MAY 3 – MAY 9
French trained Arazi, widely touted as the Best Horse in the World, fails to make the frame in the Kentucky Derby and becomes the thirteenth consecutive Derby favourite to bite the dust. Arazi is drawn very wide in the race, but is given every chance and makes the impression not to stay. The American Classic is won by Lil E Tee.
Arazi is expected to race in Europe for the rest of his three-year-old season and seems likely to next run in the Grand Prix de Paris late in June. The Epsom Derby, for which Arazi was the even money favourite, will be given a miss.
There’s no sleeping-in late on Worker’s Day in Port Elizabeth. The local racemeeting starts at nine in the morning and finishes at midday. Attendance is double the normal size crowd, and on-course turnover trebles. The meeting is promoted as a “family outing” – in the opinion of the locals clearly a concept that works.
The Steady Beat gelding Lord of Lexington wins the Dion Sharp Derby Trial Futurity at 10/1, on a day when only one favourite obliges.
Awards for the Highveld Feature season are presented at Turffontein. The award winners are selected by a panel of twelve Transvaal racing editors chaired by Graeme Hawkins. There are no surprises as Empress Club collects both the title for Horse of the Season and Three-year-old Filly, and Ormond Ferraris wins the Trainer’s title.
Doug White beats Willy Figueroa by a single vote to become Jockey of the Season.
Trainer Ferraris makes it four feature wins in as many days, as his juvenile filly Piastar wins the R100.000 Gosforth Park Fillies Futurity on Saturday. The run starts on Wednesday, when Circle The Sun floors Secret Rites in the R200.000 Administrators Stakes at Scottsville. On Thursday Fine Regent, Launching Pad and Fluent Stride score a 1-2-3 in the feature event at Newmarket, while on Friday in Bloemfontein it is Warning Sign to win the R100.000 Thaba’Nchu Sun Casino Stakes.
Lucky for some! At Kenilworth the horse Strong Surf wins the last leg of the Pick Six. The horse has saddle cloth 13, is drawn 13, and carries 13 tickets going into the final leg.
Empress Club wins the Natal Guineas in near record time, pulverising her field of male opponents. The Empress now has average earnings of R180.000 per start to date.
MAY 10 – 16
Empress Club is allocated 55.5 kilos in the Rothmans July, the highest weight for a three-year-old in recent memory. The next highest weighted three-year-olds in the race all carry 51 kilos, the minimum allowable bottomweight for colts of that age.
Topweight goes to Flaming Rock (58), with Olympic Duel (57.5) and the imported Red Toto (57.5) next highest.
Bookmakers express their concern by lengthening the odds on early favourite Empress Club somewhat.
The Rothmans July television rights are once again secured by M-Net. The pay-channel will repeat last year’s Festival of Racing, showing twelve races from the Natal season and from Europe between May and September – including the Epsom Derby.
Knife Edge makes all the running to win the Concord Stakes at Greyville, from Alnwick and Polished Silver.
Michael Roberts rides his 3000th career winner at York in the UK. This is the 646th winner in the UK for Roberts, who was SA champion jockey eleven times.
In Hong Kong there are seven meetings to go before the end of the season. Basil Marcus appears to have an unassailable lead with 60 winners to date – his nearest challenger is on 42 – and looks the likely champion jockey for 1992 on the island.
Jeffrey Lloyd breaks the South African record for wins in a season, previously held by Felix Coetzee. The horse Tease Me makes it 273 for Lloyd at Arlington.
The de novo inquiry by the Jockey Club into the alleged race fixing by jockey Eric Chelin predictably draws a blank. Chelin is cleared of all charges. At the original hearing Chelin had been suspended for six months on a charge of bringing racing into disrepute. Trainer Hodgson was warned off for six months on a charge of bringing racing into disrepute in the same case.
Just over 300 yearlings are to be auctioned at the Zimbabwe National Yearling Sales. As usual, the auction takes place in two sessions, at Borrowdale Park.
Local sources express concern about the ruling economical climate in Zim, and turnover is expected to be well below that of last year.
The Transvaal TAB releases its 20th Annual Report. Turnover for 1991 was a record R911 million, up 14%. As a result the Transvaal Provincial income increased by R16 million (17%).
Chris Botha is re-elected as chairman of the Vaal Turf Club at the club’s AGM. Dr Jack Watson is vice-president, while Roy Edwards and Dave Makins act as Botha’s deputies.
