Friday, 3 August 2012 was the date for the annual Cape Racing and Breeding Awards, hosted from the panoramic fourth floor at Kenilworth. Despite the chill, ladies raided cupboards for their best party frocks and the gentlemen all looked dapper in tuxedoes. Marsh Shirtliff always cuts a distinctive figure and was particularly rakish and Connery-esque with his new beard!
Local crooner Ricky Botsis got everyone in the mood with his smooth voice and some classic swing numbers and the drinks and chat were soon flowing.
Racetrack cheques and accolades are one thing, but recognition from your industry peers is someone an extra special affirmation and there were more than a few butterflies in the room.
Cape Racing Awards
We kicked off with the Racing Awards and Good Hope Racing gave an indication of things to come by scooping the award for Juvenile Male with the beautiful Greys Inn colt, King of Pain. With 4 wins from 5 starts, the lovely grey (formerly known as Diego Rivera) has beaten some impressive sorts and looks sure to give connections Mr & Mrs D Naik, Mesdames K Finch & B Kieswetter & Mr J Ramsden a lot of fun in his 3 YO season. Congratulations also to his breeders Arc-en-Ciel.
Another charming grey, All Is Secret scooped the prize for Juvenile Filly. Bred by the BBP Syndicate, owned by Messrs Jooste and Miller and trained by bang on form Cape trainer Vaughan Marshall, this filly has proved a rewarding one to follow and joins an elite handful who can boast 2 Gr1 victories in their juvenile career.
Despite a strong class for the 3 YO Male award, Variety Club, who Joey Ramsden has dubbed ‘Mr Reliable’ took the laurels, the trophy and the large bottle of bubbly for Mr & Mrs Markus Jooste. Breeder Anton Shepherd from Beaumont Stud and Pippa Mickleburgh were also on hand to celebrate his achievement.
The 3 YO Filly award had a short list of nominees, but the honours went the way of turf phenomenon Princess Victoria for delighted connections Peter de Beyer, Georgina Jaffee and breeders Maine Chance Farm. The Cape’s Princess is of course conditioned by Glen Kotzen and the Woodhill Team.
Older Male of the Year would have had the selection panel scratching their heads and any one of the nominees would have been worthy of the honour, but it seems the Bass yard may need to add another plaque to their door as What A Winter took the honours for father-son team Marsh and Guy Shirtliff, Mike Bass and Bryn Ressell.
The Older Female of the Year was contested by Covenant and Ebony Flyer, with the laurels going to the Team Valor and Drakenstein stud-owned, Snaith Racing trained Ebony Flyer. Despite an announcement that she would retire after the Garden Province, Team Valor issued a press release last week stating that they may consider resuming her track career pending another scope.
Champion Sprinter of the Year was a battle of the sexes between Ebony Flyer and What A Winter, but went the way of What A Winter for another trip to the dais for Marsh and Guy Shirtliff and Mike Bass.
Champion Middle Distance Horse of the Year added another trophy to the Variety Club cabinet.
Champion Stayer of the Year was jointly awarded to two DKR stalwarts, Blake and In Writing, both recently seen in action in the Gold Cup. Huge congratulations to the partnership of Messrs Brugman, Deacon, Kay and Mrs Rudden, and Fieldspring Racing as well as the Kannemeyer Racing Team. What a treat to have Peter Kannemeyer on hand to receive the honours.
The WP Groom’s School Work Rider Race Series went to another DKR inmate, the ever smiling William Bambiso. It is a treat to see William at morning gallops as he always has a broad smile and cheery wave and is one of our most accomplished and stylish work riders.
The Cape Apprentice Award was received by the charming Jason Smitsdorff, accompanied by his very proud Academy guardians Mr & Mrs Walsh. Jason has become a fixture in our winner’s enclosures and looks to have a very bright future.
Cape Champion Jockey went the way of the evergreen Karl Neisius and if my records are correct, this is his 10th Cape Championship. It comes hot on the heels of him riding his 3,000th winner, so truly a season to remember.
Joey Ramsden broke Mike Bass’s stranglehold on the Cape Trainer of the Year Award and paid heartfelt tribute to his support team at the yard, loyal owners and his lovely family.
There were acknowledgement of achievement awards to Cape racing institutions Alan Higgins and Billy Prestage. I will not mention ages, but suffice to say that the knowledge, wisdom and experience these gentlemen have imparted to the game over the years is invaluable.
There was also a very special award to WC’s Chairman, Mr Vidrik Thurling for his tireless efforts in steering local racing through its current turbulent waters.
The award for Horse of the Year also made its way to Mr & Mrs Jooste’s table for Variety Club and they also took the honours for Owners of the Year. Mr Jooste was at his charismatic best and his acceptance speech reaffirmed his commitment to Cape racing.
