The Yer-Maan excitement reaches its climax in today’s running of the 1 900 metre Republic Cup, but it is newcomer Rushmore River coming from the Turffontein Race Course who could steal the thunder.
By Michael Kariati
The four-year-old gelding from the Joey Soma yard in South Africa is making his first visit to Zimbabwe and with an impressive record of four wins and 11 placings including seven second placings in 21 starts, the son of Windbrush is here to prove a point.
Rushmore River has not been placed in less than 25% of his appearances at the highly competitive Turffontein Race Course, which should be enough to persuade punters to give him a place betting should they doubt his pedigree to win the 13 horse contest.
Born on August 1 2010, Rushmore River is being accompanied to Borrowdale Race Course by regular stable jockey, the apprentice Callan Murray who has piloted the horse in his last two races after taking over from Antony Delpech from Seychelles.
Murray guided Rushmore River when he finished second by 1,10 lengths to Halve the Deficit on May 25. He was also there to guide the gelding on June 16 when he finished fifth in a race that attracted a large field of 16 horses and won by stable mate Legal Eagle who is taking part in the Vodacom, Durban in July.
More so is the fact that Rushmore River has an extra motivation. He lines up in the Republic Cup against half-sister Gentle Brook and a position behind the struggling Amy Bronkhorst trained mare would not be acceptable in his stable.
The two were sired by Windbrush of the USA but campaign in different stables. Soma takes care of Rushmore River while Gentle Brook — who has a career seven wins and nine placings in 31 starts — is under the Bronkhorst yard.
Another motivational factor for Rushmore River and his handlers is the fact that both Yer-Maan and Equina were relatively unknowns at Borrowdale Race Course until they made their mark in their first running and went on to achieve better fortunes.
That is giving Murray and Soma the belief that they can also start their relationship with Borrowdale Race Course with a win and then return to the course next season for the Castle Tankard and the OK Grand Challenge titles which both Yer-Maan and Equina have won.
So far, Rushmore River has accumulated $422 725 in stake money and an additional $24 000 from winning the Republic Cup would make Soma happier.
However, Yer-Maan remains the bookmakers’ favourite at 2/1.
The-six-year-old is already a Borrowdale favourite after the Castle Tankard and OK Grand Challenge titles and once again Zimbabwean champion jockey Quinton Riddle takes the ride on Jam Alley’s son.
Yer-Maan has not returned to South Africa since May when he won the Tankard and is now familiar with the surroundings as he has since then been under the guidance of Ghokan Terzi while in the country.
However, his dominance of the major races has not been without its consequences. The St John Gray owned six-year-old has been burdened with a heavy 60kg as he finds himself as the top weight in this race.
More importantly is the fact that he is also badly drawn at 11 but will take comfort in the fact that his possible strongest challengers Rushmore River, Super Trooper and Equina are also not well drawn despite carrying less than 55kg.
The seven-year-old Super Trooper, which is the oldest horse in the race, is drawn way off on 12 while Equina, who finished second in this event last season, is on 10. Rushmore River is drawn on eight, which is not all that good in this long distance race.
However, another of the horses posing a danger, Thriller in Manila, has not been all that disadvantaged. The Kevin Derere-ridden horse will carry not only a light 52kg but also has the draw in his favour as he is drawn on two.
Thriller in Manila was an unlucky second place finisher in the Grand Challenge but has shown a lot of promise that he can pull the rug from under the favourites in the Republic Cup. He has a good record going into the race with five placings in his last six runs including four second placings. His overall total record stands at four wins and seven placings in 13 runs.
From the outset the race appears to be a battle involving Yer-Maan, Rushmore River, and Thriller in Manila. However, such races tend to produce the unexpected.