The OK Grand Challenge racemeeting in Harare is undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s biggest social gathering and 60,000 people are expected to flock to Borrowdale Racecourse on Saturday, whilst hoping to win one of the 44 vehicles being given away or one of the other myriad prizes, writes Sheldene Chant.
The US$40 000 Gr2 OK Grand Challenge to be run over 1800m has attracted an illustrious line-up.
The field of 14 includes 2015 Castle Tankard (GR1) winner Yer-Maan; Equina, winner of the 2014 US$50 000 Castle Tankard and the 2014 Ok Grand Challenge; Lucky Sam, second to Equina in the 2014 OK Grand Challenge and winner of the 1900m Republic Cup (GR3), as well as other local stars.
Lucky Sam and South African raider Warcraft finished within 1.25 and 1.50 lengths of Yer-Maan in the Castle Tankard on May 16.
Then came Rock The Country (3.25 lengths off the winner), Equina (a length behind Rock The Country), followed closely by Yer-Maan’s stable mate Norgay. Thriller In Manila, Super Trouper, Two Gun Kid and Menacing were further back.
Merhaba, Madigan, Got A Hold On Me and Say So Tiger complete this line-up but did not compete in last month’s Tankard.
The three-year-old Merhaba, winner of the Bloodstock SA 2000 (GR3) and the Zimbabwe Derby (GR3), must be in with a shout (stable jockey Apprentice Wesley Marwing rides the Mullins Bay gelding), and I never entirely discount Madigan, a former Triple Crown winner. If he is in a galloping mood, carrying 52kgs, he could surprise.
However the main focus is on who was what and where in the 2015 Tankard, and can the winner, Yer-Maan, and Quinton Riddle, score again? This time the trip is 200m shorter and there is a turnaround in the weights.
Lucky Sam is 0.5kg better off for a 1.25 lengths beating and Warcraft (1.5 lengths behind Yer-Maan) now receives 8.5kgs instead of 7.5kgs. Yer-Maan won with 59.5 kgs in the Tankard and will now heft 61.5kgs. Equina (4.25 lengths back that day) and Two Gun Kid (5.45 lengths behind) now enjoy an extra 3.5 kgs swing in the weights. Rock The Country (3.25 lengths), Norgay (4.35 lengths) and Super Trouper (5.35 lengths) are a further 2.5 kgs better off with Yer-Maan, while Menacing (8.45 lengths) and Thriller In Manila (5.10 lengths) are this time in receipt of another 2kgs.
It would be easy to say that five-year-old Equina, the only mare in this race, is not the same horse she was last year, but her weight advantage can’t be ignored. Ian Sturgeon rode her in the Tankard, and now Equina’s regular jockey, Karl Zechner, will be in the irons.
Lucky Sam and Warcraft put up a good fight in the Group 1 and are likely to repeat this. However, at her best, Equina has to be very close to Lucky Sam. In the 2014 OK Grand Challenge Equina, receiving 1.5 kgs, beat Lucky Sam by 1.25 lengths. The Imperial Stride gelding turned the tables in the 1900m Republic Cup when he beat Equina by 2.50 lengths at level weights.
On Saturday four-year-old Lucky Sam gives his rival 3.5 kgs compared with 1.5 kgs on May 16. However, taking into account his recent form one could say he is now performing better.
Most eyes are going to be on Yer-Maan, who is a winner over Saturday’s distance, but others he has beaten before, such as Norgay, Super Trouper and Thriller In Manila, may prefer this shorter trip.
That said, Warcraft, Lucky Sam, Equina, and maybe Merhaba, seem to have most chance of spoiling Yer-Maan’s fun in what promises to be a very close race. If the handicapper has got it right we can expect a wall of horses heading for a cliffhanger finish. It should be great.
This is the last leg of Borrowdale Park’s Pick 6 which kicks off with a 1200m Maiden Plate with only 8 carded runners. All of Aiiyayaii, Burg’s Overture and Promising have to be considered and, maybe, Alice.
In the second leg, a 1300m MR 55 Handicap, punters may require help from above. Think about Maturin, Kirk Swanson’s trio, all the Spies horses, Vice Admiral, Agnetha and What’s Up Sarge.
Alyson Wright’s Muhannad (ARG) catches the eye in the next leg, a 1600m Maiden Plate. Bachata and Anthony’s Lazer will also have supporters. Confabulate’s last run could be too bad to be true but the Oracey (NZ) gelding is drawn wide here.
The 1600m MR 70 Handicap, fourth leg of the Pick 6, looks extremely tricky. I suggest Iron Lady, Pegwell Bay and Casey’s Dance – with no confidence whatsoever.
With the exception of Lane Geena and Chestnut Girl I would like to include every runner in the fifth leg, an 1800m Novice Plate.
One has to have Goose Green and Neptune’s Rock but it’s hard to leave out River Waltz (who may prefer further), and any of Zita, Rock Prince, Young Diplomat and Apple Tart could feature. Princeton Tiger, a Kildonan colt, goes round the turn here for the first time.
Definitely this looks like another “killer” Pick 6 but you have to be in it to win it. On May 31 the Borrowdale Pick 6 dividend was R107 330, with three Tote Favourites winning.
Other than the top class racing and plentiful on course entertainment race goers can expect fine fare and refreshing beverages.
Coupons will be provided for the car draw, residential stands, cash draw, shop easy raffles, lucky dip, horse forecaster and tote bets.
The atmosphere on course is always electric and this enhances the excitement of the day’s racing.