One of South Africa’s best loved races, the Gr1 Gold Cup, will be run at Greyville this Saturday. This year, the 3200m showpiece is sponsored by Ladbrokes.
Over the years, the Cup has been won by a host of horses – from complete outsiders to genuine champions. It is also the race which has many times determined the country’s top stayer (although sometimes it is the sole deciding factor – which makes the choice rather unsatisfactory).
The Gold Cup was first run back in 1926, when the race was won by Sun Lad. The latter, carried all of 6 stone 8 (or 46 kgs!) to victory.
Sun Lad, who went off at odds of 9-1, was owned by leading owner-breeder Sir Abe Bailey, who appropriately enough bred and owned the great staying sire Son In Law.
The first Gold Cup was contested over today’s distance of 3200m, and was worth, in total, 2,000 pounds.
The 1926 Gold Cup was one of just two wins for Sun Lad during the season, and he is unlikely to be regarded as one of the race’s better winners!
The first horse to win the Gold on two occasions was Humidor, who was victorious in 1933 and 1935. Humidor scored his first win carrying just 50 kgs, winning as a 5yo. Runner up, Candican, was giving the winner over two stone!
Two years later, the imported son of Galloper Lad carried 52.5 kgs to ensure himself a place in the record books. Humidor was more impressive in his second win – winning by a length, with another five lengths back to the third placed finisher.
While Candican put up one of the greatest weight carrying achievements ever seen in the race, another gallant effort came in 1930, when Glen Albyn (Bridge of Earn) ran second under 9 stone 10 – or 136 lbs. He was beaten just half a length, giving the winner, Artist Glow, one stone.
To date, four horses have won the Gold twice, but the last horse to win South Africa’s premier staying race in consecutive years being Highland Night (Badger Land), who won the race in 2002 and 2003.
Only once, has there been a dead heat in the race – and that was back in 1977 when Don The Stripe and Pacer shared the spoils.
Since 1945, the greatest winning margin in the Gold Cup has been the four and a half length winning distance put up by Devon Air (Sparkler), who triumphed in 1984.
Felix Coetzee, who partners In Writing in Saturday’s big race, has a magnificent record in the Gold Cup Coetzee has won the marathon event on no fewer than six occasions, incuding three straight years with Devon Air, Voodoo Charm and Occult.
One rider who enjoyed even greater success in the Gold Cup was the late Charlie Barends. He captured the event seven times – and won it in back to back years with Chez Monty (1949,1950).
There have been a number of stallions who have played a major role in the history of the Gold Cup.
However, Hobnob (Gyr), widely regarded as one of South Africa’s all time leading sires of high-class stayers, never sired a Gold Cup winner. He did sire three placed horses in the big race. This lack of success is puzzling when taking into account the fact that Hobnob sired three Gold Bowl winners, 2 SA Derby winners and numerous Oaks winners.
Champion sire, Foveros, is one stallion who certainly made his mark on the Gold Cup. He sired Gold Cup winners Aquanaut, and Festive Forever, while he is also damsire of 2007 winner, Thundering Star.
Dancing Champ is another to make a real impact on the 3200 feature. Sire of two Gold Cup winners (Castle Walk, Space Walk), he is the maternal grandsire of the 2004/2005 winners, Major Bluff and Reveille Boy.
Back in the 1940’s, the sire Montrose, by English Derby winner Coronach, dominated the Gold Cup. Over a five year period, the offspring of Montrose captured the great race on four occasions!
In total, Montrose sired four Gold Cup winners, who captured the race on five occasions. His Gold winners were His Lordship (1948), Chez Monty (1949,1950), Ladys Mon (1951) and Coquimbo (1953).
While many future top horses have won the race, the list of champions beaten in the Gold Cup is a long one. Since 1945 the roll of champions beaten in the big race is a long one. The likes of Badger’s Coast (Badger Land), Surfing Home (Capote), River Jetez (Jet Master), Gondolier (Jamaico), Young Rake (Rakeen), Big Charles (Beau Charles), Grand National (Port Merion), Floatyourboat (Jet Master) and Furious (Savonarola) are just some of the G1 winners and champions to have tasted defeat, often to inferior, and lightly weighted, horses in the Gold Cup.
Fillies and mares have enjoyed some success in the Gold Cup, without ever dominating their male rivals. The last female to capture the race was Colonial Girl (Stage Colony), who defeated Fairfields Fancy (Exclusive Patriot) by three parts of a length back in 2000. Other fillies and mares to win South Africa’s most famous staying race include Devon Air (1984), Festive Forever (1996) and Bella Bianca (1998). Both Festive Forever and Devon Air enjoyed success at stud, with the former producing the G1 winning champion Fearless (Western Winter) and the latter throwing two stakes winners. Devon Air is also the granddam of the high-class performers, She’s On Fire (Jet Master) and August Rush (Var).
While many July contenders compete in the Gold Cup, the race has not been won by a July winner since Ilustrador in 1990 (although the 1993 Gold Cup winner Space Walk subsequently “won” the July on the disqualification of original winner, Surfing Home). Other horses to complete the July/Gold Cup double include Occult, Devon Air and Excise.
Famous for producing a number of upsets, and not a race which has been kind to favourites over the years, the Gold Cup has been won by such longshots as Stateway (33-1), Rack and Ruin (25-1), Fauvist (33-1), and Millverof (25-1).
The first three finishers in the 2011 event started at the odds of 45-1,35-1, and 15/2 – with the favourite running fourth.
The most recent favourite to win the marathon event was Ancestral Fore, who landed the spoils in 2010.
The Gold Cup has a long and rich history, and, no doubt, Saturday’s race will further add to the races storied past.