FEBRUARY 2 – 8
An international showjumping competition takes place in Mauritius. In the field are last year’s winner Bullion Best (a former Ralph Rixon inmate), as well as Dambuster, the former Gilbeys winner and Mauritian Horse of the Year and now thirteen years old.
The pre-Guineas gallops take place at Milnerton early on Monday morning. Corning Touch, Springing Guest and early favourite Unaware make the most impression.
First nominations for the Bloodline Million (to be run at Turffontein on 25 April) are in. Sixty seven youngsters still carry the hopes of their connections. Ten of these are trained by Jean Heming. Cape trained two year olds are conspicuous by their absence.
Tuesday is Secretaries Raceday at Turffontein. Not surprisingly winners include Golden Export, Travel Well and Patch Of Paradise.
On the assumption that money buys you everything, Transvaal race clubs announce increased prize money for the Administrators Cup, to be run in alternate years at Turffontein and Gosforth Park. The race becomes the richest in the country with its stake of R1.25 million, up from R600.000 last year when the race was known as the Administrators Champion Stakes. The new race is a restricted Gr1 handicap, and no longer run at weight for age.
The Gr1 programme in South Africa is beginning to look more and more peculiar, with weights rather than ability determining the outcome of the richest events. The Rothmans July is a handicap, the J&B Met a conditions race, and the Cup also a handicap. As a result it should be expected that the best horses don’t win those races, and that it’ll be profitable to belong to the second echelon in the equine ranks.
Interestingly, when the Cup is run at Gosforth Park in 1993, the club racing there intends to stage a programme similar to Breeders Cup day in the US.
With the difference in prizemoney between first and second in the new Cup amounting to over half a million Rand (R780.000 to R250.000) it is to be hoped that the Transvaal Clubs will find someone who can handicap. A kilo or so the wrong way could now be worth a cool five hundred thousand. Frightening responsibility.
A new record is set when Guineas horses are auctioned at the Guineas dinner at Milnerton. Top bid for the evening is for Unaware (R44.000) who convincingly ousts Empress Club (R36.000). Also during the auction, one of the jockeys riding in the Guineas gets the highest bid in on his own horse – at least we know he’ll be trying!
Michael Roberts is named Natal Sports Star of the Year for the second time in his career. He previously won that title in 1988. Roberts edges out 14 other contenders including a track athlete, triathlete, boardsailor, surfer, and rugby, cricket and hockey players, as well as old adversary Basil Marcus, now a leading jockey in Hong Kong. The award, now in its 15th year, is organised by the Natal Sports Journalists Society.
Racing Update (USA) editor Bill Oppenheim delivers addresses at Turffontein and Milnerton (he’ll be at Greyville next week).
On the Friday before the Guineas, Topsport runs ads proclaiming “When it comes to covering the Sport of Kings, it’s a one horse race”. M-Net takes the hint and postpones its early Saturday morning programme Parade Ring by well over an hour to show a boxing match instead.
A field of sixteen lines up for the Topsport Bloodline Guineas. The list of prices owners paid at yearling sales 2 years ago shows the wide diversity of early perception:
Corning Touch R325.000
Springing Guest 110.000
Fast Gun 82.000
Secret Ring 50.000
Spark of Peace 50.000
Subic Bay 20.000
The Decorator 18.000
Flying Catch 15.000
Secret Hoard 15.000
Bold Statement not sold
Earl King not sold
Walden’s Earl not sold
Military Muse home bred
Empress Club imported
Cape Town newspaper South scores the big race double when Empress Club wins the Guineas. South, which also headlined Divine Master’s J&B Met win prior to the race and made Empress Club a banker for exotic perms, is the only paper in the country that uses Racing Record “real handicap” ratings to forecast race results.
