Former jockey and SA Jockey Academy Riding Master Vince Curtis, who retires this month, was honoured for his close on half century of service to the sport at the Scottsville raceday on 6 December. Acknowledging faithful and loyal servants is a commendable gesture, but we have to ask why the appropriate communication and publicity channels are not followed to optimise the occasion for the beneficiary and for horseracing?
Vince Curtis is a legend and rode great horses like Mazarin and Fitzgerald. He joined as a trainee jockey in 1963 and eventually went on to the SAJA staff in 1976 before taking over the Cape Town Academy in 2005. Appropriately he received a mention from racing administrator Dr Nic Labuschagne who owns Reason To Believe, a fluent winner of the seventh race. Labuschagne, who was on course with some familiar faces of the ‘old guard’, for want of a better word, mentioned that Curtis had ridden Peri Peri for he and his partner in the winner, retired trainer Tony Furness.
Horseracing is not entirely guilty of failing to acknowledge and support our legends of bygone days. The Western Province Owners and Trainers Association has probably set the benchmark in terms of acknowledging the greats of the past with Terrance Millard, Johnny Cawcutt, Stanley Amos and Peter Kannemeyer, amongst others, being honoured with pictorial tributes. Scottsville Racecourse is a track steeped in history with the likes of Anne Upton, Michael Roberts and David Payne honoured on its walls.
But the Curtis raceday really did not receive the pre or on-the-day publicity that it should have. Why effectively hide an event of this nature behind doors by not inviting the media or informing us by way of a timeous press release? In the past we would have at least had the sorely missed official racecard as a reminder and a keepsake, with its anectdotes and information. For those of us not on course, Tellytrack didn’t even show the speeches and photo opportunities in the recorded loop of the day’s racing. We seriously need to start somewhere with our public image overhaul and basic marketing and what better place than a soft event such as this?
The racing on the day was competitive with Muzi Yeni the most successful rider with two winners to celebrate his birthday. It was a purple day for the Winning Form and Hollywoodbets sponsorship stables, with the sponsor’s colours dominating the card. Craig Eudey trained his first winner under the Winning Form banner when the tiny Lunatex won the first race under Stu Randolph. She is a daughter of the brilliant racemare Texan Summer, and the Avalon Stud’s Joe Jackson was on course to lead her in.
Another Winning Form trainer in Duncan Howells was on the mark in the next race, when the speedy Mystic Rose led for a long way to win the Maiden Plate over 1200m. Howells admitted that he had erred in trying to get the daughter of Fort Wood to stay and she looks a nice sprinter in the making. She apparently works on a par with the very talented Felix The Cat but Howells said that he had not fancied her after a disappointing grass galloip two weeks ago. She won in spite of Apprentice De Melo dropping his stick at around the 350m marker
Birthday Boy Muzi Yeni rode the first of his two winners when Governor General led all the way in the Maiden Plate over 1400m. Richmond-based Doug Campbell produced the luckless Mighty Oak in fine trim and he chased the De Kock horse for 1000m, and stayed on well. His winning turn must come very soon. Yeni rode a pearler here in spite of dropping his whip, for owner-breeders Chris Saunders and Lady O’Reilly Muzi Yeni.
Hollywoodbets sponsors trainer Bart Rice who trained the winner of the fourth race, a Maiden Plate over 1950m. Rice only recently took over the Count Dubois filly from Duncan Howells and he paid tribute to his colleague for the condition in which she had arrived at his yard. Tellytrack’s Paul Lafferty tipped his horse, The Edge, to win this race, but after leading until the 400m marker, the previously very consistent daughter of Solskjaer fell in a hole. She had been put over more ground on the advice of Sean Cormack who rode her here, but she looked not to have stayed the trip. The fancied Charles Laird Western Winter filly Suvretta House had every chance but ran a shocker.
The Alec Laird-trained Roll Count went from start to finish to win to win the very next race, an MR90 Handicap from start to finish and make it a double for Count Dubois. Derryl Daniels took the Alec Laird gelding to the outside rail as they turned for home and he stayed on well to beat the three Govender horses. Daniels felt that he could win a few more although he warned that he was a horse that looked to ‘shirk it’ late in the race.
Not many trainers can improve on Mike De Kock, but Dennis Bosch has turned the Bernstein horse Storm Vanidoso around since acquiring him some ten months ago. Sean Cormack sat quietly as he paced it out with the speedy Jagerbomb before drawing off to win the MR86 Handicap over 1000m. Bosch, who, you guessed it, is yet another trainer sponsored by Winning Form. The former jockey called his charge a ‘top horse’ in the making and said gelding and patience had done the trick. Mike De Kock is hopefully reading this!
Muzi Yeni got into the party mood with the sun setting over the KZN Capital City when Kom Naidoo’s Sutherfeni led all the way to win the Maiden Plate over 1600m. The good-looking daughter of value stallion Bezrin just held off the late challenge of the Kotzen filly Desert Breeze. Assistant trainer Frikkie Greyling showed scant regard for Yeni’s pending birthday celebrations by lodging what looked like a sensible objection. After considering all the evidence and watching the movie, the Stipes thought otherwise though and Muzi went home to blow out his candles with a big smile on his dial. All’s well that ends well.