Gavin Is Back

Gavin Macleod is well known at Borrowdale Park – and he should be. An excellent photographer, owner of Equine Carriers, and for many years a successful trainer. 

He removed that last hat a while back, but the good news is that Gavin has taken out his licence again and has a horse nominated for Saturday’s race meeting.

With a bit of luck, the final fields for Saturday, December 3, will be declared later today and we will know whether Gavin has his ‘first runner’.  In any event welcome back, Gavin. 

Borrowdale Park now has six trainers!

Photograph by Zimbabwe Equine News.

Merit Ratings – Handle With Care

Keeping track of merit ratings is horribly fascinating, I find, and usually ends in some sort of rant – before I am shot down in flames for not considering weight-for-age, race conditions, and so forth.

This explains my excitement when spotting a recent article In Sporting Post which began:

“The NHA Handicapping Panel is cautioning all stakeholders, especially the Betting Public, to be extremely careful when using the Carded Merit Ratings in their assessments.

“Due to the vast number of ‘conditions’ type races, together with a host of conditions attached to the Graded races (mainly on the Highveld), many of the ratings that are published do not reflect the Handicapper’s final assessment of those horses affected by these conditions.

“This issue is especially affecting the current 3yo crop as they are unexposed and open to improvement.”

It was the reference to three-year-olds that really got my attention, but before getting into that you would be well advised to read the original article at

Unfortunately, three-year-olds at Borrowdale are in short supply but, in my opinion, Grand Warrior, who won again on Saturday, sticks out like a sore thumb – and there are surely more attractive ways of referring to an outstanding youngster.

The son of Global View (USA) has now won all his three starts – impressively. First time out, in July, he won an 1100m Maiden Juvenile Plate, beating Testify by 7 lengths. In October, with a Merit Rating of 86, he was in a 1200m Novice Plate, giving weight to a field of older horses, and beat Star Aglow by 4 lengths.

On Saturday, Debra Swanson’s charge triumphed in the 1800m Classified Stakes, giving weight to the field, and winning by 5 lengths. His Merit Rating is now 91.

I couldn’t resist having a look at the other three-year-olds who raced on Saturday…there were only 6 of them.

Testify won the 1100 Maiden Plate beating his peers Walking Thru Time, Elmhurst, Montanna Bay and the unraced Red Top. By Ato, Testify has now had 6 runs for one win and 3 places and his MR is unchanged at 67.

Walking Thru Time, was half a length behind Testify, and she has had 2 runs for 2 places and has not yet been rated. Elmhurst (6 runs for 4 places) remains on 58, while Montanna Bay (5 runs for 5 places) remains on 51. Red Top has not been rated.

The remaining three-year-old to step out at the last Borrowdale meeting was Scala Dei Turchi who ran in the 1450m MR 58 Handicap off an MR of 65. She finished 4 lengths behind Justadoreher and her MR is unchanged. Scala Dei Turchi has run 5 times for 1 win and 4 places.

So, what is the object of this tortuous exercise as I am not suggesting Grand Warrior should not have a MR of 91?

It is just a bit frightening because only What A Dandy (105 – 8yo), Coachella (104 – 9yo), Bugatti Blue (99 – 8yo), Only Him (99 – 5yo), True Beauty 99 – 5yo), Holy Land (98 – 7yo), Lily Blue (98 – 6yo), Why Madera (92 – 3yo) and Mr Greenlight (92 – 7yo), are rated above him.

You will have noticed when reading the paragraph above that Why Madera (MR 92) is also a three-year-old and she has won all her four starts from 1260m to 1600m. The next best-rated three-year-old is Down To Business, who is on 86, having won his only start, beating Scala Dei Turchi by five lengths. And if you have faith in ratings the next ‘best’ is Battle Of Seattle (MR 71) who won her first start beating Testify by half a length, was then beaten by Down To Business by 9 lengths, and on 5 November ran two lengths off Star Aglow.

I am likely to be shot down in flames – again – but it does seem hard that the most promising younger horses are given so much to do.