Empress Club’s victory, the second for a filly in as many years, is never in any doubt. She breaks well from a wide draw, races handy for most of the way in a race run at a good pace, and has her opposition stonecold with a 100m to go. She wins by 2 lengths from The Decorator and a fast finishing Unaware, with Fast Gun and Secret Hoard close up. The second and third show how consistent racehorses can be, simply confirming the form shown in the Gr2 SA Invitation Stakes and Gr2 Administrator’s Challenge, even though Unaware doesn’t quite have a clear run up the straight. Fast Gun, best looker in the parade ring together with Empress Club, seems to have second place in the bag with 200m to go, but his stamina gives in shortly after that. Secret Hoard fails to find a clear passage in the last furlong, and may have been unlucky not to run a place.
This is the second running of the joint Topsport- and TBA-sponsored Bloodline Guineas, and although the million-Rand race usually throws up the best three-year-old of a generation, it has yet to be won by a colt!
Perhaps next year the tide will turn?
FEBRUARY 9 – 15
The Highveld Feature Race Season gets under way. Thirty consecutive race meeting make up the show, which alternates between Turffontein, Gosforth Park, Newmarket and the Vaal. Every one of the days has a feature race worth at least R100.000. Three races worth a million or more are part of the programme, with the R1.25 million Administrator’s Cup top of the heap.
Total prize money for the 10-week extravaganza totals a staggering R14 million.
The HRA is running a special phone-in competition during the “season”, with a R1000 prize up for grabs at each meeting.
Cape bookmaker Pip James, accused to have played a part in the “R5.000 race fixing” for which trainer Hodgson was warned off and jockey Chelin fined, is warned off after a Jockey Club inquiry. James has the right of appeal.
Daytona Stud imports the stallion Sportsworld, a son of dual Arc-winner Alleged, from the female line that produced Raja Baba, Plugged Nickle, Token of Youth and Al Mufti. Sportsworld raced in the UK and Ireland while in the care of Vincent O’Brien, and is a Gr2 winner.
The Gr2 Premium Stakes at Milnerton has been run at a crawl for the last three years and the 1992 is no exception. The stipes report proclaims the race to have been “extremely slow until the 1000m mark”, this despite the fact that once again the official time posted was “No Time Taken”, and the stipes had no benchmark other than their eyes.
Milnerton is now officially the undisputed laughing stock of the timekeeping fraternity, and the inability to get their act together is a disgrace – timing has been awful for over three months.
The fact that no one (including the racegoers, the stewards and the press) seems to care much, doesn’t say much for the future of racing in the fairest Cape.
Time doesn’t worry Flaming Rock, though, as he outsprints his six rivals in the Premium Stakes and wins by a good few lengths. Eternal bridesmaid Spanish Galliard runs second.
FEBRUARY 16 – 22
Money talks and Flaming Rock is shipped to the Rand in secret, for a tilt at the R1.25 million Administrator’s Cup handicap. His connections had earlier declined a trip north, as the conditions of the race would put the Cape crack at a distinct disadvantage. Even so, Flaming Rock had only been beaten by a narrow margin the J&B Met with top weight, and should meet most of his opponents on similar terms. He has about six weeks to acclimatise.
A full field of twenty is declared for the Cape Derby. Runners include Guineas contenders Unaware, The Decorator, Secret Hoard and Corning Touch. Transvaal trainers Ferraris and Heming will add interest with their entries Copper Lustre and Fearless Crown.
Winning Form’s “Personality of the Week” Mike de Kock is quoted in the standard interview under the heading “First Winner” with: “Evening Mist in the Gerald Rosenberg Memorial”.
Then who was that person presenting the trophy?
The Jockey Club arranges informal seminars at Turffontein, Arlington and Milnerton to enlighten trainers on the intricacies of industrial relations and employment law. The seminars are a follow-up to an informal seminar held at Summerveld last year.
Basil Marcus is on a winning streak again in Hong Kong, and a serious contender now for the jockey title there. A local Hong Kong racing editor credited Marcus as being “a great formbook judge and forever popping up on horses that are just beginning to show their potential”.
What few know is that Marcus still has his rides analysed by Owen Heffer of Winning Form in Durban, with exactly the same methods that are used for Winning Form’s South African racecards. Marcus and Heffer communicate by phone and fax, and Winning Form’s Durban office carries all Hong Kong information on computer so that nominations can be processed quickly.
