“If you can dream and not make dreams your master”
Rudyard Kipling might not have envisaged the lengths to which his epic ode, If, would transcend the simple realms of poetry and become the standard by which many would hold themselves accountable to the rhyme’s much-storied verses.
As the 56 th edition of the Castle Tankard rolls into town on Saturday 5 th May 2018, ten esteemed horsemen will go head to head vying for the most coveted horseracing trophy in the country, looking to prevail in the prestigious Grade 1 rated event.
Talented top jockey Brendon McNaughton might feel no different and when he jumps into the saddle of the local steed, Mathematician. He’s got hopes but isn’t willing to get ahead of himself. Come race day, he carries a quiet conviction that he will emerge victorious in the Tankard on board the 5-year- old son of Black Minnaloushe, Mathematician. “I’m confident that I will be on one of the best horses in the field when we load up at that 2000m mark. Mathematician is rated highly by many and with good reason. He is capable of winning the race and should give me a good race and hopefully produce a remarkable finish.”
That’s pretty self-assured talk from the horseman, but his claims are certainly not without merit. The up and coming 5-year- old gelding poses a threat to the overall favourite South African raider, Kilrain. The pairing of McNaughton and Mathematician has stuck together in a litany of consistent performances for the Bridget Stidolph yard since the turn of the year. Neither luck nor talent has quite been with the two during the running of their last five outings. They will need to be at the top of their game if they are to conquer the best in the Castle Tankard class of 2018.
When asked about his prospects against the in – form Kilrain, McNaughton cast doubt on the favourite’s chances of overcoming several obstacles in order to win The Castle Tankard. “Obviously, Kilrain should be respected, but I’m not overly confident of backing a runner that has not had a preparatory run on the course before. He’s not had the benefit of running on the course before which doesn’t help and he’s facing decent runners carrying lighter weights. I am confident of Mathematician getting a good position because he’s been coming on well over the past few races.”
If he does do the unthinkable and pilot Mathematician to victory, this would mark a grand slam for McNaughton in the country’s top races having conquered the OK Grand Challenge before.
The road to the pinnacle of horse racing has been a long, difficult and winding one for the 27-year- old Zimbabwean-born rider. The rider’s formative years were spent in Harare in conditions not far removed from equestrian activities. His paternal grandfather was very involved in all things pertaining to horses and the racing bug soon bit the youngster.
He accredits his passion for horseracing as having kept him interested in horseracing from a young age to where he is now. “My father was a trainer and so I was always involved in horses from a very young age. Out of 14 or so apprentices that went into the academy, I am the only one still riding. I’m just hoping that racing here continues and I can win the big race. If anyone wants to get into this profession they would need a lot of dedication, perseverance and early mornings to just make the grade. I’ve seen a lot of kids come and go because they didn’t have the stamina to stay the distance.“
The ultimate test then is on the horizon for McNaughton and Mathematician as they look to conquer the beast that is the 2018 Castle Tankard horse race.