Having just finished reading former trainer Ormond Ferraris’ autobiography ‘Thoroughly’ and with the Golden Horse Sprint meeting at Hollywoodbets Scottsville looming large, we immediately recalled the chapter featuring his former stable star, the running machine Tracy’s Element, who hit the limelight not once, but twice, at the Pietermaritzburg track in the early nineties.
Ferraris sourced the daughter of Last Tycoon in Australia, and as he remarked, “She was physically outstanding from top to toe, with great legs.”
Well, she became a champion at two, winning five of six starts. Most importantly, she joined a select band of fillies to beat the boys in the then Gr1 Smirnoff Plate (now Gold Medallion).
Two years later, she returned and again conquered the Hollywoodbets Scottsville strip to garner the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint.
She remains the only filly to have completed the Smirnoff/Fillies Sprint double, an achievement which has only been bettered by the Alistair Gordon-trained champion Scarlet Lady, the sole winner of three of Hollywoodbets Scottsville’s four golden sprints.
By the fine sprinter Lords, she not only inherited his grey coat but also his blistering speed. After winning the 1980 Allan Robertson at two, she returned a year later and cemented champion sprint honours by annexing both the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint and Gr1 Gilbey Stakes (now Golden Horse Sprint).
No, this is no misprint, she completed the double at a time when the Gilbey Stakes was run at the end of June, a month after the Fillies Sprint.
Scarlet Lady tragically died before she could go to stud.
In contrast, Tracy’s Element was sold back to Australia at the end of her racing career and became a hugely successful broodmare, the pinnacle of which as the dam of Typhoon Tracy, a Red Ransom filly who became a six-time Gr1 winner and was crowned Australia’s Horse of the Year in 2010.
The Allan Robertson Championship has been a happy hunting ground for fillies imported from Australasia.
In 1994, Bletchingly filly Sydney’s Dream claimed the honours at the expense of subsequent champion Dancing Danzig and, like Tracy’s Dream, she too returned to her birth country where she achieved fame as the dam of Gr1 winner and sire Charge Forward.
Four years later, New Zealand-bred Ruby Clipper broke the course record when she bolted up by four lengths.
The Gary Alexander-trained speedster also made the return trip but spent her broodmare career in Australia.
In a strange twist of fate, her imported son Seventh Rock took a leaf out of his dam’s book when he outduelled Argonaut in the Gr1 Gold Medallion in 2007 and went on to sire 2015 Gold Medallion winner and Champion juvenile, Seventh Plain.
At the turn of the century, a pair of exceptional Australian-breds owned by Sabine Plattner and trained by Chris Snaith dominated the SA Fillies Sprint to the extent that they won it four years running.
The dual champion Joie De Grise claimed the race in 1998 at three and made it a double in 1999.
Not to be outdone, Danehill’s champion daughter Laisserfaire emulated her stable companion with a sizzling 3,50 length victory in the 2001 dash, and again claimed the honours twelve months later at age five. Fortunately, both retired to their owner’s La Plaisance Stud, and while they failed to reach similar heights as their previously mentioned compatriots, both produced minor black type performers.
Imports haven’t had it all their own way though, as quite a number of locally bred champions became dual winners at this fine meeting.
Michael Azzie’s wonderful sprinter Harry’s Charm, a champion at two, three and four, blitzed the Allan Robertson by a commanding four and a half lengths and returned two years later to win the SA Fillies Sprint.
The SA Sprint honour roll, which stretches back to 1971, boasts the names of quite a number of dual winners besides Joie De Grise and Laisserfaire.
Who will forget the trio of Justine (1973/4), the great Mildenhall (1976/77) and ‘pocket rocket’ Marie Galante (1992/93).
By the way, Justine’s dominant five-length romp in 1974 is still the widest winning margin.
Remarkably, this past decade has witnessed no less than three dual winners. Duncan Howells’ champion Via Africa completed the double in 2014, while Sean Tarry won it the next year with Captain Al’s three-year-old daughter Carry On Alice, who returned two years later to repeat at age five.
Tarry’s second dual winner Celtic Sea, also by Captain Al, made it back-to-back victories in 2020.
That Australian breeders value the golden Hollywoodbets Scottsville meeting can be gauged from the number of female winners who have made their way Down Under.
In addition to Aussie-breds Tracy’s Element and Sydney’s Dream, both Via Africa and Carry On Alice are now domiciled there.
Whilst the latter’s progeny have yet to be seen in public, we don’t need to remind readers that Via Africa has achieved lasting fame as the dam of Gr1 winning sprinter In The Congo. South Africa’s loss has indeed been Australia’s gain!
Celtic Sea too, has departed and she is now based in Kentucky, at owner Antony Beck’s Gainesway Stud, which incidentally, was also once home to Harry’s Charm.