The Millard trained Irish mare Topasannah (by Commanche Run) wins the Woolavington Cup over 2400m at Clairwood. She is a chance ride for jockey Wilkinson, as stable jockey Coetzee is unable to make the low weight (Coetzee makes up for that, though, by riding six other winners on the 10-race Clairwood card). Interestingly, Topasannah’s yearling half sister (by Last Tycoon) was bought by Ormond Ferraris at the recent Sydney Yearling Sales, for AUS$ 100.000.
The new Spectrum Wagering System is introduced at Turffontein, after off course Totes and telephone betting systems were incorporated into the system earlier. The on-course introduction throws up a problem and the system’s performance deteriorates steadily throughout the afternoon, resulting in lost turnover both on and off course.
The feature event on opening day at Champ de Mars in Port Louis (Mauritius) is won by Sidwell. The Proclaim-gelding wins the Duchess of York Cup over 1400m by three lengths from Sicily, American Affair and even-money favourite Tamanu.
MAY 17 – 23
Alter Ego wins the Gilbeys Trial over 1200m at Scottsville, winning convincingly from Delta Force and Rock Candy, and giving notice of intention for the real Gilbeys to be run in June.
At Newmarket Piere Strydom celebrates his return to the saddle (he’d been sidelined by a collarbone injury) with a feature win on the filly I’m Livania. It is Strydom’s second win for his new boss Alec Laird, after winning earlier in the afternoon on Galley of Gold.
The Foveros camp plans ahead. Brian Moore, Jim Redman and Robin Scott import the Sadler’s Wells horse Dolpour. Rated 128 at 3 by Timeform, Dolpour stayed 2000m. His sire won the 2000 Guineas, his dam the French Fillies Guineas.
The Dion Sharp Derby, run over 2400m at Arlington, results in a upset when Red Regent gelding Regency Moon holds off an unlucky Truly Charlie, the favourite, who’s interfered with. This is Regency Moon’s first attempt over ground. He wins at lucrative odds of 25/1 and pays R80 for a win on the Tote.
At Scottsville three Gr1 races are run on the same (hot) day. There are a good few scratchings on the card, as Transvaal trainer Jean Heming’s string is affected by a respiratory virus.
The Gr1 Smirnoff Sprint is won by Hot Guard, now regarded as the best juvenile seen out so far. Hot Guard won his first starts at two for the Guy Rixon stable, then was transferred to the care of Herman Brown. Hot Guard’s owner/breeders flew in from abroad to witness the victory. The winner (by Home Guard) and second placed Abscond (by freshman Rocky Marriage) are Natal bred.
Three-year-old Mexico-filly Marie Galante wins the Gr1 Fillies Sprint without much ado, confirming her superiority in the ranks of her own sex. The winner is Cape bred, runner-up Blsuhing Star a Natal bred.
And Empress Club doesn’t disappoint her supporters when she wins the Gr1 SA Fillies Guineas, a historic victory that pushes her earnings through the R2 million barrier. No other horse has earned that much in South Africa.
A mystery Tote customer cancels his R14.000 place-bet on Empress Club just before the “off” of the Fillies Guineas, which upsets the odds in the Tote-pool to such an extent that Empress Club (who is 1/8 favourite) ends up paying an incredible R5.80 for a place. Many cry “foul”, but after investigation the punter’s cancellation turns out to have been done in good faith. The punter changed his place bets to a win bet and trifecta’s, which resulted in a loss of some R2000.
The official Empress Club fanclub can be seen at Scottsville sporting T-shirts saying “I’ve joined the Empress Club”. TV1 commentators Robin Bruss and Martin Locke display the T-shirt prominently on their show, too.
The original Empress Club after which the filly is named opened in 1857, at 15 Berkley Street in London’s smart Mayfair. The Empress Club was for the exclusive use of the ladies of the Court of Queen Victoria. The Club had grand public rooms, a banqueting hall, palm court, conservatories and even (we’re talking 1857!) a swimming pool.
The swimming pool was converted into a restaurant shortly after World War II by the famous Louis Scott, and opened with due ceremony in 1948.
In 1959, great restaurateur Mario Galetti bought the restaurant, and turned it into one of the most elegant restaurants in London. Orson Welles, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor were amongst the regulars.
