Best SA Non Champions

Var's brilliant daughter Via Africa

Var’s brilliant daughter Via Africa

Over the years the local racing scene has seen a number of top-class racehorses, who have, for one reason or another, never been named official (ie Equus or ARCSA) champions. They have either been beaten fair and square by even better horses, been unable to show their form throughout the season, or just been unlucky in the voting system.

Despite this, a number of these performers are arguably better than many officially recog-nised stars of other eras. A case in point was last year’s Equus Champion 3YO Filly award – when, in an average year, all three (Cherry On The Top, Do You Remember and Via Africa) would have been worthy winners. Cherry On The Top was certainly a worthy winner, but both Do You Remember and Via Africa could have been named Champion on what they had shown during that season.

So which were the best locally trained horses never named official champions? For one reason or another, the following top-class horses were never named the official champion of their generation – despite being better than a number who were!

One horse who surely earned his place was Arctic Cove. The son of Jungle Cove was unfortunate to race against the likes of Wolf Power, Spanish Pool, and Prince Florimund. Despite this, Arctic Cove won three Grade One races, including the J&B Met and Champion Stakes. Among the horses he defeated on the track were Wolf Power, Prince Florimund, Foveros, Furious, and Tecla Bluff. Arctic Cove thrashed Prince Florimund in the Gr1 Cape Derby, and vanquished Wolf Power in the 1983 J&B Met. Despite these impressive achievements, Arctic Cove failed to win a single ARCSA award.

When Hunting Tower was three he reeled off three features (including the Gr1 SA Classic) and was placed in two others. He failed to win an Equus Award after that, and at four, it was the same thing – despite Hunting Tower defeating the mighty Pocket Power when winning the Gr1 Vodacom Durban July. In landing the 2007 July, Hunting Tower accounted for a field which included champions Pocket Power, Succesful Bidder, Sun Classique and Jay Peg.

In total, Hunting Tower (who would go on to 3 races in Dubai) won 8 races, locally, and over R3 000 000 in prize money – without winning an Equus Award.

River Jetez

Jet Master’s daughter River Jetez

Remarkably enough, two of Jet Masters’ best daughters never won an Equus Award between them – despite winning 20 races and accumulating nearly R38 000 000 between them! River Jetez won no fewer than six features (including the Gr1 J&B Met) and was placed in no fewer than seven South African Gr1 races. During her stellar local career, River Jetez defeated such champions as Sun Classique, Pocket Power, Mother Russia, Big City Life and Equal Image. Despite this, the subsequently successful globe trotter failed ever to win an Equus Award.

Another daughter of Jet Master unlucky never to win an Equus Award was the huge black filly, Ebony Flyer. A truly exceptional race filly, Ebony Flyer won her first five in a row – culminating in a game defeat of subsequent Horse Of The Year (and July winner) Igugu in the Gr1 Avontuur Estate Cape Fillies Guineas. As a 3yo, Ebony Flyer put up a cracking effort when third to champion Mother Russia in the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, where she defeated the legendary gelding, Pocket Power.

At four, Ebony Flyer won three more feature races, including the Gr1 Majorca Stakes and Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint. Despite this impressive CV, Ebony Flyer is not an Equus Award winner. Ancestral Fore put up a magnificent staying performance when he won the Gr1 Canon Gold Cup as a 3YO. The grey became the first 3yo to win South Africa’s premier staying event in over 20 years, and had to carry 56 kgs in the process. Despite this (and the fact that he won the Gr3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup previously), Ancestral Fore was not named the Equus Stayer Of The Year award.

Brilliant Cape filly, Shepherd’s Moon, was an exceptional juvenile and sophomore performer. The humbly bred daughter of Trigger Finger won nine of her first 13 outings. Shepherd’s Moon reeled off six wins in a row at two and three. Her victories included a 7.5 length romp in the Kenilworth Fillies Nursery and a 5.75 length demolition of the Cape Breeders Stakes at two. As a 3yo, Shepherd’s Moon landed the Sophomore Sprint by five, the Diana Stakes by 2.75 lengths, and completed the Fillies Championship/Cape Fillies Guineas in style.

She latter added the Gr1 Paddock Stakes to her haul. Despite this impressive record, Shepherd’s Moon was never an ARCSA Champion – losing out to Dancing Danzig at 3. The Australian bred filly, Rumya, never lost a race, and won top races for fillies at both two and three– yet never won an Equus Award!

Rumya (whose third dam is legendary Australian mare Emancipation) won both her starts at two, culminating in a Grade One victory in the Golden Slipper (over a field which included subsequent Champion All Is Secret). Rumya beat All Is Secret again when she won the Gr1 Avontuur Estate Cape Fillies Guineas the following season – but lost on an Equus Award (in an exceptional group of fillies) to Cherry On The Top.

The outstanding sprinter Goldmark was one of the best sprinters to have raced locally in the 1980’s. Despite being an exceptional sprinter, Goldmark failed to win an ARCSA award – losing out to another great sprinter – Senor Santa. A son of Golden Thatch, Goldmark’s 11 wins included two of South Africa’s top Gr1 sprints, the Gilbeys and Natal Mercury, and he also won the Gr1 FNB 1600 – where he defeated champion Senor Santa by a length. He was eventually redeemed at stud – siring one Equus Award winner (Trademark) and a daughter producing another (Big City Life).

– Sarah Whitelaw

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