Imbongi’s trainer Mike de Kock
(Heather Morkel)

GOLD CHALLENGE - He may have been spurned for Saturday’s ‘Clash of the Giants’ by sectors of the Nation’s racing press, but there’s one thing you can’t take away from Imbongi. And that’s the unconditional respect and loyalty of those at his birthplace.

Ask anyone at Summerhill Stud for their recollections of him on the day of his birth, and they’ll tell you he was born to run. If nothing else was predictable about him, it was that the progeny of his mother, would never be short of heart. The specimen was there, the athleticism apparent as he took his first few steps, so all he had to do after that, was run.

One thing common among Garden Verse’s foals to that time, was the element of guts. Prima Versa is an example. A Graded Stakes performer at two, he was still going strong at eight, while Full Spectrum had the heart of a lioness, which she’s passed on to her talented daughter, Oracle News. As a man who at first seemed to fail and then spectacularly succeeded, Imbongi exemplifies the battling spirit that sometimes has to bend, but never yields.

And then of course, there’s his trainer. Everything there is to write about Kock (aka Mike de Kock) has already been written, but there are those who, as good as they are, just seem to fold when they get to the Grade Ones. It’s something they encounter as contagious as the’ flu, but for which there’s no vaccine. They call it “Big Race” fever. For Mike de Kock, the big ones are simply routine, just another day at the office. And it’s as though his horses know it too.

P.S. As the press reports on the Gold Challenge unravel, it appears we’re moving on from the Sporting Post’s view that Imbongi is the 4th best in the field. Not that that’s bad in a line-up of six Grade One and two Guineas winners, but he’s now getting the respect he’s due.

Computaform make him their second choice (you can’t, in all reality, pick against Pocket Power in the conditions of the race) but at least Computaform recognises the prospect of IMBONGI reaffirming the result of the Drill Hall Stakes.

As we said this morning, the truth is, in theory at any rate, Imbongi’s the only one who can upset the Champion.