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.
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.
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.
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.