I salute you.
Last but not least is Avalon Follett-Smith and her Friends of Borrowdale Park project. When she informed me a few months ago of her intention to “paint the racecourse” I thought she had lost her mind. However, they have made a very good start – what a difference some paint makes. More about that at a later date.
I don’t normally hand out bouquets to other horse people involved in show jumping, dressage, polo and so forth… probably because I am consumed with envy. It irks me to admit that while we have been taking one step forward and one step back you have been building state-of-the-art arenas, collecting sponsorships and fans. Congratulations…I really am glad you are out there…promoting horses in general and providing another career for some of our ex-racehorses.
What is on my wishlist for Borrowdale Park in 2018/19 – apart from the obvious?
Please, will someone wave a magic wand and produce an attractive watering hole (apart from the Ipi Tombe Room), as well as a welcoming tea room where race-goers can sit in the sun and enjoy a racing afternoon.
If we can once again provide some of the facilities we used to have, I am sure the people will come.
Photograph: We still have our magic moments. Rank outsider Roman Discent won the 2018 Castle Tankard and made some deserving “new” owners very happy.