Remember Eric “The Eel” Moussambani, Equatorial Guinea’s answer to Eddie The Eagle at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games?
While clearly outclassed, the African swimmer won the hearts of Australians and millions worldwide, embodying the Olympic spirit of competition in the 100m freestyle event.
Scone trainer Greg Bennett’s Malabo, who lines up at Muswellbrook on Sunday, and Moussambani have a common link.
The lightly-raced four-year-old daughter of Dubawi is named after the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
When it comes to speed however, fortunately for Bennett and the mare’s connections Malabo is more in Michael Phelps’ class than the brave but struggling African.
Malabo resumes from a 23-week spell in the Denman Dash, a scamper over 900m.
Already the winner of three from five starts, Malabo showed she was ready to roll with a strong, six-length 900m barrier trial win on her home track on September 23.
“She’s come back in good order, strengthened up,” Bennett, the man who broke in turf immortal Makybe Diva, said.
“She went straight to the front in the trial. Hari (Singh) couldn’t hold her slow enough.
“She’s a city-class mare. I intended starting her first-up at Warwick Farm Monday but decided to take the easier option.
“She’ll head to town next start.”
Broken in by Bennett at the same time as Mirjulisa Lass, Greg Hickman’s Vinery Stud Stakes Group One winner, Malabo failed to reach her reserve and was passed in as a yearling.
Several subsequent sales fell through before a syndicate of owners based from Queensland to Victoria, including the Sutho Old Boys made up of a group of ex-Sydney and NSW central coast rugby league players, was organised.
“Apparently a couple of buyers never came up with the money. Malabo stood in the paddock for a fair while,” Bennett said.
“Having that extra time may have been a blessing in disguise. She was immature as a young horse.”
Malabo has recorded wins at Cessnock, Wyong and Tamworth, her only failure last campaign a 4-3/4-length fourth to Hurrara at Gosford in April.
“There were excuses that day,” Bennett said.
“She’s a nice mare with a lot of speed. I expect her to be very hard to beat Sunday.”
Bennett will also saddle up Chaste (Rachael Murray) and Pipers Point (Greg Ryan) in the $30,000 Coolmore Sky Racing Denman Cup (1280m).
“Both are chances,” Bennett said.