Kenilworth launches a skins concept for racegoers. The competition runs from 22 February to 7 March, with a skin worth R2500 put up for a designated race at each meeting. The concept follows the idea and rules of the successful Cape Quartet-bet.
Pace is again the deciding factor in the Gr1 Arc-en-Ciel Paddock Stakes, and a simple explanation why race-favourite Miss Averof doesn’t run a drum. The Elliodor daughter Perfect Order outsmarts everyone, ‘officially’ breaking the 1800m track record in the process – some feat given the slow early pace, so maybe the hot, windless conditions helped.
Perfect Order, bred at Odessa Stud by Lionel Cohen, was a R120.000 yearling purchase and had been strongly fancied by her connections in the Cape Fillies Guineas, where she broke bloodvessels and finished last. But this time Perfect Order’s odds (R50 a win on the Tote) certainly help make up for that disappointment for her flamboyant owner (and last year’s Cape Racing Personality of the Year) Ishmael Patel.
FEBRUARY 23 – 29
Quest For Fame wins the Gr3 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita in California, and becomes the first Epsom Derby winner in 97 years to score a big race victory as a five year old.
The economics of racing and breeding mean that most Derby winners are despatched to stud at the end of their three year old careers. But Quest for Fame may have been a sub-standard Derby winner, as Timeform rated him “a mere 127″, while only six of the runners he beat in the Derby managed to win a race of any description during the rest of the season.
Before Quest for Fame, the last Epsom Derby winner to win as a five year old was Isinglass in 1895. Isinglass, the Triple Crown hero of 1893, won the Ascot Gold Cup on his only outing at five. This took his earnings to 58.655 pounds, which stood as a British record for 57 years until bettered by Tulyar.
The only Derby winner between Isinglass and Quest For Fame to run at five was St Amant, the 1904 Epsom Derby winner, who failed to win any of his four races in 1906. Mill Reef (1971 Derby) would have raced at five, and against Brigadier Gerard at that, but for breaking a leg on the gallops in August ’72. That probably prevented him from becoming the only horse to win the Arc three times.
Thoroughbred Breeders GM John Kramer calls it a day, thus continuing the organisation’s management problems, which date back to the early Eighties. The TBA indicates it will, for the time being, not look for a replacement.
Kramer indicates his intention to establish a bloodstock consultancy.
Former Cape jockeys Willie Ries and Martin Ball make their Zimbabwean debut.
Trainer Ferraris consolidates the early successes with his juveniles when Jason’s Thread leads for most of the way to win the Morris Lipschitz at Newmarket. Incredibly, given the trainers reputation with juveniles, the filly starts at 20/1 – of all things, with Felix Coetzee in the saddle. The filly is a daughter of Golden Thatch, who’s having a great stakes-race season.
Breeders enter a total of 510 yearlings for the Natal Yearling Sale, planned for 2/3 July this year. The sale can accomodate a maximum of 345 youngsters.
He was right after all!
Trainer Mark Watters had persisted in his opinion for over a year that Corning Touch was the best three-year-old in his yard. It didn’t look like that in the Guineas, when Watter’s The Decorator ran second and Corning Touch fifth, but the Cape Derby clears matters once and for all. Corning Touch scores a scintillating victory over the Heming trained Fearless Crown, who races handy for most of the way.
The week proves is a good one for horses that travel, as Heming gets another second on the day in her lightning raid on the Cape. More significantly, travellers score a one-two in the Computaform Sprint at Gosforth Park. Fresh from a short season in the Cape, Polished Silver and Senor Santa arrive shortly before the race on the Rand. Polished Silver, who’d been second in the Cape Flying Championship, wins at odds of 14/1, handy all the way. Senor Santa, who threatens briefly, shows he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Also adding Brief Affaire’s third in the J&B Met a month ago, the old wives tale of the disadvantage of travelling shortly before a big race can now safely be laid to rest.
Owner Mary Zoccola scores an unusual double when her Perfect Place wins the seventh race at Kenilworth, and her Easy Action the eighth. Both horses score their fourth win in a row!