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A top class field of 17 horses has been unveiled as the nominations for Zimbabwe’s biggest horse racing event — the Castle Tankard — to be run over 2 000m at Borrowdale Race Course on May 16.

The Grade One race has attracted the young and the old, with the youngest being three-year-old All The Bids from Cornie Spies stable. The oldest is the legendary Zimbabwean Captain’s Tiger which is under Alyson Wright’s stable.

The entries also include defending champion Equina which was the darling of Borrowdale Race Course last season. Besides winning the Tankard, Equina also won the OK Grand Challenge and finished second to Lucky Sam in the Republic Cup.

The five-year-old mare from the Amy Bronkhorst stable finds herself with a heavy task as she seeks to emulate the achievements of Taranaki which is the only horse since 1960, to win the Castle Tankard twice. Taranaki won the Tankard in 1978 and 1979.

South African trainer St John Gray, who has a g reputation in his country also wants to bring to the race four-year-old Form Up and five-year-old Norgay, including Yer-Maan who missed out of the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The winner’s prize of $30 000 is a huge attraction for the South African trainer and Gray would love to follow in the footsteps of Geoff Woodruff who was the last South African trainer to win the Tankard with Grisham in 2012.

Seven of the 18 horses which passed the final acceptances stage last year have been nominated for this year’s edition and missing is A King Is Born, from the Alyson Wright stable, which won the title in 2013. Argentinian Ginepri, which has been a regular feature at the Tankard, is also missing.

Ginepri was second to A King Is Born in 2013, but went on to upset The King in the OK Grand Challenge where he emerged victorious.

Apart from Captain’s Tiger and Equina, there are places from last year for Gentle Brook, Rock The Country, Super Trouper, Lucky Sam and Menacing which has been a big disappointment since arriving in Zimbabwe from South Africa in 2012.

Making their maiden appearance are Zimbabwe’s Killa Man, and Mighty Sha, as well as South Africa’s Thriller in Manila, All The Bids, Warcraft, Glorious Jet, and Two Gun Kid.

The 17 horses will have to go through the final acceptance stage before they can be declared runners in this prestigious event. However, whatever happens during the process, there is a g possibility that the Castle Tankard will have more than 14 horses on the field.

Before the Castle Tankard takes to the course, today sees the running of the Zimbabwe Derby, the final leg of the Triple Crown after it was aborted due to bad weather on April 19.

All the eight runners have been declared fit to race and the stage is set for Merhaba to confirm his dominance as the top three-year-old as he bids for his second title in the Series.

Merhaba, from the Ghokan Terzi yard, won the second leg of the Series, the Bloodstock South Africa, but is unable to wrap up the crown as he lost out the second leg — the Zimbabwe Guineas — to Print The Pounds, who will not take part this afternoon.

Merhaba, the Mullins Bay gelding, seems to be riding on a fine wave of form. His yard is in form and he will partner the stable jockey, Wesley Marwing in draw seven.

With two wins from three latest rides, Merhaba could run into the money as he has been rising to the occasion with every outing and he loves it over long trips. But how he will deal with the 2 400m trip still remains to be seen.

The Bridget Stidolph yard has Mica Point in the Derby and this makes the race excitingly unpredictable, judging from Mica Point and Merhaba’s last run over 2 000m.

Mica Point gave away the initial lead in the closing stages and lost by 1,25 lengths to Merhaba in the Bloodstock South Africa. Alyson Wright’s Tallie Two, which was placed third in that race, just 1,75 lengths behind Merhaba, is one not to ignore in the places.

There are, however, the likes of River Waltz, Second Light, Holdersterbolder, Lincoln Can and Spanish Matador waiting on the wings for an upset.

It’s a small field but it does not look all that easy to predict.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard