Notwithstanding the fact that she will have to overcome a wide draw while making her first appearance in open company, Horse of the Year Summer Pudding tops the boards for Saturday’s World Sports Betting Gr1 Gauteng Summer Cup at Turffontein.
The latest champion to emerge from the Mauritzfontein paddocks, last season’s Triple Tiara queen races for Jessica Jell, the grandaughter of the stud’s founders, the late Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer.
Still unbeaten, Summer Pudding has won all eight starts in the famed Oppenheimer silks carried with distinction by the winners of virtually every major South African stakes race. That enviable record includes 16 winners of the SA Oaks, eight SA Derby winners, five Durban July winners (their 1992 winner Spanish Galliard won in the colours of part-owner Guy Nicholson) and two Met winners!
Remarkably, the 2000m Turffontein showpiece race has become an elusive prize of late, for no Oppenheimer colour bearer has graced the winner’s box since Anchorage won the then Johannesburg Summer Handicap in 1969, all of 51 years ago.
That sounds like a lifetime ago. However, it must be remembered that the immensely popular race disappeared from the racing programme after the 1987 running when known as the Sun International.
It resurfaced 14 years later in 2001 as the Summer Cup, since which Mauritzfontein has come closest to lifting the tropy when Irish import Cascapedia ran third two years ago.
Should she succeed on Saturday, Summer Pudding will continue the fine record of her sire Silvano.
The now retired Maine Chance champion already has three Summer Cup winners to his name.
Aslan was the first, winning the 2009 race in a thrilling four-way finish. Twelve months later, Flirtation made it back-to-back wins for her sire, in an all-female finish.
Runner-up Mother Russia, racing in the silks of the Oppenheimers’ daughter Mary Slack, denied Silvano a unique trifecta, considering he also sired Rudi Rocks (third) and Aslan (fourth). Silvano broke a nine-year draught in last year’s renewal when he sired not just the winner Zillzaal, but also third-placed Al Mutawakel, both of which are owned and were bred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Al Adiyaat.
Members of the fairer sex have been no strangers to Summer Cup success in recent times. Flirtation succeeded the victory of champion grey Ilha Da Vittoria, who claimed the race in 2005 in the silks of the Oppenheimers’ daughter Mary Slack after running third in 2004.
Six years later in 2011, another champion Dancewiththedevil joined Ilha Da Vittoria and Flirtation as the third female winner with a powerful last-to-first victory.
That Summer Pudding has taken trainer Paul Peter on a heady journey would be an understatement.
On Saturday, the darling of the turf faces probably her sternest test to date and there is little doubt that the whole country will be shouting her home.