It is a democratic reality that the jury will be out on the Equus Awards panel after last week’s national racing awards dinner was held in Johannesburg. With many of the award winners nominating and selecting themselves, the committee appear to have by and large passed the acid test with flying colours.
The commercial and champion branding value of an award should never be underestimated and probably far outweighs the sentimental thrill for many of the regular recipients, who have been there and done it.
Winning breeders will be justly wallowing in the sense of pride and achievement that flows from holding aloft a premier national award. But there are a few that may be considered hard done by.
Joey Ramsden’s Variety Club was named horse of the year, and few can argue that the Joostes’ brilliant son of Var did not deserve the accolade. He was kept on the boil for so long and just kept raising the bar. The same goes for Glen Kotzen’s brilliant daughter of Victory Moon, Princess Victoria. She had no peers in her age group and the future looks full of exciting promise.
Champion sprinter Val De Ra, who comes out of quarantine later this month en route to a date with Oasis Dream, is one of the unlucky ‘losers’ in our book.
That is not to say that Mike Bass’ What A Winter was an undeserving recipient of the Sprinter Of The Year award.
The son of Western Winter had seven starts last season for three wins, which included a Gr2 and Gr1 WFA sprint- both over 1200m. But he may be proof again that while the awards encompass the entire twelve months performance in a season, human nature overrides this with recent memory far more powerful than anything that happened ten months ago.
Val De Ra had only three starts in the season, and won two of these – a Gr2 and a Gr1 – both over 1000m at weight for age. She bled in the Computaform Sprint and may as well have stayed in bed that day.
Val De Ra beat What A Winter fair and square in the Gr1 Cape Flying Championship in January of this year, in a race billed the Sprint Of The Decade, and that included the legend JJ The Jet Plane. The crowds streamed into Kenilworth on that bright summer’s day.
Andrew Bon was a shoe-in on the non-equine side for his brilliant documentaries that have intrigued us on both Tellytrack and You-Tube, and to his credit, this very talented cameraman and producer has few peers when it comes to adding a sense of drama and glamour to some quite mundane subject matter at times.
Gold Circle Publishing’s David Thiselton was the recipient of the Print Media award.
Thiselton is employed by the racing operator and produces regular interesting newsworthy copy from KwaZulu-Natal for the Independent Newspapers Racegoer insert. But the fact that he churns out pure news and information designed to bolster betting turnover, as opposed to opinionated editorial, throws something of a cat amongst the pigeons. It would be interesting to hear what swung the judges in his favour from a creative viewpoint.
If one compares Thiselton’s restrictions and mandate to the likes of independent journalists such as The Citizen’s Dave Mollett, who are not employed by the operator to produce favourable propagandist copy, then are we not judging juicy Granny Smith apples against tequila-injected oranges?
And we are not sour grapes. Just a bit of fruit for thought, as it were.
Our own regular contributor Robyn Louw was a winner of the Print Media award in 2011, but such is the fickle nature of this industry that the very talented journalist, who has produced multi-faceted opinion in the face of explosive individual differences and vastly varying corporate interests here in the Cape, did not even crack the nod as a guest invitee this year. That hardly builds loyalty.
Despite her submitting her entries timeously in terms of the award criteria, we were also informed that her submissions had not been considered on a technicality.
Did this have anything to do with her treading on sensitive toes this past season?
Maybe we give too much credit where it just isn’t due, and that is a matter of conjecture. It is this very petty cold-shouldering that happens just once too often though, to believe that there are not more sinister forces at play at times.
Ultimately, few will argue that fair, balanced and professional judging can only add real value and prestige to awards that everybody in the industry will aspire to and respect.
And that can only come from within.