Gold Standard

Road To The LQP

Gold Standard gallops with Quickfire (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Gold Standard stretches his legs (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

What’s so special about racing? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s the age old endeavour of continuously trying to produce a better horse than last year, breeding the best to the best, hoping for the best and then testing your best out on the race track.

It’s knowing that on any given card, in any given race, we are seeing the product of hundreds of years’ of effort, distilled, poised, ready for the acid test.

Any given racehorse will be by a stallion that has done something pretty spectacular and out of a mare that has likely done something pretty darn good, or is related to a horse that is pretty darn good. These horses are not happy accidents – they are the result of generations of careful breeding, of one generation of spectacular after the next. As spectacular achievements usually come with equally spectacular stories, that is what makes looking up pedigrees so interesting.

There are any number of stories in any pedigree, but for me, the story of Gold Standard starts in around 1990 with Terrance Millard’s ‘iron filly’, Olympic Duel.

The Iron Filly

Champion. Olympic Duel fights out the finish with Wainui in the 1991 Gr1 Champion Stakes

The ‘Iron Filly’, Olympic Duel (right) fights out the finish of the 1991 Gr1 Champion Stakes

It was the hey-day of South African racing and the Millard era was at its peak. Having achieved the remarkable feat of saddling the first three past the Rothmans July post in 1986, Millard was riding the crest of the wave and had just celebrated his 5th July victory with Right Prerogative on a rain-soaked Greyville afternoon in 1989. However, his world would come crashing down a few weeks later when the float carrying ten of his best horses went off the road en route back to Cape Town.

It was a black day for Millard, who had held the pick of his string back in Durban a little longer to get the benefit of a little more sun on their coats. He lost three horses, including Right Prerogative, however among the survivors was a bay filly named Olympic Duel.

The filly would need skilful re-schooling to settle her mind after the accident, but once Millard had got her right, in his words “she would go anywhere and do anything. She was a tough, tough filly.” As a 3yo, she claimed the Cape Fillies Guineas, the Bloodline Fillies Championship, the Paddock Stakes and the SA Fillies Guineas silverware. She also finished 2nd in the 1990 July, sandwiched between Illustrador and Jungle Warrior, to give Millard the distinction of saddling the first three past the July post for the second time. The Racing Record for 1990 dished out the following praise, “If courage was to be the yardstick, the undisputed champion of the 1989/90 season would beyond a doubt be Olympic Duel.” As it was, the ARCSA panel agreed and Olympic Duel was named Champion 3yo Filly of South Africa.

But that was only the beginning. Listing all her wins takes up so much space that it borders on the absurd. Suffice to say that Millard’s ‘Iron Filly’ would dominate the track for the next two seasons. She would be named South Africa’s champion older female for the 1990 and 1991 seasons and retire with 13 wins from 1400-2000m.


At stud, she produced 7 foals of which 6 were winners. Her last foal, born in 2004, was a filly by the mighty Model Man. Olympic Dam and would be the only one of her progeny not to win a race, however blood will out and she is proving her worth in the breeding shed as all her foals to date have been winners and her 2013 Trippi colt looks a lively contender for the 2018 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.

Varsfontein’s Carl de Vos picks up the story. “I bought the mare from Luke Bailles, who is a very good friend of ours. He was very busy building up Singita at the time and his focus wasn’t on the horses. He had other mares and wanted to cut down. This mare was the last foal from Olympic Duel, but she hadn’t won a race and I suppose that’s why he was prepared to let her go. She had two Judpots and a Var and then this Trippi colt. He was a beautiful foal.” The De Vos’ devote a great deal of time and effort to naming their horses and Gold Standard was no different. Olympic Dam is named after a mine in Australia and tying in his wonderful pedigree with the metallurgic connotations from his dam, they chose to call him Gold Standard. According to Wikipedia, a gold standard test is a diagnostic test or benchmark that is the best available under reasonable conditions. Or, the most accurate test possible without restrictions.”


Gold Standard as a yearling (photo: Varsfontein)

Gold Standard as a yearling (photo: Varsfontein)

The colt joined the Varsfontein draft for the 2015 BSA Cape regional sale, held at Val de Vie for the first time. Woodhill Racing’s Glen Kotzen is well known for having a good eye for a horse. He had a mandate from client Hugo Hattingh to find a really nice filly and was viewing prospective lots at the sales yard when Hugo called to say he’d arrived at the sales ground and wanted to join his trainer. “I was standing in front of Gold Standard at the time and said he should come and have a look. He said, ‘Is it a filly?’ I said, ‘No, it’s a colt I really like.’” There is a certain inevitability about some horses and this one has that stamp all over it! They looked at the colt over together and Hattingh agreed he was a standout. Then he asked, “What about the filly?” As it happened, the filly Glen had picked out was also from Varsfontein and named Final Judgement. In hindsight, it was damn near impossible to miss with a Varsfontein purchase at that sale as they packed all of Doosra, Green Pepper, Hack Green, Final Judgement, Pagoda, Maleficent and Gold Standard into a single sales draft – an achievement that will surely take some beating.

