The sun set on the Cape Summer Season under uninvited steel grey skies at Kenilworth on Saturday.
The local season survived stakes cuts, a high-profile sponsor bale out, and the inevitable dramatic sideshow moments, to emerge as a show we can’t wait to watch all over again.
But that’s only thanks to the horses and the people that ride and the teams that train them.
The Sun Met, with sponsor Mumm bolting and taking the fizz out, was the biggest casualty of Phumelela’s season of the long knives, with the Cape’s historic flagship race trimming 40% to offer a R3 million purse. A touch of bizarre imbalance on a programme that included R10 million’s worth of sales races, and where the Cape Derby was shifted two weeks on to accommodate a racing conference.
Race programming is clearly an issue in the Cape – the Nurseries, while they delivered two really smart winners last Saturday, don’t seem to work in mid February, and we are reliably informed that the local horse population census is not up to date.
So the programmers – with specific reference to the maidens and juveniles, are seemingly compiling the programme with a dart board.
Maybe it’s time for the local trainers to get their ‘claws’ into the concept of joining Tony Rivalland’s new national body, SANTA – before Christmas, hopefully – and try and do something about their headbanging frustrations.
But we digress.
The Cape Summer Of Champions produced some vintage Gr1 performances, with the Wilgerbosdrift-Mauritzfontein sponsored Craig Zackey emerging the silverware kingpin, with Saturday’s Cape Derby capping a terrific Gr1 summer hat-trick for the 25 year old.
Hong Kong-bound Aldo Domeyer won two of the eight Gr1’s. Both his winners are progeny of Drakenstein sire What A Winter, and both trained by Candice Bass-Robinson.
She saddled Lammerskraal fairytale sprinter Russet Air, who won the Cape Flying Championship, while the Drakenstein owned and bred Clouds Unfold recovered from injury to defend her Majorca Stakes title.
Her Milnerton neighbour Adam Marcus shared the honours. The 30 year old had a summer to remember – saddling his maiden Gr1 with the Rathmor-bred Missisippi Burning winning the Cape Fillies Guineas, and public favourite Vardy triumphant in the 159th renewal of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, to give Avontuur perennial powerhouse Var a second winner in South Africa’s premier weight-for-age mile.
Philippi-based Brett Crawford and Milnerton maestro Vaughan Marshall were the other trainers to win a Gr1 each.
Crawford’s Varsfontein-bred Silvano son Kilindini won the Cape Guineas under a terrific Corne Orffer tactical ride, while Marshall won his third Met with Klawervlei-bred Captain Al star One World, who gave MJ Byleveld his first Met success, after a few near misses.
Together with Cape Fillies Guineas heroine Missisippi Burning, One World made it a summer Gr1 double for late champion sire, Captain Al.
Mike de Kock was the only away trainer to pick up a summer Gr1. His Irish-bred Exceed And Excel filly Queen Supreme, the only internationally bred top-level winner of the season, when she won the Paddock Stakes under Callan Murray.
Eric Sands rounded off a memorable third Cape Derby triumph in his 37 year career on Saturday, when Golden Ducat gave the retired Philanthropist his first SA Gr1, staying on to beat Sachdev – in the process denying Justin Snaith a Gr1 trophy for the first Cape season in some while.
Golden Ducat is out of the well-publicised Jet Master champion Halfway To Heaven. Interestingly, Cape Guineas winner Kilindini is also out of a stakes performed Jet Master mare, Kiss And Fly.
Of the published sale stats of the eight Gr1 winners, Cape Fillies Guineas winner Missisippi Burning was the ‘cheapest’ Gr1 buy – she cost Mario Ferreira R380 000 at the National Yearling Sale.
Kilindini cost R2,8 million at nationals – beating the R2,1 million odd equivalent originally paid by Mayfair Speculators for Queen Supreme at Goffs.
The Highveld feature season continues with the second leg of the SA Triple Crown and Triple Tiara on Saturday 7 March at Turffontein. And Hollywoodbets Greyville launches the SA Champions Season on 1 May.
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