Photograph by Zimbabwe Equine News: Grand Warrior, owned by The Centaur Syndicate (nominee Craig Danckwerts), trained by Debra Swanson, and with Norbert Takawira up, won the 1800m Classified Stakes at Borrowdale Park on November 19, 2022.

Who Will Stay This Trip?

The Round Table Pinnacle Plate (90) will be run over 2700m at Borrowdale Park this week – and the field includes three former winners of the 2400m Zimbabwe Derby (GR3), the third leg of Zimbabwe’s Triple Crown.

For a change, there has been some welcome rain about, but hopefully any deluge will hold off until late afternoon on Saturday. I may be wrong but, perhaps, this time, it’s a case of can the boys – Wantage and Three To Tango – beat the girls?

These are the runners:

1 1 WANTAGE (6G) 60.0 (MR86) W Shumba – Bridget Stidolph

Owner:  Messrs R S Dyer, S N Buchan, N Evans, M K Chant, G de Jong, A Dixon, R Morgan, R Sherwood & Bryn Ressell

Breeding: Ato – Angora by Tamburlaine (IRE)

Colours: White and orange checked diamonds, white sleeves, orange cap

As a 3-year-old Wantage won the Guineas Trial, the Tote Free Handicap, the Zimbabwe 2000 and ran second to Lily Blue in the 2400m Zimbabwe Derby in 2020. Since then, he has performed well and won from 1600m to 2000m but has not gone further.

2 4 THREE TO TANGO (7G) 58.5 (MR81) R Satombo – Debra Swanson

Owner:  The Swan & Donkey Syndicate (Nom: Richard Linnell)

Breeding: Greys Inn (USA) – Danseuse by Joshua Dancer (USA)

Colours: Turquoise, orange sleeves, turquoise chevrons, striped cap

Three To Tango will sport new colours here and his new owners will be hoping this winner of the 2400m Zimbabwe Derby in 2019 will do well. He has ability and has since won from 1600m to 1900m. He has his days.

3 5 MASAAKEN (AUS) (5M) 56.5 (MR88) N Takawira – Debra Swanson

Owner:  Mr D H & Mrs J L Cocksedge

Breeding: Teofilo (IRE) – Lahqa (AUS) by Stratum (AUS)

Colours: Yellow, purple epaulettes, yellow sleeves, purple cuffs, yellow cap, purple peak

This will be Masaaken’s fourth outing at Borrowdale and she won her last start – a 2000m MR 80 Handicap – on July 13.  She has won from 2000m to 2850m in Gauteng so is unlikely to run out of steam. Could be the one to beat come Saturday.

4 3 OBSCURE (5M) 55.0 (MR83) M Thackeray – Bridget Stidolph

Owner:  Gin’ll Fix It Syndicate (Nom: Miss K Stidolph)

Breeding: Black Minnaloushe (USA) – Mammy Blue (ZIM) by Kitalpha (USA)

Colours: Pink, pink sleeves, turquoise armbands and cap

Obscure has won six races and is comfortable from 1450m to 2200m, but this will be her first attempt at further. At the meeting on November 5, she just managed to hold off a fast-finishing Jubilee over 1600m, but Obscure keeps on giving.  She will probably be thereabouts.

5 2 TIGERS EAGLE (4F) 53.5 (MR82) K Derere – Debra Swanson

Owner:  Mr C J Danckwerts

Breeding: Flying The Flag (IRE) – Neck Of The Woods by Al Mufti (USA)

Colours: Gold and black checks, gold sleeves, black seams, collar and cuffs, gold cap

Tigers Eagle is the baby here but has plenty going for her having won from 1600m to 2700m, and she seems to enjoy the longer trip.  She won the 2400m Zimbabwe Derby on July 13, and her last start on November 8, over 1700m.  That day Tigers Eagle carried 58 kgs and beat Tulip Way by 2 lengths.  She Is set to carry 53.5 kgs this time.

