'Dark horse can win Castle Tankard'

HARARE - Veteran jockey Quinton Riddle believes dark horses have surprised many in the 52 editions of the Castle Tankard and reckons this year’s race may not be an exception.

Riddle will be part of several top rated jockeys that will line up their horses at Borrowdale racecourse starting stalls on May 10 bidding to claim Africa’s oldest sponsored race.

But for Riddle who started riding on August 12 1994 this is one of those races he will have to fight with his back against the wall.

Riddle will be aboard Alula Borealis, an outsider to the Castle Tankard crown.

The Son of Goal Deputy is the highest rated horse in the Grade One race with merit rating of 100 but also carries the heaviest weight in the race of 60kg.

Alula Borealis has had 23 runs that have yielded five wins and eight placings.

Those wins have come over sprint and middle distances, further reducing its chances of causing any upset over the 2000 metres Borrowdale racecourse.

But despite such odds Riddle, who has had 1431 rides, picking up 267 winners and 664 placings, says he has seen too much in his career to rule himself out.

Riddle will draw inspiration from the 2012 edition of the Tankard in which House of Wax had been overwhelmingly tipped to win the race only for unheralded Code Rock to emerge as the breaker of hearts.

“As an outsider you have to give your horse every opportunity to try and win the race,” Riddle told the Daily News.

“My horse doesn’t have top weight. He has things going against him. We have to try and overcome those things to produce the goods on the day.

“A lot of people don’t understand that the 2000 metres mark at Borrowdale racecourse is on the point of the turn.

“So the horses drawn one to five have to jump and come outwards, the horses drawn six and above they are gonna come inwards to try and look for the rail.

“So they is a lot of scrimmaging, scrimmaging and bumping. So to find and hold your position is very very difficult.

“For me the best draws are 6, 7 and 8. It’s a tricky race.

“We are all in very close quarters to try and load into the pens. There is not a lot of space. Horses get claustrophobic.

“The jockeys panic because they don’t want to get kicked. It takes a special horse and a special jockey to keep their cool, load up in the pen and hold their best position to win the race in the end.”

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