SA-Bred Var Aglow Bids For 6 On Trot At Borrowdale Today

Will the son of Var stay the 1800m?

The $80 000 Gr1 OK Grand Challenge will be run at Borrowdale Park today.

The race is off at 15h00 and a number of South African jockeys are riding.

Var Aglow (Muzi Yeni) seen winning at Hollywoodbets Greyville in his racing days in SA (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Diana M. Wakefield Hawkins writes that Var Aglow, ZimFun Racing Club’s up and coming superstar, trained by Debra Swanson, has to date racked up five consecutive wins at Borrowdale Park—a total of eight since he raced as a two-year-old in 2020.

Today he is facing his stiffest test in the Gr1 OK Grand Challenge.

Race-6 (Turf) $80 000 1800m 15:00 Ref-104
1st $40000, 2nd $16000, 3rd $12000, 4th $5600, 5th $4000, 6th $2400
Open/6th leg Open Series
WFA: 2yrs-11.5kgs 3yrs-2kgs
No Apprentice / Female Sex Allowance
1 5 Raffles 62 106 A Corne Orffer Bridget Stidolph
2 3 Jet Mirage 61.5 103 HA Wesley Marwing Debra Swanson
3 14 Ideal View 60.5 101 A Jeffery Syster Debra Swanson
4 10 Abayyaan 59.5 99 A Nobert Takawira Debra Swanson
5 15 Holy Land 59.5 99 A Brian Nyawo Amy Parham
6 9 Citrusdal 56.5 93 HA Jarryd Penny Bridget Stidolph
7 8 Wantage 56 92 A Nathan Klink Bridget Stidolph
8 1 Jaeger Moon 55.5 91 BA Keanen Steyn Debra Swanson
9 12 Var Aglow 55.5 91 A Morgan Nyamagwete Debra Swanson
10 4 Majestic Warrior 54.5 89 BA Mathew Thackeray Debra Swanson
11 6 Action Zone 54 88 A Kaidan Brewer Thomas Mason
12 2 Admirals Chance 53.5 87 A Philasande Mxoli Debra Swanson
13 13 Buster Barnes 52 86 HA Deryl Daniels Debra Swanson
14 11 Raining Again 52 84 A Nkululeko Sibanda Gavin MacLeod
15 7 Tradition 52 84 A Anthony Andrews Bridget Stidolph
Same Trainer
(1,6,7,15) (2,3,4,8,9,10,12,13)

The OK Grand Challenge, Debra Swanson says, is a tough race over 1800 metres, a trip that is probably further than Var Aglow’s optimal distance of between 1100-1200 metres.

But he’s a tryer, she says, and the grandstands will be overflowing with thousands of race fans cheering for him and his jockey, Morgen Nyamageti, wearing ZimFun Racing’s bright yellow silks with the distinctive black smiley face.

Debra Swanson and husband Kirk feeding Var Aglow his favourite treats (Pic – Supplied)

Swanson, who was named Champion Zimbabwe trainer in the 2022/23 racing season, describes him as a big, solid, tough-minded horse that is an absolute pleasure to train.

“He does have his little quirky streaks and he’ll let you know what he doesn’t like. But I set him up to win and have never sent him out on his own. He’s also a real people pleaser—never allows me to walk through the yard without his handsome head appearing over his stable door, inviting me to stop and give him attention. He’s such a special horse with a humbling desire to please,” she said.

Jockey Deryl Daniels who rode Var Aglow in three of his winning races, said, “He’s a big solid horse, sound as they come, and he’s a soldier who fights to the line. He also wears his heart on his sleeve,” Daniels added, “and every time I’ve ridden him, he’s been kind and willing and just puts it all out there.”

Var Aglow’s South African breeder Vanessa Harrison also speaks of him with deep affection: “He has a huge personality and the kindest temperament,” she said.

“He’s also affectionate, amusing with his little tricks, and adores carrots. I love him dearly, and he will always remain my favourite ‘best boy.’” She noted that when his racing days are over, she plans to bring him home and care for him herself until the end of his days.

Var Aglow is a powerful chestnut gelding, son of the group one winner, VAR, a champion sprinter who was bred in America by Kentucky breeder, Dr. John Eaton.