Photographs by Jenny Stock and Andrew Philip.:  This field has clocked up heaps of winners between them. So – a random selection of lead-ins. TOP Wantage (above) Masaaken (below).                                              

Mr Greenlight – Without A Doubt

Mr Greenlight, trained by Vanessa Birketoft and owned by Gengiz Goksel and Bruce McLauchlan, won the 1200m Pinnacle Plate at Borrowdale Park on Saturday by 3.50 lengths. Munashe Josi was in the irons.

Minor placings went to What A Dandy, Oden and Coachella.

By Gimmethegreenlight (AUS), the winner was bred by Nadeson Park Stud and Mr Greenlight has now won 8 races.


Photograph by Laurent Viguie.

Borrowdale Racing Today

The first race at Borrowdale Park today, 5TH November 2022, is off at 11.45 am and the main race at 14.40.

Please click on this link to view and download the online card

Main race preview, card changes and tips on this site.

Enjoy your day.

Photograph by Zimbabwe Equine News

Top Sprinters Clash On Saturday

What A Dandy will be aiming for a fifth win from six starts when he lines up for the 1200m Pinnacle Plate 105 at Borrowdale Park on Saturday at 14.35 pm.

However, it is not all over as he has to beat Coachella, also carrying 62 kgs, and give considerable weight to Love To Bluff, Oden, Mr Greenlight, Citrusdal and Love The View.

Mr Greenlight (54kgs) met What A Dandy on similar terms in the 1000m Sunshine Cup on the 8th of October and finished half a length behind, while Coachella and Love To Bluff were further back.

Oden, now trained by Vanessa Birketoft, is a distance specialist, and capable of carrying far more than the 56 kgs, he is allotted here.

This will probably be a very exciting race but hard to guess who will be the favourite, as all the runners have something to recommend them. This will be Oden’s first outing since July 31, and if he is racing fit it could be a winning one.

Get ready for an early start on Saturday as the first race is due off at 11.45.

Photograph by Jenny Stock: Oden is seen here with Calvin Habib up. Walter Shumba rides on Saturday.

Let’s Make Next Year Better

Cape Racing is forging ahead and set for a spectacular season – but it wasn’t always like that.

Not so long ago racing in the Cape was in the doldrums, and the outlook seemed gloomy. However, structural changes, enthusiastic and determined new people, and a great leap forward in public relations, have altered that. I must admit to feeling slightly jealous before my better nature prevailed and I became happy for them.

Of course, I cannot claim to have moved entirely into Pollyanna mode. Surely it is long past time racing in Zimbabwe got a few breaks. Miraculously, we are still racing because we have some enthusiastic and determined people – we just need more of them.

The current Mashonaland Turf Club Board may feel that, undeservedly, they collect more brickbats than bouquets. Unfortunately, that’s racing. Some of us have been giving unsolicited but excellent advice to the MTC for 30 to 40 years, which won’t change soon. After all, talking about racing is part of the fun, but it would be unfortunate if at this stage the old-timers and ‘newbies’ split into groups of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’.

Like everything, racing evolves. Tradition and innovative ideas are equally important. Fortunately, in Zimbabwe there are dedicated racing people of all ages working tirelessly, for nothing, to keep the show on the road. We need more of them.

And, of course, it goes without saying that we need more owners. Racing clubs and syndicates lessen the financial burden of keeping a racehorse and are gaining popularity worldwide. Without owners, there can be no racing and those that continue to race their horses, despite reduced stakes, deserve respect and gratitude.

Perhaps you used to race but for various reasons bowed out. It’s never too late to return and help make next year better!

A Worthy Favourite

Grand Warrior lived up to expectations and proved to be a worthy favourite when winning the 1200m Novice Plate by four lengths at Borrowdale Park on Sunday.

By Global View (USA) and bred by Ascot Stud (Pty Ltd, Grand Warrior is owned by the Centaur Syndicate (Nom: Mr C J Danckwerts). The three-year-old gelding is trained by Debra Swanson and Raymond Danielson was riding on Sunday.

This was Grand Warrior’s second start. He made his debut in July when he romped home with an 1100m Maiden Juvenile Plate, winning margin 7 lengths. Norbert Takawira was riding that day.

