Borrowdale Park’s once a year day is almost upon us. This will be the 57th running of the 2000m Castle Tankard (GR1). Fifteen runners are due to line up for the big race on Saturday afternoon and all will be hoping for a share of the RTGS 100 000 in stakes.
However, it’s not really about the money. Owners long to win the Castle Tankard and punters want to pick the winner, just to prove they can.
I have an appalling record when it comes to choosing winners of very important races… you have been warned.
After some thought I have divided this field into three – the main players, those that could surprise us, and some which are hard to judge.
In my view the top guns are Simona, Heir Line, Amsterdam, Knuckleball and possibly Peggson and Bush Pilot. They have form, most are distance suited, and if one of the top-weights should triumph it will restore my faith in Merit Ratings. Simona is set to carry 60 kgs, Heir Line 59.5, Amsterdam 59, Knuckleball 58 and Peggson 57.5. Unfortunately, Amsterdam must overcome a wide draw.
Initially Bush Pilot (54kgs) was not going to be included here because his four wins have ranged from 1200 – 1700m but look back to the 1900m Republic Cup where Bush Pilot finished third, two lengths behind Heir Line and a length off the second horse, Simona. That day both Heir Line and Bush Pilot carried 52kgs, and Simona 56kgs. The turnaround in weights could bring Bush Pilot (54 kgs) into the picture.
Peggson is in – just – because he tends to pop up. However, I am not convinced he will shine over 2000m.
Twilight Trip will carry 59 kgs and I have left him out of this group because his winning range is from 1200 – 1600m. If you go back far enough, he has placed over 1800m.
Fareeq (AUS) (56.5) is a six-year-old gelding by Nadeem (AUS) who has raced twice at Borrowdale over 1200m and 1600m. His five wins in KZN and Gauteng were over 1400m and 1600m. Ex-Mike de Kock, he remains a bit of an unknown quantity at Borrowdale so is hard to assess.
I don’t know what Master ‘n Commander can do. The seven-year-old son of Captain Al out of a Jet Master mare has only raced three times at Borrowdale but the breeding is there. He has won four races from 1450m to 1800m but has yet to show us much locally – and has drawn wide.
Yer-Maan won the 2015 Castle Tankard carrying 59.5 kgs, but since then the winners have all had weight on their side. Rock The Country in 2016 was on 53 kgs, the 2017 winner, Comanche Brave, carried 52, and last year Roman Discent narrowly beat Simona to the line – both carrying 52kgs.
Roman Discent has not won a race since then, which explains why he will carry 53.5 kgs on Saturday, and Simona 60. Even so, he falls into the group that could surprise. Perhaps all the hoop-la gets to him and he comes to life on Tankard Day.
Other lightly weighted runners to think about are Solinski (she’s a fighter) and maybe Leven Point who has shown signs of a return to form recently. In March he finished third to Amsterdam in the 2000m Breeders Champion Cup, carrying 52 kgs – the same weight he and Solinski have been allotted in the Tankard.
Wolves Among Sheep, also on 52 kgs, comes into the Tankard fresh from his dead heat with In The Mood in a 1800m MR 80 Handicap. That day Solinski, giving Wolves Among Sheep 3kgs, was half a length behind. Leven Point, giving him 1.5 kgs, was a length off Solinski.
Verdier (53.5 kgs) and Arte (52.5 kgs) are both newcomers and this is their first start at Borrowdale Park.
Verdier, a 5-year-old Var (USA) gelding, has won 3 and been placed 16 times from 26 starts – winning range 1600 – 2000m. He won his last start at Turffontein on April 20 in a MR 90 Handicap. Think long and hard about Verdier. I hear he also looks the part.
Arte, a five-year-old bay mare, is by Ideal World (USA) out of a Fort Wood (USA) mare, and she has won 7 races and been placed 15 times from 44 starts. Her winning range is from 2200 – 3200m so no stamina doubts there, but she may need more ground.
Having spread some confusion and completely muddied the waters, I will stop now. The 2019 Tankard has all the hallmarks of a memorable and nail-biting race and I haven’t a clue who will win.
The three trainers involved – Penny Fisher, Bridget Stidolph and Kirk Swanson – have prepared and led in Tankard winners before. All will be firing on Saturday.
Pleeease… no dramas… and may the best horse on the day win.
Photograph by Andrew Philip.