A South African challenger won an exciting finish to the 50th running of Africa’s oldest sponsored horserace at Borrowdale on Saturday. The Doowaley gelding Code Rock started at 50-1 and produced a sustained finish under Francois Herholdt to grab the lion’s share of the $50 000 Gr1 Castle Tankard.
A crowd of 10 000 turned out in beautiful weather conditions at the picturesque Borrowdale Park Racecourse to witness a winning international team effort on the Golden Jubilee of the Castle Tankard.
And international, the win certainly was! The South African bred four year old Code Rock was foaled in Cape Town and is by the Irish bred stallion Doowaley. His granddam is the Argentinian bred Music Teacher. He is owned in partnership by Mauritian Christian Lafraisiere, an owner with the Maigrot stable, and Frenchman Daniel Basnier. He is trained by Durban-based Alyson Wright. The gelding was ridden by the Johannesburg-based jockey Francois Herholdt.
It was Wright’s biggest career win and ironically achieved in a race that her husband Kevin,a nine-times Zimbabwe champion jockey,was never able to win. Alyson’s mother, Penny Fisher, a successful trainer in her own right, had also never won the Tankard, and it was she who had the honour and privilege of saddling the winner on Saturday out of the Wright’s Borrowdale satellite yard.
The pace in this 2000m contest was set by Pressure who ensured a decent gallop for much of the journey. House Of Wax looked dangerous briefly but it was Winter’s Night who moved up menacingly at the 300m marker under Robbie Fradd. The 2010 Tankard winner had no answer though for the sustained finish of Code Rock who was ridden with confidence by Francois Herholdt, who rode a double on the afternoon.
The old warrior Earl Of Surrey finished with his customary flourish wide out to grab third position just a length off under Quinton Riddle. Geoff Woodruff, who won this race last year with Grisham, sent out House Of Wax who was backed into 4-1. But after having every chance, he eventually faded to finish eighth. Robin Bruss’ Gracie Jones was also fancied but finished second last and some twelve lengths off the winner.
This was Code Rock’s biggest payday and he has now earned over R550 000. He has won five of his twenty outings and run eight places. He was formerly trained in Cape Town by Glen Kotzen who rated him highly enough to have a bash at the Cape Derby, where he finished 4.65 lengths behind Top Seller. Although he would win a further three races in 2011, his best subsequent performance was after relocating to Alyson Wright at Summerveld, when he ran a half-length second to shock winner Orbit War in the Gr3 Christmas Handicap.
He was bred by D Cohen & Sons and was a bargain buy at R35 000 on the now defunct Equimark Ready To Run Sale of February 2010.
He is by Sadler’s Wells stallion Doowaley out of the twice winning Jallad mare Tea Muse who won from 1400m to 1600m. Interestingly Code Rock’s second dam Music Teacher, produced Modern Music(by Kama) who when sent to Model Man, produced the ARCSA Champion Juvenile colt of 1993, Special Preview, who went on to stand as a sire in South Africa.
The Wright success story may well open the gates of opportunity for other smaller South African trainers, or any yard with horses who may have reached a point where they are struggling to win or even where their merit ratings have limited their earning opportunities.
There were only eight trainers apart from Geoff Woodruff represented on the day and with the other six races offering average stakes of $5750 each, there is every reason for our local owners and trainers to take their chances in Zimbabwe.
Tellytrack’s Nico Kritsiotis, who was on course courtesy of Betting World, said that the atmosphere was electric with the big crowd warming to the great horseracing, the car giveaways and the top local musicians playing late into the night. There were also fashion shows and paratrooper displays.
“Despite the difficult times, the racegoers are passionate and love their racing. The races ran on time and everything went like clockwork. The hospitality and generosity of our hosts was also out of the top drawer- but this is something that Zim is famous for”, said Kritsiotis.
It is vital for the overall good of horseracing on the sub-continent that the game continues to strengthen North of the Limpopo.