When Galetti died in 1975, the “Empress” was turned into an exclusive entertainment venue, still famous for the quality of its cuisine.
In 1979 it became the most distinguished Arab club in London, frequented by sheiks and Arab royalty.
The short-lived Regines club was opened in the extensively re-modelled premises in 1986.
By 1988 the club changed hands again, and was bought by the successful owners of the Princess Garden restaurant, and opened as an exclusive private club. Then, by popular demand, the Empress Garden opens to the public as a restaurant in October 1989.
The “Empress” today is as exclusive as the race-filly that carries her name. The decor in the restaurant was created by designer Robin Guild, known for his spectacular work with hotels in Sydney, Fiji and Tahiti. From the specially woven carpets taken from an Iranian Kelim, to the dyed silk walls bedecked with traditional 19th century Oriental costumes, the Empress exudes an air of extraordinaru opulence.
The restaurant’s menu boasts recipes from Peking, and from Szechuan, Kwangchou and Hunan province, which are served at round tables with a revolving centre so that dishes can be shared by friends.
Interestingly, the current owners of the restaurant have strong South African connections, not unfamiliar with racing here. It’s a small world!
MAY 24 – 30
The Robertson mare sale is somewhat of a disappointment. Prices are low and a good few of the eighty entries do not reach their reserve prices. Top price id R24.000 paid for Argentinian mare Summertime, in foal to Raise A Man.
South African jockey ranks will be depleted when the new season gets underway in August and September. Felix Coetzee announces that he’ll be riding in Hong Kong, side by side with current champion Basil Marcus (Marcus, incidentally, doesn’t use Winning Form’s method to pick rides on the island).
Also at that time the likely 1991/92 champion Jeff Lloyd will leave for a six-week working holiday in the UK. He will be attached to the stable of Lambourne trainer Richard Hannon.
Felix Coetzee reports a missing parrot. His African Grey flies away from Coetzee’s Milnerton home. The bird answers to the name Charlie and there’s a reward for anyone who can talk him into returning home. Perhaps Charlie has taken a head-start for Hong Kong?
Erring, perhaps, is not that Human after all, as the trainer by that name is fined R10.000 by the Jockey Club. This results from a contravention of Rule 73.2.3. Human was the person responsible for the horse Roulette Guy, when the horse ran and won at Turffontein in December, but tested positive for procaine, a prohibited substance. Roulette Guy, first winner for new sire Formaz in South Africa, is disqualified retrospectively. The new winner of the race now becomes a dual maiden winner, as he’d won a maiden race later on in the season.
Racing authorities in Mauritius are not known for their leniency. Former Natal jockey Gordon Whyte is recommended for a four-month suspension and 50.000 rupee fine after not giving his mount Fire Break the full opportunity to win or be placed. At the same meeting Zimbabwe jockey Shaun Payne is recommended for a three-month suspension and 50.000 rupee fine.
Milnerton launches a R20.000 incentive for trainers, based number of runners entered, and the performance of those runners. The incentive is split in four periods, with R5000 split each quarter by the three trainers with the highest number of points. The quarterly first prize of R2500 won’t exactly make any trainer rich, but it’ll be interesting to see to what extent field-sizes at Milnerton flourish.
Also at the Milnerton track, simulcasting is introduced: Cape racegoers will now be able to watch all races run on the same day in Natal. In the Transvaal and Natal similar services have been available to racegoers for a few years now.
Milnerton’s feature event, the Langerman handicap, is won by the Lightheart trained juvenile colt Recognition. In a true run race he just gets the better of top-weighted Kingspeed. Both the winner and runner-up are sons of sire Bold Speed.
Media-contenders accuse Racing Digest of not keeping the log of its tipping competition as it should, and demand an apology.
Instead, Racing Digest drops the competition altogether when it introduces a revamped format for the magazine.
Meanwhile, Racing Digest again sponsors the former Republic Day handicap at Greyville (now named the Racing Digest 1900). In a slow run race front running Military Muse just holds on from a fast finishing Secret Rites who’d been stuck in the middle of the pack and only got out late. Another front runner, Warning Sign, is third. The result of the Gr2 race is unlikely to stand the test of time.
On the same day, the 1200m Chairman’s Cup is won in fluent style by San Carlos (despite being drawn in the bush) from Super Tan and Olympic Duel.
Secret Rites and Olympic Duel seem now well prepared for a tilt at the Rothmans July in five weeks time.