BY MICHAEL KARIATI
SIMONA took the biggest pay check of the day of RTGS $42 000 after a storming finish to win the 31st running of the 1 800m OK Grand Challenge for the second year running at Borrowdale Park Race Course yesterday.
The Bridget Stidolph-trained five-year-old Gimmethegreenlight (AUS) filly came with a tremendous finish to win the most-followed race on the local racing calendar again after doing the same at the same course in 2018.
Simona, who came into the race with a record of nine wins and 12 placings in 27 starts, improved her career standings to 10 wins and 12 placings in 28 runs.
Ironically, Simona was a disappointment in her last race, the Castle Tankard on May 11, when she finished sixth.
All in all, Simona has won two races in her last six starts and finished second once and third on three occasions as she readied for the OK Grand Challenge.
The OK Grand Challenge was reduced to a field of 14 after Penny from Heaven was scratched. Coincidentally, Penny from Heaven also missed out in the Castle Tankard after he was scratched five days before the show.
However, there could not have been a more popular OK Grand Challenge than Simona, who built her relationship with the crowd with her performance in 2018.
Roared on by the traditional huge OK Grand Challenge crowd, jockey Calvin Habib played a waiting game, giving the chance for others to change leadership in the early stages of the race.
As the race approached the 400 metre mark with Eleven Point and Amsterdam jostling for the lead and Heir Line alongside them, Habib then took control.
Coming from Gate 14, Habib moved to the inside maneuvering his way through the chasing pack before opening a gap between Simona and the rest of the field.
Although Australian bred Fareeq gave up chase but that came a bit late as Simona took home the OK Challenge for the second time in a row.
For coming second, Fareeq took home RTGs $14 000, while there was RTGs $8 750 for third-placed Verdier.
There was also a RTGs $5 250 reward for fourth-placed Peggson. Peggson is also from the Stidolph yard and won the 2019 Castle Tankard.