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Suzette Viljoen Is SA Champion Owner

Oh so close!

The debate over whether restricted races should be included in categories for championship honours has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons, with a thrilling three way tussle this time round in the Champion Owner category highlighting something of a potentially divisive anomaly in the process.

A relative greenhorn in a hard-knocking category of longstanding players, the Schweizer-Reneke-based Suzette Viljoen has risen from maiden status obscurity in just over three years to deservedly clinch the Equus Champion owner title following a dazzling season that included two Gr1 scores.

Suzette Viljoen seen with Khanya Sakayi and Basie Viljoen (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Based on the standard exclusion of restricted race stakes, Mrs Viljoen will be crowned champion owner for the first time at the Equus awards on 17 August.

Horses racing in her pink and blue won stakes of R5 390 550 last season, narrowly eclipsing Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud on R5 343 375.

A multiple champion player for almost two decades, Chris van Niekerk was third on R5 199 900.

If we include restricted stakes races in calculations then Chris van Niekerk is leading the pack on R5 572 900, marginally ahead of Suzette Viljoen on R5 444 800, with Gaynor Rupert in third on R5 413 875.

While the Equus Awards panel have always applied the exclusion of restricted stakes features to determine the champion owner award, an audit of our own published results shows that in the 2018/19 season they appear to have actually used the restricted inclusive stakes tally to award Chris van Niekerk the champion owner title.

Van Niekerk’s horses won R15 322 763 and beat Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum on R12 355 538.

If the Equus organisers had not deviated from their norm, the now late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum was actually the champion owner on R12 355 538 beating multiple champion Chris van Niekerk on R11 215 763.

While Sheikh Hamdan was over R1,1 million ahead of Mr van Niekerk, we are researching our own records to determine whether adjustments could have been made post the final season stats from disqualifications, that may have had an impact. The difference is quite substantial, though, and that seems unlikely.

Approximately eight years ago, the board of the National Horseracing Authority resolved that restricted stakes would be excluded for sire and breeder championships, but incorporated into owners, jockeys and trainers totals.

Chris van Niekerk – a long time major player

Some years later, the racing regulator’s board then excluded trainers from the restricted race benefit pool. We are unclear as to the argument or rationale behind that decision.

The days of individual ego’s and whims are gone and Equus will hopefully fall in line with the NHA and standardise their assessments.

While we understand the impact on the stud-book standards, In an age where stakes is a sore issue, restricted races play such a vital role in incentivising owners to get involved the game.

Maybe we should be considering the concept as a  yardstick in some form?

It’s interesting to glance back at our owners of the year award, although there are some gaps which we have to fill.

  • Laurie & Jean Jaffee won it in 2002/3.
  • Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer won it in 2003/4.
  • Mary Slack won it in 2005/6.
  • Chris van Niekerk was champion in 2006/7.
  • Graham and Rhona Beck were victorious in 2007/8.
  • Markus and Ingrid Jooste held it from 2008/9 to 2015/16.
  • Chris van Niekerk was back on the podium in 2016/17.
  • Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud clinched it in 2017/18.

Chris van Niekerk won it again for the next two seasons and will hand the trophy to Suzette Viljoen later this month.

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11 comments on “Suzette Viljoen Is SA Champion Owner

  1. Niran Pillay says:

    Why did they deviate from the norm to award Mr van Niekerk the champion owner instead of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan? Where is the consistency and fairness in that? … All things being fair and equal They should posthumously award that season’s champion owner status to Sheik Hamdan . Absolutely disgraceful to say the least as to how people flout the rules to accommodate people they favour …

  2. Gregg Clarke says:

    So well deserved. Congratulations and thank You for everything You have done to keep SA Racing the Beatiful Sport of Kings it is. The way You have supported so many Trainers all over the Country is a hallmark of Your success. Thank You and many more successes to You next Season. .

  3. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey… Well said Gregg… What I admire about Mrs Viljoen is how she’s supported the smaller yards,,bigger names in the industry should stand up and start taking notice of how it should be done if racing is to prosper…racing really needs good people like Mrs Viljoen to keep this game alive…There are great trainers out there that really need the support to keep going,,well done to the smaller yards that have contributed towards Mrs Viljoen’s owner’s award…Well Done Mrs Viljoen…

  4. Steve Reid says:

    I am told that two very different versions of how Equus and NHA view restricted races have emerged along with two press releases. Getting the popcorn ready for the latest version of racings Fawlty Towers

  5. Rod Mattheyse says:

    NHA should charge the Equus awards panel for bringing racing into disrepute – perhaps before 1 September

  6. Jay August says:

    Steve and Rod – who should decide what constitutes the terms and conditions for judging the leading owner? That is an internal debate I am having currently with myself and in which I am leaning towards it being whoever runs and organises the Equus awards. The NHA are then only involved insofar as they ensure that the organiser agreed upfront terms are met and they provide the official industry stats for use in the award, the latter dependent on those being used as a measure of or for the award. The question I raise is this – should the NHA be involved at all with deciding what constitutes the metrics to be used and the decision of who the leading owner is, other than through oversight that the process has integrity?

  7. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Jay your question puts everything is perspective. The Equis awards are made based on opinion, why then should owners recognition be any different.

    No need to put the NHA under any undue stress tasking them with providing oversight as it is an opinion based process.

  8. Jay August says:

    I did a quick google search to identify who “owns” and organises the Equus awards as it is something I have only a passing interest in. Cannot find such detail but presume it is the RA?

    SP’s editor in response to a similar query last year stated that the RA co-ordinates the awards. My question is, co-ordinates on whose behalf, the industry? And then just how does one define the industry? Perhaps the editor can shed some light on this.

    Rod – I probably agree with your last comment, although I would prefer to understand how the industry has agreed that the Equus awards are the only officially recognised awards, and who the industry parties are to such agreement.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Jay
      Will do some research today to find out how it all began and who established it

  9. David Thiselton says:

    The Equus Panel have never been involved in the champion owner, trainer, jockey award etc as far as I know. Those awards are just left for the organisers to tally up the amounts according to their chosen criteria.

  10. Mike Knight says:

    Well stated Gregg and Frankie. You have to commend the Viljoens for there support of the smaller yards. Just shows that given the chance these yards can also produce. All the best going forward and well done to Suzette Viljoen and all the trainers associated with her success. Well done

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