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Staying Ranks Snubbed By Equus Panel

PR slap in the face or an assertive considered decision?

The decision by the Equus panel to drop the Champion Stayers award for the past season is another body blow to the head of the poor cousin of the SA racing ranks, the longhaulers.

Earlier this century, the stayers award was split between the sexes, but we cannot recall a time when a category was summararily dropped just because  it was felt that there was no outright deserving winner. That’s a cop out.

Mario’s soldier Paths Of Victory goes all the way for gold (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

By implication, the decision then surely suggests that every other category clearly displays an ‘outright deserving winner’? We all know the answer to that.

It goes without saying that while some years are naturally more vintage than others, this has been a topsy turvy season to beat all others and even if the traditional unofficial stayers triple crown of the Gold Bowl, the Gold Vase and the  Gold Cup was won by three different horses, surely the panel could have found a standout in the collective of the 25 odd staying features within the period under review?

There is only one staying Gr1 on the programme – the SA Derby, and that is restricted to 3yo’s.

It was won by longshot Out Of Your League who beat stakes winner Shango and subsequent Durban July runner-up , and a horse fancied by many to be crowned SA Horse Of The Year, Got The Greenlight.

Out Of Your League wins Gr1 SA Derby (PIc – JC Photos)

Then the  Gold Cup is another  good starting point to find more nominees.

Our 21st century history shows that 45% of Gold Cup winners go on to become Champion Stayer.

The centennial running was won by Noble Tune’s son Paths Of Victory with an heroic front-running performance.

Surely that deserved at the very least, a nomination to the stayers category?

Bred by the Rathmor Stud, Paths Of Victory’s Gold Cup win took his earnings to near R650 000.

He is the first stakes winner sired by American Turf/Pilgrim Stakes winner Noble Tune, an Unbridled’s Song half-brother to Lane’s End’s promising young sire, and Gr1 Whitney Stakes/Met Handicap hero Honor Code.

His owner Mario Ferreira is one of our biggest patrons. Be lovely to hear what he said when his Racing Manager Des Gonsalves told him that Paths Of Victory is not even an Equus nominee. Because the category has been dumped.

The Gr2 Cape Summer Stayers on Met day was won by Oratorio’s tough as teak daughter Snapscan. She deserved a nomination. There are no cheques being dished out, but the acknowledgement makes a difference to the breeders and the owners, for a start.

Looking internationally, Australia has moved to a slightly warmer acceptance of stallions that throw some stamina into their progeny – partly due to flourishing prizemoney at 2000m and above – while, on the flip side, Europe is beginning to turn its back on traditional staying types, with even the likes of champion stayer Stradivarius considered unlikely to be a genuine commercial prospect.

Marmelo – little demand at stud

That point has been rammed home by a racing.com report revealing that former GB-bred 2018 Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo (Duke of Marmelade) attracted just 14 mares in his first season at stud in France off a paltry €3,500 fee.

Hoping to grow demand, his owners have moved him to another French farm and reduced his fee to €2,500 – but perhaps that ship has already sailed.

Even though the longer wait time for progeny of staying stallions handicaps their demand, it remains a given that breeding cheetahs to cheetahs is unlikely to ever produce African wild dogs who can run all day.

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19 comments on “Staying Ranks Snubbed By Equus Panel

  1. freeracer01 says:

    Agree with your sentiments.

  2. david mollett says:

    No Cape representation on Equus panel?
    The province has a host of experts including (in alphabetical order) Stan Elley, Charles Faull, Jehan Malherbe and Karel Miedema.

  3. Jay August says:

    At a time where digital polls are easy to conduct and easy to audit, how is it that we do not involve the public in the choosing of these champions.

    Perhaps SP should run a separate public poll per category on FB or Twitter, or both.

    1. Editor says:

      We are going to do the Horse of the Year Jay

  4. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Equus nominee should have a rating of 105 plus

  5. oscarf1 says:

    A related issue, I believe, is that most of the stayers races are handicaps, with the Western Cape Stayers being the exception.

    It becomes a careful planning exercise to get a top-class, mature stayer into races like the Gold Cup with a low weight, knowing that the ‘wrong’ placings can result in merit rating increases that make the horse less competitive. There is a symbiotic relationship between the races that are offered, the conditions under which they are run, and the horses that breeders produce. A decline in opportunities for stayers will result in fewer of them being bred. It becomes a vicious circle.

    Eyes Wide Open ran a sensational race in the Gold Cup. He was beaten 1.35 lengths (just over 1 lb) in concession of 11 lbs. Magnificent Seven and It’s My Turn also produced top-class efforts at the weights. One wonders if an Equus Award be on offer if one of these had won the Gold Cup, and yet they weren’t far off achieving the nearly impossible (at the weights).

    In focusing on the supposed shortcomings of the low-weighted horses in front of them, we are diminishing these fine stayers.

