Eight runners line up in South Africa seeking their first grade one win in the Manha Manha Challenge this weekend. The race will be run over 10 furlongs on a firm turf course for the grade one minimum of $750,000. All of the runners are at least stakes winners and five of them have won at the graded level before. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Radelaide 5/1
Radelaide is the only gelding in the field. The five year old was gelded as a two year old before he even ran a route. The son of Adelaide out of a Monsun x Sadler’s Wells mare is the only stakes winner for his dam and that win came two starts back going eleven and one half furlongs. He’s mostly run at leaset twelve furlongs for the past year or so, including a placing in a two mile listed and a win in a thirteen and one half allowance race. This old charger is a late runner so how he responds to the shortened distance will be interesting.
#2 Counitario 7/2
The first of our co-favorites is also the oldest runner in the field at six. He’s a scratchbred son of Dylan Thomas x Nureyev x Mr. Prospector. Comunitario has won his last three races in a row going back to August of 2018. Yes you read that right. He has run three allowances in August, November and March. His speeds have all been triple digits in that skein topped by a 113 going ten furlongs in November. He is a grade three winner, going back to 2017 when he took the ten furlong Challenge Cup. If this guy is true to form he should be on or near the lead. With only a one month turnaround there is a question if he will be rested enough!
Hushfield is a son of Siyouni out of a Danzig x Seattle Slew mare. She has previously produced a grade two winner and this five year old’s younger brother (and last foal for the mare) is also a stakes winner. Hushfield has won more than double the number of races than any other entry in the field with seventeen victories including one group of twelve straight victories. His only stakes win – and here’s the catch – came at four and one half furlongs (in a Local Championship). Not only has Hushfield never run ten furlongs – he’s never run more than six and one half furlongs. In sprints he has tactical speed and certainly likes to win. In a grade one route? We’ll find out.
#4 Loosen My Load 8/1
The last time Loosen My Load ran ten furlongs was in May of his three year old season. One race later he stretched out an extra furlong to win a grade three. Stretching out one more furlong he was second by a half length in the grade one German Derby. Since then he has raced at mostly 11 to 13 furlongs. This year he has run three times running fifth in a twleve furlong listed stakes with a 99 speed then jumped up nicely to a 107 when finishing second by a head in an allowance. He dropped down again most recent running third beaten four lengths in a similar allowance, both at thirteen furlongs. If his form holds and he runs big after an off run he could improve here but how will he handle the loss of three furlongs? The five year old is by a sire, Gleneagles, who was a miler but he is out of the Hall of Fame mare Kristeeene S. who did her best running between ten and eleven furlongs with wins including the Breeders’ Bowl F&M Turf. Loosen My Load is one of her three graded winners with an additional four stakes winners to boot.
#5 Gods are Angered 7/2
The second of our co-favorites here is the four year old Gods are Angered (kudos on a great name). The four year old enters off a third place finish in the grade one Sydney Cup at this distance back in March. He ran a 115 speed an increase of 3 points from his previous run which came only three weeks earlier in a grade two. After a slow start the son of Dubawi out of the graded placed stakes winning mare Anger of the Gods (Mastercraftsman x Bernardini) really put it all together late in his three year old season. He capped 2018 with a grade two win against fellow three year olds. He had a three month break after that score and returned in February. Each of his races has been better than the last but he has yet to see the winner’s circle this season. He’s typically a late runner and this looks like his race to lose.
#6 Ragnarokkr 8/1
Is it a coincidence that this colt lines up just after Gods Are Angered? Another fun name. This four year old by City Zip based on a Curlin x Rahy hemare is only a listed winner so far in his career but with only twelve starts (nine times in the money) he certainly has room to move forward. The colt has never been out of the money in turf races, with three wins and two seconds from five starts. He won three straight races on the grass starting in October of 2018 through March of 2019. The first two races were allowances at nine and a half furlongs and the final race came at ten in a listed stakes. He ran a 114 to get that win in which he lollie gagged in last for most of the race before unleashing a monster kick to carry him home. He stretched out to twelve furlongs in his last in a residency stakes and while he did make a nice closing run it only got him up for third. This will be a class test for this colt but he’s been running legitimately fast races.
#7 Ukelele Opera 5/1
This five year old son of King Kamehameha out of a Galileo x Indian Ridge mare is a perfect example of why you should not give up on a horse. Last November he made his first start in a ten furlong race. He ran second by a length but he also ran a 109 speed which at the time was a career best. He followed that up with a listed win (113 speed) and an immediate try at graded competition. His last three starts have all come in ten furlong graded stakes. His best finish came in his most recent start about a month ago, the Hardcourt (G2). In that race he sat midpack and closed nicely for a second place finish with a 112 speed. He has tactical speed and I could easily see him sitting in second early on.
#9 Enormous Edge 4/1
Enormous Edge is a scartchbred son of More Than Ready x Sadler’s Wells x Danehill is a five year old with only twelve starts. He’s won six of them including four races at ten furlongs turf (he has another win at the distance on dirt). Enormous Edge has a bit of a story behind his career. He made his debut in December of his three year old season when he won a stakes race limited to maidens from the Blazing Saddles residency. As mentioned he really likes the ten furlong distance. He ended last season with two dirt starts at the distance. The first run saw him win an allowance with a 113 speed, the second start was a residency restricted stakes and after running away from the field early he was caught late to finish third. In 2019 he’s made two starts so far, both turf ten furlongs. The first was a dominating win in an allowance NW5L and then he jumped straight to grade two competition and rewarded his connections with a front running victory in the Victoria Cup. He ran a career best 118 that day and the question is can he run back to that number or will he bobble a bit. He will likely be on top early and not many want the lead and have the speed to challenge him early.
Good luck to all!