Glen says Gold Standard was special from day one. He debuted as an early 3yo on 16 August 2016, finishing 2nd to Purple Tractor. He broke his maiden at the third try, winning over 1600 at Durbanville on 5 October 2016 with Greg Cheyne on board. Glen then travelled his colt to Port Elizabeth, where he obliged by winning the Listed RA Stakes with Craig Zackey in the saddle. “I like using the RA race in PE as part of my programme and have taken a lot of my big horses that way.”

Back in Cape Town, Richard Fourie took over the ride as the retained rider for Hugo Hattingh and Peter de Beyer and Gold Standard bested a field including Edict Of Nantes, William Longsword and Our Mate Art in the Selangor Cup in November. With credentials like there, there’s nowhere to go other than the Cape Guineas and taking on the best of his generation, Gold Standard mounted a flying late charge and made William Longsword earn every inch of his half a length victory.

It’s In The Genes


Trippi (End Sweep – Jealous Appeal)

Gold Standard’s sire, USA-bred Trippi, was one of the great three-year old sprinter-milers of the world in 2000. He retired to stud in the USA in 2002 and was a champion sire of 2yo’s in Florida before joining the Drakenstein Stud Farm roster in 2008. At his new home on the slopes of the Franschoek mountains, he stood alongside a South African turf legend in Horse Chestnut and the two stallions made firm friends. Trippi, with his formidable reputation, came with an equally formidable price tag and it was only thanks to the USA financial crisis at the time that South Africa was able to import a horse of his calibre. However, he has repaid the faith placed in him several times over, producing with multiple Gr1 winners and securing a South African sire’s championship for the 2015/16 season.

Trippi turned 20 in 2017 and perhaps the best compliment that Gold Standard has been paid is the fact that Drakenstein Stud Farm bought into him just before the 2017 Met. Their faith was well placed as Gold Standard finished 2.8 lengths fourth behind Whisky Baron, Legal Eagle and Captain America. It was a magnificent performance from the 3yo.


After the Met, Gold Standard pulled up with a bit of swelling in one of his fetlocks. They found – and removed – a small chip in the joint and he was given the rest of the season off to recover.

His return to the track as a 4yo was anything but easy. He was given an exceptionally rough trip in the Gr3 Matchem Stakes thanks to Table Bay, but still managed to finish under 2 lengths off Our Mate Art in 4th. Glen’s take is philosophical, “He needed the run, but Richard thought we could have won if it wasn’t for the interference. Anton Marcus got a two week holiday for his ride on Table Bay, so it’s not like were crying for nothing.”

On 2 December, Gold Standard cantered down for the Gr2 Green Point Stakes, taking on dual Horse Of The Year and the undisputed champion miler of South Africa, Legal Eagle, at his own game and finished 2.5 lengths 4th. “He took forever to get into stride and when Richard got off, he said possibly the mile is a little too short for him now,” explains Glen, “but against top horses in a top field, I wasn’t unhappy with the run. It’s a typical second run after a layoff. Hopefully by the Queen’s Plate we’ll have him cherry ripe.”

Big ask

Queen's Plate trophy

History awaits (photo:  LQP)

The Queen’s Plate is not regarded as the top WFA mile in the country for nothing and at WFA terms, it produces a true reflection of the runners year on year. As such, you could say it is the ‘Gold Standard’.

With the beautiful colt now racing in the famous blue and white Drakenstein silks and lining up for their flagship event on their flagship race day, Glen is well aware of the task at hand. “Listen,” says the charismatic trainer, “the calibre of horses in Cape Town is incredible right now. Every time you walk into the parade ring at Kenilworth, out of the 16 horses in the ring, you’d give your right arm to train any one of them. And it’s just the start of the season – every week, they just keep coming. Just to win a maiden in Cape Town right now is an achievement. Gaynor needs to find a son to replace Trippi and this horse has definitely got the credentials. He’s beaten the colt that went on to win the Cape Derby (Edict Of Nantes) and he beat the best 3yo’s of last season in the Selangor. He’s got the potential and we’re confident he will pull off a big one – please God let it be the Queen’s Plate!”

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the beautiful colt, who will be carrying the Drakenstein silks in their flagship race on their flagship day, with the future hopes of the stud farm resting on his strong shoulders, could deliver the lot on a shiny silver platter?

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