    In the Gold Vase, Dynasty’s Blossom ended her career in fine style with a top-class win under effective top weight. The run of the Gold Vase, though, was the three-year-old Imperial Ruby. Sadly, he’ll be doing battle with the handicapper.

  6. Ed Bedford says:

    @ David Mollett, I also find the panel a bit locationally one sided, I certainly hope there is not going to be regional bias here? Would have been good to have an even distribution of judges at least to quell conspiracies.

  7. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    The malaise in SA racing no knows no bounds….does anyone really think anything will change because they have put some rescue money in and changed the elites names…? The towers got taller…..I pity the punter and the owner going forward, It was never about them, its about the narrow agendas that are now protected for a few more years…..Top down, you will do as we tell you while we collect…..

  8. PL.NEL says:

    Agree Graham, totally. As a complete focus on breeding there needs to be staying blood, and as such for all other distances our stayers are an important input. The focus of classic is a shortfall not only in the staying class but at the moment produced a very poor sprinting population. Meritocracy and mediocrity in the ranks will lead to poor attendance by all.

  9. Barry Irwin says:

    Funny, in a land where there is hardly a hint of commercialism, this ugly aspect of the horse game appears to have raised its ugly head in South African racing. Instead of acting like Australian wanna be’s, South Africa should stick to its proud traditions.

  10. Jay August says:

    Get rid of the panel or at the very least reduce it to a third of the voting outcome. A properly developed points system and a public poll should make up at least 2/3rds of the ultimate result.

    Panels are notoriously political, bullied by a few immoderate individuals, and usually at odds with public consensus. I’d get rid of the panel and its “hidden hand” as a start.

  11. Barry Irwin says:

    Champions are properly determined by the Official Handicappers in Europe and it represents the best evaluaton of racing class. The public is not qualified to make these determinations, unless all that is wanted is a popularity contest.

  12. Jay August says:

    The public is well qualified to make these determinations. I’d trust the public consensus far more than I would a poll of a few pundits. Writing this off as a mere popularity contest is typical of those who believe that they or others have superior knowledge and do not need to subject that knowledge to a vote or consensus. This is exactly how racing has become the elitist shambles it currently is.

  13. Barry Irwin says:

    If by elitist you mean experienced form analysts with the training and intellectual capacity to understand ratings, than you could not be more wrong. I have been involved in international racing for 51 years and appreciate the expertise brought to the task of analyzing horse racing performance by professionals. This pursuit of excellent has nothing to do with populism. I have raced Champions in many countries, notably the United States, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Dubai, South Africa to name many of the venues. In some locales the Champions are selected by the public or some sort of panel. I can state without fear of contradiction that the Champions as chosen by the public were mostly not worthy of the title. I can also tell you that any Champion or Highweight selected by a professional was spot on. If you want to involve the public, so what they do in the U. S. by having special fan awards. But the selection of legit Champions is way too important of an exercise to be left to the public.

  14. Jay August says:

    Your concluding statement says much of what you mean. There is no legitimacy unless the experts (or professionals) have agreed. Anything else is popular and almost certainly not worthy of the title.

    In SA who would you regard as those professionals who should constitute the expert panel; the official handicappers, or; independent but respected form analysers, or; other?

    Are you stating that ratings invariably are the best determinant of championship status and should be mostly used to judge the awarding of such status?

  15. Barry Irwin says:

    That’s the way it works in Europe, where the best racing in the world takes place.

  16. jc lee ching says:

    I agree with Jay August, the racing public has right to have a say in these matters. It may surprise some experts that there is a vast pool of racing knowledge out there in the public domain. I myself have no pretentions of equine expertise but know a good horse when I see one. While this business rescue by MOD and the helping loan by Hollywood bets to Gold Circle seems a noble gesture I struggle with the ethics of the whole exercise. So SA Racing belongs to MOD? and Gold Circle is beholden to Hollywood bets? surely racing cannot belong to a individual? or be indebted to a bookmaker? some one please clarify this for my meagre intellect.

  17. Louis Goosen says:

    I think that it is a disgrace that the award has been canned. It is ok for Patrick Davis to sit in UK , doing his job for Phum remotely due to the covid shamdemic, but not ok to consider, over and above travel restrictions, the many other restrictions that Covid brought on racing and horses during this Season.

    I agree with Barry in terms of experts being necessary to determine the winners, but I also like the idea of Jay, in terms of Public involvement, so good on S.Post for doing the Horse of the Year. Maybe a balance or hybrid type system going forward, for all categories ?

    ED, herewith a request – could you perhaps publish for us all, a basic Spreadsheet, with the potential nominees for the Stayers award with details eg horse / Race won/Trainer/ Owner / Breeder/….

    This may be interesting.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi Louis
      We had already started the groundwork on the stayer category item as suggested by you.
      Were debating a poll as a possibility too.
      Cheers

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