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Champions Season – A Light In Dark Times

A thrilling time of quality racing

South African horseracing’s own Olympics and longstanding national championships, the curtain comes down on the 2019 SA Champions Season at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.

The big KZN season has been a bright light in the gloom of the current chaos in the halls of power.

It’s been close on a fortnight since the mayday call from that sinking ship up North. And besides whispers of transitional management committees, lifeboats and restructuring, the average stakeholder remains in the dark. How to win friends and influence people – not.

So given the uncertainty, we probably really should be thanking our lucky stars that we have the superstars and heroes on the tracks and in the stable yards to stoke our passion.

If we relied on our industry captains, we’d be far better off taking our chances in a casino, where the customer gets the marginal sense of being valued.

In just under three months of the thrilling and glorious distraction of superb horseracing on the East Coast, we have witnessed some cracking performances – and also the internationally familiar imbalance of power at the upper echelon of the sport.

The Grade 1 races are our blue riband – the gold medals of excellence and Champions Season hosts thirteen of them. With four to be run on Saturday, nine have been contested.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, those nine were won by just three individual trainers, four  jockeys, one apprentice and seven horses.

Chris van Niekerk

Sean Tarry and top owner Chris van Niekerk

Sean Tarry, who picked up a glorious treble on the Scottsville sprint day, and Justin Snaith have dominated matters with four Gr1’s each, with Mike de Kock lifting the Gr1 Daily News with the enigmatic and slightly errant star, Hawwaam.

Those three men have, coincidentally, also dominated our national trainers championship for a decade, with Charles Laird the last ‘outsider’ back in 2008/9 – the dawning of the emergence of Markus Jooste’s Mayfair Speculators.

Click on the image below to enjoy the latest SP Digest

The top jockeys ride for the top yards and reigning SA champion Lyle Hewitson and his senior counterpart Richard Fourie have ridden three Gr1 winners each, leaving one each for Anton Marcus, Raymond Danielson and apprentice Luke Ferraris.

So who can buck the trend on Saturday and pull a few back for the ordinary people?

Veteran Tobie Spies has Golden Slipper winner Cockney Pride (Craig Zackey) taking on Gavin van Zyl’s Gabor (Warren Kennedy) in the Gr1 Thekwini.

Nathan Kotzen saddles Gatecrasher Stakes winner Kaydens Pride (Muzi Yeni) taking on Sean Tarry’s unbeaten bomb Eden Roc in the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes.

Paul Gadsby’s Vision To Kill (Stuart Randolph) bumps Snaith sprint powerhouse Kasimir in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint.

Candice Dawson saddles Infamous Fox (MJ Byleveld) who takes on the might of Rainbow Bridge, Buffalo Bill Cody  and Soqrat in the Gr1 Champion Stakes.

A few longshots and dream hopes they may well be – but they all start at the same place and they all want it badly. Don’t write them off – racing’s a great leveller, some days.

The Champions Season Gr1’s:

Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint

Chimichuri Run – Tarry / Danielson

Gr1 Gold Medallion

Eden Roc – Tarry / Hewitson

Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship

Miss Florida – Snaith / Ferraris

Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint

Celtic Sea – Tarry / Hewitson

Gr1 Daily News 2000

Hawwaam – De Kock / Marcus

Gr1 Woolavington 2000

Silvano’s Pride – Snaith / Fourie

Gr1 Gold Challenge

Do It Again – Snaith / Fourie

Gr1 Vodacom Durban July

Do It Again – Snaith / Fourie

Gr1 Garden Province Stakes

Celtic Sea – Tarry / Hewitson

  • Pics by Candiese Marnewick

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