The stallion Global View is by Galileo, the sire of champions, and later the Swanson/Danielson combination won with Ideal View – also by Global View – who made his Borrowdale debut in the 1800m MR 70 Handicap. Ideal View is owned by Messrs CJ Smith, P D Gorringe, S P Gorringe, V Patel, D K Ward & G Carter.

The Swanson yard sent out three winners on Sunday, having earlier won the 1600m Maiden Plate with Lady Emma Hamilton (Danielson) for Duncan and Jackie Cocksedge.

Congratulations everyone.

The photographs of Grand Warrior (by Zimbabwe Equine News) were taken on the 1st July 2022, not this Sunday.

Congrats Rosie

Congratulations Rosie Dorward, owner of Emerald Floe, winner of the 1260m Sable Flyers (LR) at Borrowdale Park on Sunday afternoon.

Now a six-time winner, Emerald Floe, by Oratorio (IRE), bred by Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein, is trained by Bridget Stidolph and Jarryd Penny was in the irons. Minor placings went to Varnica, Obscure and Ian’s Ferrari – winning margins 2.50, 5.0 and 5.0 lengths. Keen Spirit and Masaaken were scratched.

Stidolph and Penny won three races on Sunday afternoon, scoring earlier with Scala Dei Turchi in the 1000m Maiden Plate, and Only Him in the 1600m Pinnacle Plate 100.

Very well done everyone.

Keen Spirit Worth A Flutter?

Four of the six runners in the 1260m Sable Flyers (LR) raced at the Borrowdale Park meeting on 8 October, so they should be in fine fettle on Sunday.

Masaaken and Obscure are coming back from a long break but, as neither is distance-suited, it is probably safe to assume that for them this is a pipe opener.

 (Famous last words, possibly.)

Bridget Stidolph fields Emerald Floe and Ian’s Ferrari, while Debra Swanson will saddle Varnica and Keen Spirit. At first glance, Emerald Floe and Varnica seem the pick, but the not-so-experienced Keen Spirit will have weight on her side and it will be interesting to see what she can make of this.

1 1 MASAAKEN (AUS) 62.0 (MR88) BA Danielson – Debra Swanson

5m by Teofilo (IRE) – Lahqa (AUS) by Stratum (AUS)

Won 5 races in Gauteng from 2000m – 2850m. She has had 3 starts at Borrowdale, winning a 2000m MR 80 Handicap on July 13.

2 4 EMERALD FLOE 59.5 (MR83) Se Penny – Bridget Stidolph

5m by Oratorio (IRE) – Emerald Beauty (ARG) by Equalize (USA)

Has won five races from 1100m – 1300m so is distance suited. Last outing on October 8 when a close second to Abayyaan over 1260m. The winner was receiving 8 kgs and Varnica was further back. A serious contender.

3 5 VARNICA 59.0 (MR82) T A Satombo – Debra Swanson

6m by Var (USA) – Muvango by Manshood (GB)

An 11-time winner from 1100m – 1260m and now 0.5 kg better off with Emerald Floe.  Certainly, in with a shout.

4 6 OBSCURE 58.0 (MR80) A Shumba – Bridget Stidolph

5m by Black Minnaloushe (USA) – Mammy Blue (ZIM) by Kitalpha (USA)

Has won five from 1450m – 2200m so is likely to need further 

5 3 KEEN SPIRIT 53.5 (MR72) BA Derere – Debra Swanson

4 f by Skitt Skizzle – Caesour’s Spirit by Caesour (USA)

Has won three races from 1100m to 1260m and beat Ian’s Ferrari on 8 October by 2.50 lengths when giving her 2.5 kgs. Keen Spirit takes on tougher opposition on Sunday but I fancy her chances.

6 2 IAN’S FERRARI 52.0 (MR61) Se Thackeray – Bridget Stidolph

4f by Wylie Hall (AUS) – Champagne ‘N Roses by Goldmark

This 2-time winner over 1500m and 1700m will have to dig deeper to best Keen Spirit over Sunday’s trip. Both these four-year-olds have a massive pull In the weights but will that be enough in this company?

Photographs by Zimbabwe Equine News

Below: Keen Spirit (left) and Ian’s Ferrari