Cape Breeders Club Awards
The Breeders seemed to be in agreement with their racing counterparts for the most part and awarded their accolades as follows:-
Champion 2 YO Colt went to Soft Falling Rain. Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s son of Captain Al colt hails from Highlands and has a staggering 4 wins from 4 starts.
The Breeders concurred with the Racing pundits on the Champion 2 YO Filly and also awarded their trophy to the lovely grey, All is Secret and the BBP Syndicate.
Champion 3 YO Colt went the way of Variety Club, Beaumont Stud and Anton Shepherd who has realised his lifetime’s dream of following his father in breeding a South African champion.
Champion 3 YO Filly also went the way of Princess Victoria and was collected by John Slade for Maine Chance Farms. With progeny of the calibre of the Princess, one cannot help but mourn the premature loss of Victory Moon and wonder at what else might have been.
The award for Champion Older Male was collected by Candice Robinson for the What A Winter team and Daytona Stud.
Champion Older Female went the way of Mr Willie Engelbrecht’s Ebony Flyer and collected by none other than Justin Bieber, er Snaith!
The Champion Sprinter award was again collected by Candice Robinson on behalf of What A Winter and Daytona.
Anton Shepherd’s smile stretched ever broader as he was called up again to collect the award for Champion Middle Distance horse and another bottle of bubbly for Variety Club.
The honours for Stayer of the Year went the way of Pee Bee Stud’s Blake and were collected by the effervescent Peter Kannemeyer.
Broodmare honours were awarded to Golden Apple, the dam of this year’s July winner Pomodoro and graciously received by John Koster.
Stallion of the Year, with a phenomenal season’s haul of stakes winners and track success, went to the incomparable late, great Jet Master.
John Freeman and Ross Fuller did duty for Drakenstein Stud in collecting the accolade for Outstanding New Stallion for Trippi, whose progeny have been burning up our turf.
An award that I particularly appreciated was the one for Plaaswerker van die Jaar. Our stud staff, so frequently at the coalface and always fiercely proud of their horses, remain largely behind the scenes. I love visiting studs on race days as the grooms are always glued to the TV’s watching ‘their’ horses run. MEC Gerrit van Rensburg was in Olympic mood and proclaimed us a nation of champions and it is worth remembering those who work tirelessly to produce our track heroes and put up with all their foibles well before they are famous! Jackson Nkompela from Normandy got the honours after a glowing recommendation from boss Veronica Foulkes.
Breeder of the Year went to Klawervlei, who have enjoyed a wonderfully successful season. They have been knocking hard on the door of the National Awards and Mick Goss does not call them worthy adversaries for nothing !
Variety Club was a massively popular choice as Horse of the Year. Huge congratulations to him and all his connections once again.
International Horse of the Year honours went to Ato, who added another trophy to the Maine Chance haul and many congratulations to Dr Jacobs, John Slade and the Maine Chance team.
The Outstanding Breeder Award also found its way to the Beaumont table for their chestnut phenomenon that is Variety Club.
The evening was rounded off by Industry Service Awards to Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer, our First Lady of racing and Mr Hyman Maisel, a long-standing force on the Cape racing and breeding scene. The Oppenheimers and Mauritzfontein stud have not only produced horses, they have given us track legends and a trip through their list of luminaries is a who’s who of South African turf history. From Tiger Fish to the mighty Horse Chestnut, the Mauritzfontein juggernaut shows no signs of slowing.
Mr Maisel has long been part of the Cape racing landscape and Hyjo Stud has produced the likes of Corning Touch, Sweet Chestnut, Ancestral Fore and one of my personal favourites, Past Master.
Rouvaun Smit and Vaughan Koster did sterling service behind the mics and skilfully steered us through the evening’s events.
Many congratulations and thanks to the selection panels – it has been a phenomenal season for Cape horses and racing, locally, nationally and abroad. With our season having drawn to a close, the awards season is a wonderful way to review, reward, reflect and celebrate our combined talents on the tracks and paddocks of our beautiful corner of the country.
It is also a time to gird our loins for the season to come and the first of the new season’s foals have already started arriving. My very best wishes to our breeders for a safe, happy and productive breeding season. May I wish you strong mares, easy births, healthy foals and many future champions and championships.
To all award winners as well as all the nominees – it has been a long, hard slog and I hope you have time to reflect and enjoy your successes, even though the hard work of the next season is already beckoning. Thank you for the cold, dark, early mornings, late nights, distances travelled, lost sleep and all the hard slog that you hide behind the smiles in the winner’s enclosure.
And to our owners who keep the whole show on the road – thank you for your passion, dedication and commitment to the sport. Thank you for your wonderful horses and for sharing the fun and for giving us heroes to shout home.
All the best for the coming season.