2013 – The Year That Was

 

Simply Beautiful. Beach Beauty

Simply Beautiful. Beach Beauty

South Africa’s first Grade One race of 2013 was the Gr1 Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes. The diminutive mare Beach Beauty was priced up a warm favourite to prevail over a top-class field of fillies and mares. The daughter of Dynasty duly did so, thrashing her rivals to win by nearly four lengths. An exceptional racemare, the small bay would later be named Equus Champion Older Female for the season.

On the same card, reigning Horse of the Year Variety Club was an equally hot favourite to win South Africa’s premier WFA one mile event – the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. Before a crowd dressed in blue and white, the handsome Var colt trotted up to win by 2.25 lengths from old rival, Jackson. Unfortunately, a false start provided the day with an unpleasantly controversial aside.

Variety Club, however, could do no wrong. He would go unbeaten through the season, and, for the second year in a row, was named South Africa’s Horse of the Year. The Cape’s most famous race, the Gr1 J&B Met, saw outsider Martial Eagle prevail over a field which included Hill Fifty Four, Beach Beauty and Pomodoro. Race favourite, Jackson, was bitterly disappointing, and only managed to finish fifth.

Martial Eagle, who raced for Sabine Plattner, is a son of Silvano, who would later smash the record for earnings of a SA sire in a season. Silvano, who become Champion SA sire for the first time, enjoyed a season where his progeny won three of SA’s biggest races – Met, July, and President’s Champion Challenge. Another son, Vercingetorix, was later named Equus Champion 3YO Colt following an unbeaten season.

One of South Africa’s most popular champions, sprint sensation, What A Winter, picked up his second win in the Gr1 Cape Flying Championship when besting the brilliant filly Via Africa.

Both What A Winter (Computaform Sprint) and Via Africa (SA Fillies Sprint) would go on to Grade One glory, although What A Winter suffered a shock defeat in his swansong, the Mercury Sprint. He retired to Drakenstein Stud at the end of the season.

Dubai racing was in full swing by now. Champion South Africa trainer, Mike de Kock, once again enjoyed fine success there with the likes of The Apache, Shea Shea and Soft Falling Rain. The only real disappointment for the powerful De Kock yard was former Horse of the Year Igugu’s failure to feature.

Come Dubai World Cup night (with a race worth a stunning $27 250 000 in 2013), Mike de Kock once again gave his legion of supporters good reason to cheer. De Kock saddled Soft Falling Rain (Gr2 Godolphin Mile) and Shea Shea (Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint) to score major wins, while the yard’s The Apache ran a fine second in the $5 000 000 Dubai Duty Free.

Soft Falling Rain, yet to be beaten in Dubai, was particularly impressive as he had to overcome a wide trip to prevail – yet the colt made history by becoming the first 3yo ever to win the $250 000 contest. Sheikh Mohammed, whose Godolphin stables won two major races, would later face a potential catastrophe when it was found that 11 horses from the yard tested positive anaerobic steroids. The case, described as “one of the major doping scandals in British history” made unwelcome headlines the world over, and resulting in trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni being banned for eight years.

Arguably the world’s favourite racehorse, Black Caviar, was retired after an unbeaten campaign of 25 straight wins. Her connections announced the champion’s retirement in April. The champion daughter of Bel Esprit was later mated successful to champion Australian sire, Exceed And Excel. Black Caviar, known as Nellie around the yard, won 15 G1 races during her career, including a memorable success, at Royal Ascot, in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.

English 2000 Guineas was won by hot favourite, Dawn Approach, won prevailed impressively by five lengths over 150-1 shot Glory Awaits. Another fancied contender, Toronado, could only finish. Dawn Approach and Toronado met twice again, thrilling the public with a close finish in the St James Palace Stakes, while Toronado finally bested his rival when scoring a half length win in the Sussex Stakes. Following that race, however, neither colt won again in the season. Tiger Ridge filly, Cherry On The Top, made history when she became just the second filly ever to win the SA Fillies Triple Tiara. In winning the Gauteng Fillies Guineas, SA Fillies Classic, and SA Oaks, she provided Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer (who died in 2013) with a wonderful Equus champion.

Top local sires, Silvano and Var, both enjoyed Grade One doubles during June. Var’s offspring Contador (Golden Horse Casino Sprint) and Via Africa (SA Fillies Sprint) cleaned up on Scottsville’s major day of the year, while Silvano 3yos Do You Remember (Woolavington Stakes) and Vercingetorix (Daily News 2000) both took out significant July preps.

The Silvano gelding, Heavy Metal, caused a 40-1 shock when he landed the rich, Gr1 President’s Champion Challenge. However, the Bosworth Stud bred gelding proved this was no flute, when he made history in the 2013 Vodacom Durban July. In winning the July (South Africa’s best known race), Heavy Metal not only gave trainer, Sean Tarry, and owner, Chris Van Niekerk, their second consecutive win in the race, but also made winning pilot, S’Manga Khumalo, the first black jockey ever to win the July.

North American 3yo colts proved very average in 2013. Of three winners of Triple Crown races (Orb, Oxbow, Palace Malice), only Belmont Stakes winner, Palace Malice, won another race this season, with both Orb (Kentucky Derby) and Oxbow (Preakness Stakes) retiring to stud at the end of 2013.

South African breeding suffered a shocking loss, when the death of triple champion sire, Western Winter, was announced in September. The stallion, sire of Winter Solstice and Yard-Arm – both named Horse of the Year, was euthanased following complications arising from a colic operation. He was 21, and had sired champions Argonaut, Bad Girl Runs, Fearless Ice Cube, and Lady Windermere, to name a few.

The year 2013 was one again for great international fillies to shine. Unbeaten 3yo Treve became the third filly in a row to win the G1 Qatar Prix de’l Arc de Triomphe, smashing a star studded field to win by five lengths. She would later be named Horse of the Year. Luckless jockey Frankie Dettori, whose roller coaster year saw him suspended for cocaine use, missed out on the ride after breaking an ankle.

The Breeders Cup meeting of 2013 was a roller coaster affair – with upsets, disqualifications and a fatal breakdown marring the two day affair. The meeting was also dominated by former Breeders Cup winners winning the second world championship event. Former Breeders Cup heroes Wise Dan, Beholder, Secret Circle and Groupie Doll, all took their second Breeders Cup win.

In Australia, the race which stops a nation, the G1 Melbourne Cup, saw famed trainer, Gai Waterhouse, win the 3200m with the Irish bred Fiorente prevailing over the British globetrotter Red Cadeaux and Irish bred Mount Athos. The first Australian bred home in the famous race was sixth place finisher Fawkner.

– Sarah Whitelaw

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