Three-Year-Olds On Trial

In 2018 Knuckleball won the Guineas Trial, carrying 59.5 kgs and off a Merit Rating of 71. Although he did not win the 2018 Zimbabwe Guineas, won by Butchie Boy, he came a close second. Since then Penny Fisher’s charge has won four races, including the BSSA 2000, the Zimbabwe Derby and two 1800m handicaps in good company.

But why am I concentrating on Knuckleball when the focus is on the 2019 Guineas Trial to be run over 1600m at Borrowdale Park on Sunday?

The Guineas Trial is something of a misnomer as it is a handicap, whereas in the Zimbabwe Guineas the runners meet at set weights. When Knuckleball won the 2018 Trial, he had already won two races and he was receiving 1 kg from three-time winner, Edward The Seventh, recent winner of the Zimbabwe Challenge.

Which proves that three-year-olds with class can defy weight and still run true to form.

On Sunday six one-time winners will face the starter at 15.50 pm. The filly, Born To Shine, will carry 60 kgs, Action Jackson 59kgs, while Oden is on 57.5 kgs.

This lightly raced trio have all impressed, but it is difficult to decide whether they can give weight, and a beating, to the likes of Rain Spider and Missy Franklin who also grabbed the limelight on their day.

Let’s look at the field:

BORN TO SHINE- Drawn 6- 60kgs (MR 73) Marwing – Stidolph
3-y-o Filly by Windrush (USA) out of Badger Land (USA) mare (R:3 W:1 P:2)

Won 1100m Maiden Juvenile Plate on July 1, beating Tanganyika by 5 lengths. Finished 2.50 length behind Mia Finola in the 1450m Champagne Stakes with Missy Franklin, Rain Spider and Opaque further back. In that race fillies carried 55.5 kgs and colts and geldings 58 kgs. Last outing on December 1 in 1600m Tote Free Handicap won by Three To Tango. That day Action Jackson (52.5 kgs) came second, Born To Shine (56 kgs ran fourth) followed by Rain Spider, Opaque and Missy Franklin. The turnaround in weights on Sunday could see Born To Shine finish closer to Action Jackson this time.

ACTION JACKSON – Drawn 2 – 59 kgs (MR 71) Zechner – Fisher
3-y-o colt by Jackson out of a Jet Master mare (R:2 W:1 P:1)

This smart colt won a 1100m Maiden Plate on July 14, beating The River Green (conceding 3 kgs) by 0.25 lengths. His second, and only other outing was in the Tote Free Handicap (see above). Both these races were competitive, and Action Jackson must be in with a good chance here.

ODEN – Drawn 3 – 57.5kgs (MR68)- Penny – Fisher
3-y-o gelding by Oratorio (IRE) out of a Var (USA) mare (R:1 W:1 P:0)

Winner of his only start – a 1260m Maiden Plate on December 1. Looked impressive when beating subsequent winner, The Bar, by 6.50 lengths. It is fair to say Oden takes a step up in class on Sunday, but I suspect he will take that step comfortably.

MISSY FRANKLIN – Drawn 4 – 56kgs (MR 65) – Habib – Stidolph
3-y-o filly by Marchfield (CAN) out of a Thunder Gulch (USA) mare (R:10 W:1 P:4)

In May Missy Franklin won over 1000m, beating Pas de Deux and Mia Finola at level weights, then went off the boil, seemingly, until coming second to Mia Finola in the Fillies Mile in October when receiving 8 kgs. She ran in the Tote Free Handicap and finished last with no comforting explanation in the Stipes Report. To be frank, I have no idea what Missy Franklin might do.

RAIN SPIDER – Drawn 5 – 55kgs (MR 63) – Danielson – Stidolph
3-y-o gelding by Byword (GB) out of a Fort Wood (USA) mare (R:6 W:1 P:2)

Rain Spider won his second start, which just happened to be the 1200m Champion Juvenile Stakes. He looked all set to impress on that occasion but really hasn’t. Most of his racing has been in competitive company so don’t write him off completely.

OPAQUE – Drawn 1 – 52 kgs (MR 50) – McNaughton – Stidolph
3-y-o gelding by Ato – out of a Tamburlaine (IRE) mare (R:9 W:1 P:1)

Opaque won his first start in March, beating Missy Franklin, but has played the good sport role since then. He finished fourth in the 1200m Jacaranda Free Handicap in November, finishing in front of Rain Spider who was conceding 7.5 kgs. Rain Spider will give Opaque only 3 kgs on Sunday. However, the Ato gelding with 52 kgs on his back might still surprise.

The first race at Borrowdale Park on Sunday is due off at 13.00.

Photographs courtesy of Andrew Philip, Gavin McLeod and Zimbabwe Equine News.

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