20 Years Ago: Sands of Time – October 1991


The Horse Racing and Betting Ordinance of 1968 is amended in the Cape Province. Of special interest is the new section on the administration of drugs and stimulants, in which (unlike in Natal) veterinary supervision is specifically excluded.

Averof dies in the middle of the covering season. He’s the sire of champion sire Foveros, and has several other sons with their first crops coming up. Averof is from the same female line as Flaming Rock (the latter’s dam is a half sister to Averof).

Raceclubs in Zimbabwe show they’re miles ahead of their South African counterparts when it comes to handicapping. Two year olds running in open company receive an allowance of 5 kilos (not enough, but at least something), while three year olds also get an allowance for most of their third year. This allowance decreases as the season progresses, and goes from 4 kilos (between August and October) down to three, then two, then one kilo between May and July. Clearly, this approach suits the Zimbabwean circumstances, but in essence the approach is not more than common sense.

The Jockey Club calendar reports the death of Natal-sire Our Casey’s Boy. The report proves grossly exaggerated, as Our Casey’s Boy is still merrily going about his business. When asked to comment on his return from the breeding-shed, the horse is reported to have whinnied: “If I’m dead, this must be heaven…”.

Sixty five horses are entered for the Invitation Stakes to be run early in November at Scottsville. Entries represent 22 Natal stables, 8 Transvaal stables, 4 from the Cape and one from Zimbabwe. Michael Roberts is expected to ride on the day.

Nominations are invited for the GR1 Sucker Stakes, open to all horses that on a regular basis start at short odds, only to be beaten, and mostly by small margins.

It is expected that horses from all provinces will take part. Amongst the expected entries are Taveros, Decoy, Sparkling Future, Intrepid Dancer, Win A Grand, Flowering Braes.

Bookmakers country-wide are expected to offer 100/1 the field (12/1 the field in Cape Town), as clearly not a single one of the runners should make it over the line in first place.

The Gr1 Sucker Stakes is sponsored by losing punters from all centres, in an attempt for them to get value for money at least once in their lives.

Senor Santa comes back to best and wins the R100.000 Keith Hepburn Stakes at Turffontein, over 1400m, after barging his way out of a tight spot. Ring a Pound, Naval Guest and Roland’s Song fill the minor placings.

A Newmarket Raceclub delegation leaves for the USA and Hong Kong on a two-week tour to study the intricacies of night racing.

OCTOBER 6 – 12

In Paris, Generous bites the dust in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, won in impressive fashion by his old adversary Suave Dancer, ridden by former US-jockey Cash Asmussen.

The OK Silver Bowl, consolation event for the big race later in the week, is won by Hilda Podlas. Her Tory Conquest finishes from behind like the proverbial steamtrain – and sounding like one, too.

A bronze of OK Bowl hero Aqaunaut, designed by Helena Maben, fetches R30.000 at the Gold Bowl Charity dinner.

“Rigged Racing?” shouts the front page of Natal’s Weekend Mercury. The article centres around allegations that a group of Natal jockeys is manipulating races in the province to boost exotic pay-outs, the Pick Six in particular. The allegations stem, according to feature writer Richard McMillan, from unexpected results when fancied runners fail to feature, and outsiders win to result in large pay-outs.

The chairman of the Natal Jockey Association, Brian Strydom, says he knows nothing about any “jockey ring”, and that these kind of allegations have been made many times before in the 30 years he had been riding.

The chairman of the Jockey Club Local Executive is not available for comment.

Meanwhile, statistics of percentages of winning favourites do not support the “ring” allegations.

Ferraris and Mawing team up to win yet another OK Gold Bowl. Not unexpectedly it’s one of Hobnob’s progeny to get first past the post – and Eaton Lad may well be the most impressive one yet. The gelding breaks the course record for the 3200m Gr1 race by over 2 seconds, simply running away from his opposition. Millard’s El Honrado and Heming’s Rough Rival come second and third. Natal Gold Cup winner Icona runs last but one.

The Pick Six pool on the day rockets to R1.9 million, while the Jackpot pool reaches R1.4 million.

Also on OK Day at Turffontein, the “Big Screen” makes its debut. The screen is rigged next to the new Toteboard and shows all the goings on, from start to finish – live and in giant size. Turffontein CE John Alexander states the screen, hired at a cost of R50.000 for the day, will be back for major meetings later in the season.

