The first of the big press salvos on the Champion Season’s most competitive horserace, The Gold Challenge, has just been fired. As respected a racing writer as you’re likely to know, the Sporting Post’s Matthew Lips has gone for Pocket Power, Our Giant and Floatyourboat, in that order.
So it seems our boy from the other side of the tracks is going to have to do it all over again. Perhaps it has something to do with the disappointing origins of his father, Russian Revival, who knows, but what we do know is that while Imbongi’s not that big in stature, he’s huge in heart and massive in talent.
“The Oracle’s” reasoning appears to be that, as the fledgling in the field, at this trip and on these terms, the “praise-singer” might not quite be up to it, a statement which found resonance in the commentaries of most racing writers in the lead-up to his astounding victories in two Guineas to date, and then of course, when he savaged these same rivals with his patented burst of speed in the Drill Hall.
Imbongi’s story has however, not been straight forward. Maybe it arose from his rejection first as a yearling, and then as a Ready To Run sales horse. Those that’ve followed his career will tell you that it was tainted in the early days by a tendency towards belligerence and to overheat on his way to the start. Piere Strydom’s frustrations as runner-up in the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup led to the kindest “snip” in the book, and voila! A reformed character.
Till then he’d by turns been provocateur and victim, confrontational and ingenious, mortifying and mortified. At the stalls, his behavior was beyond the pale, occasionally outrageous. Yet his creed, it seems, has remained a case of “sew the breeze, reap the whirlwind” and if we’re absolutely honest about Saturday’s race, the only horse with a realistic chance of lowering last year’s Horse Of The Year’s colours is IMBONGI. Who else, when Pocket Power’s beaten all of the others on the same terms?
The many sparks that remain to fly, suggest a friction that can only exist between two horses truly worthy of one another’s engagement.