After winning seven races between 1000-1200 metres in the USA, UK, and France, VAR was exported to South Africa’s Avontuur Stud in Somerset West, Western Cape, where until his death in 2022, he sired 56 winners of top-graded races.

While on the subject of the ZimFun Racing Club, their second most winning horse was Deposition.

This spunky bay gelding was trained by Amy Bronkhorst and assistant Mike Mallett. While racing in ZimFun colours between Dec 2021 and Feb 2023, he amassed four exciting victories and seven place finishes.

Qunetra, is a bay gelding and was ZimFun’s third most winning horse. He was trained by Bridget Stidolph, top Zimbabwe trainer during the 2020/21 season.

Qunetra was born in South Africa in 2017 and went north to Zimbabwe as a five-year-old in 2022. He thrilled ZimFunners with three wins and eight place finishes but saddened them when he pulled a tendon in his left leg during training in Dec 2023. The injury was severe, and he was retired from racing. Jockey Wesley Marwing rode those three back-to-back wins on Qunetra. “Although he was not the easiest of rides, I got to build an affinity with him and learned what made him tick. When all that came together it would only take a good one to beat him,” he said.

Thoroughbred racing was introduced to Zimbabwe 132 years ago and reached its pinnacle in the 1990s, when a Zimbabwean-bred horse, Ipi Tombe, made headlines around the world after capturing eight stakes’ races in four different countries—Zimbabwe, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

While this talented bay filly was wowing international racegoers, back home in Zimbabwe political unrest and farm seizures, beginning in 2001, were destroying the country’s once vibrant thoroughbred breeding industry.

Despite these setbacks, racing at Borrowdale Park in Harare limped on, but eventually the dwindling number of horses available to compete in races resulted in fewer and fewer scheduled meetings.

Var Aglow with trainer Debra Swanson, jockey Hennie Greyling and the ZimFun Club members (Pic – Supplied)

To energize local racing, a group of racing enthusiasts led by C. John Smith, MBE, former chairman of the Mashonaland Owners and Trainers Association and now a Mashonaland Turf Club steward, got together in 2020 to formulate a plan.

They created a racing club, naming it the ZimFun Racing Club Ltd. After applying for racing colors and with all necessary licenses approved, they began enrolling members.

Today the club’s membership includes hundreds of race fans, some local, with others from countries all over  the world—all keeping abreast of ZimFun activities by watching Borrowdale Park races on YouTube and communicating with one another over a WhatsApp chat group.

The cost of a share in ZimFun Racing is a reasonable US$100 per year and individuals can purchase multiple shares.

“Multiple shares help us raise sufficient funds to buy quality horses,” Smith said. “The club also encourages local members of the public to attend race meetings. This gives newbies an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the racing game, and in turn, helps us to attract new owners which will increase the number of horses,” he said.

Since it was formed in 2020, ZimFun has owned eight horses, six of which (75 percent) that have won races—an impressive statistic.

It’s first horse was TRICKY BUSINESS, who romped home for his first win at Borrowdale Park on Dec 11, 2020.

Below is a list of all ZimFun Racing’s horses, detailing their breeding and racing history:

  • TRICKY BUSINESS (SAF) a bay gelding, born in 2016, by VERCINGETORIX (SAF) out of ZAITOON (SAF) by COUNT DUBOIS (GB). He was imported from South Africa in Sep 2020 as a 4-year-old, with a race record over 2 seasons that included 7 starts, and 3 places. At Borrowdale Park he had 3 starts, earning 1 place, and 1 win on 11 Dec 2020. Following his final race, he suffered an injury, was retired, and sold.
  • KAROO WINTER (SAF) a bay filly, born in 2017, by FUTURA (SAF) out of ARABIAN WINTER (SAF) by WESTERN WINTER (USA). She placed twice in South African races and was brought to Zimbabwe as a 4-year-old, where her ZimFun race record with trainer Thomas Mason, was 10 Starts, 1 second place, 2 third places, and 3 fourth-place finishes. Following her last race for ZimFun on 1 Jul 2022, another Zimbabwean owner purchased her, and she went on to run 8 additional races, place 7 times, and register her first win—a maiden plate on 15 Jun 2022.
  • DEPOSITION (SAF) a bay gelding, born in 2015, by ROCK OF GIBRALTA (IRE) out of ULISIUM (GB) by PROCLAMATION (IRE). He raced for 4 seasons in South Africa with a record of 24 starts, 2 wins, and 7 places. His Zimbabwe record, while owned by Mr. Spencer H. Murray, from Nov 2020-Nov 2021, was 10 starts, and 3 places. ZimFun then acquired him from Murray, and while trained by Amy Bronkhorst and assistant Mike Mallet, from Dec 2021-Feb 2023, he ran 17 races, winning 4, while garnering 7 place finishes, before retiring due to an injury.
  • JARDIN (SAF) a bay gelding, born in 2016, by VAR (USA) out of AZABU PARK (AUS) by BLETCHLEY PARK (IRE). He raced in South Africa for 4 seasons with a record of 19 starts, 2 wins and 4 places. He was imported to Zimbabwe as a 4-year-old by Mr. Spencer H. Murray. Sporting Mr. Murray’s colours from 20 Dec 2020-6 Nov 2021, he ran 6 races and placed 5 times. Under ZimFun racing’s ownership, from 4 Dec 2021-7 May 2022, he was trained by Amy Bronkhorst and assistant Mike Mallet, obtaining a record of 7 starts, 1 win, and 3 places. He came in lame and was retired after his last race in May 2022.
  • CENTRE STAGE (SAF) a bay filly, born in 2016, by OROTORIO (IRE) out of SLEEK JET (SAF) by JET MASTER (SAF). She raced in South Africa for 2 reasons with a record of 15 starts, 0 wins, and 7 places. She was imported to Zimbabwe as a 4-year-old by Mr. Spencer H. Murray. Sporting Mr. Murray’s colours, from 15 Mar 2020-21 Nov 2021, she ran 17 races, won a maiden plate on 27 Mar 2020, and placed 12 times. For ZimFun she raced 6 times and placed in 4 of those races.
  • COSMIC RUSH (SAF) a chestnut gelding, born 2018, by WYLIE HALL (AUS) out of COSMIC FLOWER (SAF) by NATIONAL EMBLEM (SAF). He raced twice in South Africa as a 3-year-old and was unplaced. In Nov 2021 he was imported to Zimbabwe by Mr. Spencer H. Murray and given at no cost to ZimFun Racing. Amy Bronkhorst and assistant Mike Mallet trained him and under ZimFun Racing colours he ran four races with no win or place finishes. On 6 Apr 2022 Cosmic Rush headed off to Zambia to begin life as a showjumper with Zara Nicolle.
  • QUNETRA (SAF) a bay gelding, was born in 2017, by QUERARI (GER) out of WINDSPIEL (SA) by CAPTAIN AL (SA). He was bred by Barbara and Ian Sanne at Oldlands Stud near Hermanus in the Western Cape. He raced in South Africa for 4 seasons with a record of 31 starts, 1 win, and 4 places. He was then acquired by ZimFun Racing and brought north to Zimbabwe where, with trainer Bridget Stidolph, he raced for 2 seasons, ran 14 races, won 3, and placed 8 times before retiring with an injury.  
  • VAR AGLOW (SAF) a chestnut gelding, was born 2016, by VAR (USA) out of JET AGLOW (SAF) by JETMASTER (SAF). He raced in South Africa for 3 seasons in the colours of his breeder, Mrs. Vanessa Harrison with a race record of 20 starts with 2 wins and 8 places. Harrison shipped him to Zimbabwe where he raced under her colors and was trained by Gokham Terzi. Between 1-13 Jul 2022, he raced twice at Borrowdale Park, placed once, and won one race, the 13 Jul 2022 Merit Rated Handicap. Afterwards, Terzi moved his training stable to South Africa, leaving behind several Zimbabwean horses, including VAR AGLOW. VAR AGLOW was then sent to a stable of polo ponies. His new owner, however, considered him a less than suitable mount for a polocrosse player, so a short time later Mike Brown turned VAR AGLOW over to ZimFun Racing and the training stable of Debra Swanson. Between 14 Jan-11 May 2024, he won his next five races.


Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname – no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the EditorThe Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Popular Posts