Juvenile colt-of-the-year Fast Gun starts his three-year-old season with a bang when he narrowly wins a sprint after a break of a few months. He does so in the colours of part-owner De Jonge, whose turn it is this season. At two, Fast Gun raced in the colours of other part-owner Makins.

In the Cape, Phantom Robber comes in from the cold when he wins impressively after a disappointing Natal season. Gelding appears to have made all the difference.

On the same day American Eagle breaks the 1400m course record at Milnerton – after losing four lengths at the start. Course records are falling like nine-pins at Milnerton this winter – and it’s supposed to be the wet season.

OCTOBER 13 -19

“The only way Icelander can lose today’s Racecourse Bookmakers handicap at Newmarket”, writes Dave Mollet in Business Day, “is if he breaks down, or Jeff Lloyd falls off”. The imported Icelander, still unbeaten in three runs, is indeed a very short-priced favourite for the race. But – he doesn’t run. The stipes report gives tendonitis as the reason for his scratching.

Owner Lourens van der Westhuizen sells his horse Haiku for just R10. Haiku sustained a tendon injury prior to the OK Gold Bowl and will now join the stable of Anneli Wucherpfennig. Of this showjumper van der Westhuizen says: “She looks after her horses better than after herself”. Some compliment.

The Cape OTA and Cape Breeders Club reach agreement on a scheme to implement owners and breeders premiums for the province. OTA and Breeders plan to lobby for an amount to be divided equally for use by the two organistations. Breeders want their premium to be paid as a proportion of total stakes won by Cape bred horses country wide. The OTA indicates that it will use premiums initially only for Cape bred juveniles that win a race in the Cape.

Breeders intend to award their premiums as cash, with the proviso that the sum paid is used to further the breeding of racehorses. The OTA’s premium will take the form of a negotiable credit, which can be used only in the purchase of Cape bred horses.

The two organisations still have to prise the money needed for premiums (estimated at R1.4 million) out of the clutches of the Cape Racing Board.

In California, the California-Bred race fund (which provides a substantial portion of the purse money for the California Cup Series and other races) becomes a permanent part of California law when governor Pete Wilson signs Assembly Bill 105. The California Cup is to be held in November and offers a racing program for Californian bred horses with more than $1 million in prize money.

The air-force approaches the Cape Turf Club to coordinate racing and flight schedules during the Ysterplaat Airshow. The air-force wants to avoid spooking racehorses with low flying aircraft.

Rhinopneumonitis is diagnosed at Newmarket, where two horses are put down. The Jockey Club puts an immediate ban on all travel to and from Transvaal stables, which means that Natal runners taking part in the meeting at Gosforth Park on Saturday cannot travel home before the end of the month.

Natal fillies fill the first two places in the feature race, when Royal Diadem comes with a late run to beat favourite Pullitzer Prize. The latter had been badly hampered early in the race.

OCTOBER 20 – 26

The Cape TAB hosts its second racing seminar, with speakers from all spheres of the industry. Felix Coetzee on riding, Geoff Woodruff on training, Alan Seymour on stiping, and Derek Wilsnagh on journalism are just a few of the subjects on the day’s agenda. Predictably, the seminar is well attended and bound to have a follow-up.

Michael Roberts draws Fluent Stride when the final field for the Invitation Stakes is published. Fluent Stride is 4/1 second favourite in the early betting, behind Secret Rites (2/1).

SITA, the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers, announces that handicap ratings are likely to be introduced in sales catalogues, to supplement black type in catalogues, and to give a more accurate reflection of a horse’s merit.

At Greyville, a section of the turf opposite the grandstand is resodded with kikuyu. The resurfaced area, measuring 75 by 30m, had deteriorated during the winter when the shadow cast by the new north wing extension retarded growth of the turf.

From Newmarket in England comes the news that Hilda Podlas has bought ten horses at the Tattersall October sales.

The Transvaal OTA hold its annual awards dinner at Turffontein. OTA chairman Ferraris receives the award for Trainer of the Year.

Other winners are Piere Strydom (jockey), Laurie and Jean Jaffee (owners), Empress Club (horse of the year).

Prior to the running of the feature race at Milnerton, contender Midnight Run breaks loose and lands himself literally in the “effluent”, when he falls into a 3m deep reservoir not far from the stables.

Milnerton assistent GM Mike Louw courageously swims to the horses aid. Many helping hands from the side eventually pull Midnight Run to safety. The horse is given a tranquiliser by the course vet, Mike Louw gets away with just a tetanus shot.


Felix Coetzee makes his Mauritian debut. A local racing magazine expresses its awe when Felix gets round the track on foot the day before the races together with Mauritian log-leader Anand Bundhoo.

Olympic Duel, a highly fancied entry for the Germiston November handicap, is rushed to Onderstepoort with a problem in the large intestine. The mare is operated on and has to be withdrawn from the Gr1 November handicap.

Up to the day of the last meeting in the month, the October meetings at Milnerton show an incredible 50% winning favourites. One third of these favourites started at odds-on.

But the averages get their own back: on the final day only one favourite wins, which means that the winter season comes to an end with 45% winning favourites. The combined percentage for first and second favourites is 66%.

Local bookmakers are said to be less than impressed.

Also in the Cape, the Tote (Tote’s in South Africa are run on a provincial basis) attempts to defy South Africa’s strict gambling laws, by offering odds on the World Cup rugby final. After local police threatens to arrest Tote staff, because of complaints received, the Tote unceremonially drops its sports betting options.

Informed sources have it that the complaint that set the police going originated from bookmaker’s quarters in Natal (!). Betting on horses still is the only legalised form of gambling in the country, but bookmakers throughout the country offer sports betting, using rather ludricrous loopholes – and without much police interference.

A TBA delegation visits England, Ireland and the US in an attempt to promote the favourable racing conditions in South Africa, and to get overseas investors to the 1992 National Sales. They are accompanied by a TopSport team, which has prepared video material for use overseas.

Still with the TBA, the organisation intends to increase seller’s commission to 6% for the National Sales, and to 6.5% at other TBA sales.

In the eighth race at Kenilworth the stipes report reads “Sister Angela tied up”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Tote favourite for that race is called New Order.

At Greyville, two rugby players and two track athletes get the better of sprinter Treasure Cove. The men run 500m in relay, Treasure Cove twice that distance. According to jockey Kevin Shea the horse takes little interest, racing on his own. The team including the rugby players wins by 10 lengths – which is certain to push up their race figures so high that Natal may never win again!

Flaming Rock makes a winning return to the track. The 1991 Horse of the Year hadn’t raced since his Rothmans July victory.

It seems that in South Africa the handicapper only has to eliminate a horse from the line-up of a major race in order for the horse to win a Big ‘Un afterwards. It happened two seasons ago to Senor Santa, and last season to State Control and Rainbow Ride. State Control was arbitrarily eliminated from the Gr1 Cape Guineas in February, then won the Gr1 Natal Guineas in May. Rainbow Ride wasn’t deemed good enough to contest the Gr1 SA Derby in April, yet won the R1 million Natal Derby in June!

It does not come as much of a surprise then to see Jungle Sands run away with the Gr1 Germiston November Handicap. After all, the horse had been eliminated from the line-up for the same race last year.

In the consolation November handicap, run on the same day for all horses that were eliminated from the race this year, everyone in the field carries the same weight. According to the official handicapper this is a result of the fact that they were all handicapped at bottom weight in the original race. Some argument! – Gr1 races have a bottom weight restriction, and most of the bottom weights were weighted under sufferance. In a handicap run a few weeks earlier, several of the runners had carried quite different weights (as much as 6 kilos difference in one case!). It seems official handicappers in the Transvaal get away with murder. Doesn’t anyone care?

As an aside, the SABC’s Topsport botches the Germiston November handicap broadcast, then tries to get away with “technical problems”. No further efforts are made (not surprising perhaps as the rugby world cup final is being played the same afternoon), but peculiarly the race is shown without problem in the 8pm news the same day. Who does Topsport think they’re kidding and how serious really are they about racing?

European horses make an impact on Breeders Cup Day in the US, where five of the seven G1 Breeder’s Cup races have sponsors: Mobil, Budweiser, Delta, Toyota, and Consort Hair Spray.

Most impressive winner of three European winners is the French trained juvenile Arazi, who’d reeled off six successive wins prior to this run.

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