Here’s To You

Well, the curtain has been drawn on the 2010/2011 season and the lights are just going up for 2011/2012. I am proud to say that I have been a part of the Sporting Post for an entire year now, so my enormous thanks to the wonderful team as well as everyone who puts up with my weekly musings!

Our regions are all reviewing the checks and balances and buffing up the silverware for their annual awards. It is a great time to reflect on the year gone by and some of the extraordinary horses and people we’ve watched, backed and shouted home (and at!) in the last 12 months.

The Western Cape kicked off the ‘awards season’ last Thursday with the Cape Breeders Club and WPOTA Racing Awards and some worthy winners. One must highlight the extraordinary achievement of Mike Bass by earning a 5th consecutive Cape Trainer of the Year Award. Huge congratulations to Mike and the team who go so quietly and consistently about the business of churning out winners.

The rest of the honors list is a real stroll down memory lane with favourites in every category. There were some exciting youngsters in the 2YO categories, all of which will be worth following in their 3YO campaigns.

The CBC and WPOTA both agreed that English Garden was the top 3 YO colt for his raiding exploits and well deserved 3rd in the Vodacom Durban July.

They also both awarded Ebony Flyer accolades as the top 3 YO filly and I must agree that she was one of the standout features on the Cape season for me. I hope she makes a full recovery from her op and look forward to seeing her back for the Queen’s Plate next year.

One can’t mention the Queen’s Plate without CBC’s Champion Older Female award winner Mother Russia – she has been an absolute track phenomenon and I wish her and her connections well with her first booking to Captain Al this season. WPOTA opted to give their Older Female of the Year award to another Windrush filly, A Daughters Legacy from the Philippi barn of Riaan van Reenen. She’s had a fantastic campaign and achieved what must be a unique feat of two successive wins in the Gr3 Final Fling Stakes.

Past Master walked away with Champion Older Male from the CBC and Older Male of the Year from WPOTA. I have a massive soft spot for the cheeky bay with the big white face and was sorry to hear about his bone chip after the July. I hope he bounces back from the op and look forward to seeing him back on the track soon.

What A Winter set tongues wagging and is a worthy winner of WPOTA’s Champion Sprinter of the Year title. The CBC however awarded their Champion Sprinter accolade to J J The Jet Plane for his absolutely extraordinary success story. This plucky little horse with the big heart has won many fans for his international campaign and that fantastic victory in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint in particular. The news of the suspensory injury was a real blow and a cruel end to his campaign. Although it is sad to have had his campaign cut short in such a manner, it is nonetheless good to have him back home and we wish him a speedy recovery.

The CBC gave their award for best Middle Distance Horse to Mother Russia, while WPOTA opted to add some more silverware to Past Master’s trophy case with their Champion Middle Distance award.

The Cape Breeders opted for Aslan in the Stayer category and WPOTA jointly awarded their Champion Stayer award to Grey Cossack and Sangria Girl.

Additional breeding awards from the CBC went to Ebony Flyer’s dam, Sunshine Lover for Broodmare of the Year. Black Minnaloushe took the Freshman Sire of the Year Award, with Jet Master deservedly taking home the award for Stallion of the Year. So sorry to hear that this grand old man is battling the West Nile Virus. Having to cancel his stud engagements will leave a big gap in the breeding ranks this year and we wish him and his team all the best for getting him on the road to recovery.

The Breeder of the Year went to Klawervlei Stud who gave us such a nailbiting finish to the race for champion sire with Captain Al. Horse of the Year went to Mother Russia and International Horse of the Year went to J J The Jet Plane. The award for Outstanding Breeder of the Year went to Avontuur and Pippa Mickleburg and judging by the success of her wonderful resident stallion Var, I suspect she’ll be needing to make more room in her trophy cabinet soon!

Our wonderful Kiki and Karel Miedema were also honoured with an Industry Service Award and I’m sure no-one can argue with the massive contribution they make not only with their publications, but their contribution to the industry as a whole.

WPOTA chose Past Master as their Horse of the Year and his owner, Hassen Adams as their Owner of the Year. Cape Jockey awards went to Grant van Niekerk as Cape Apprentice of the Year and the evergreen Karl Neisius as Cape Jockey of the Year.

It deserves a second mention that Mike Bass walked off with his 5th consecutive Trainer of the Year award. There were also two Acknowledgement of Achievement Awards to the exceptionally hard working Felix Coetzee and the charismatic Marsh Shirtliff.

With the Equus Awards fast approaching and several other regional awards evenings coming up, it really is a chance to celebrate some of the great and the good of our industry and also the brilliant horses that light up our turf and totalisator boards.

For me it really has been the year of the fillies. We’ve been treated to the likes of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Black Caviar and Goldikova abroad and Mother Russia, Ebony Flyer, Igugu, Dancewiththedevil and miracle filly Val de Ra here at home.

I have loved following our home bred colts, but of course the name on everyone’s lips at the moment is Frankel.

In the breeding barn we lost Al Mufti and National Assembly has also retired from our breeding ranks, but as always, there are new young stallions waiting in the wings. We had the inaugural Cape Premier Sale and it will be interesting to see how the next one goes.

Our racing highs have been tempered with sad lows like losing Big City Life and there has been a fair amount of drama and excitement in the board rooms of our administrators with the prospective Gold Circle demerger and potential WC-Phumelela venture.

We can look forward to new starting stalls in PE (hurrah!) and new starting stall initiatives up in Gauteng. Although the Eastern Cape had a disaster with the recent floods, it sounds as though the operators have got stuck in to help keep the show on the road. With talk of a synthetic track, there are certainly exciting times ahead for our PE racing centre.

Pocket Power has retired while stable companions Fort Vogue and Galileo’s Galaxy are heading off to campaign for Herman Brown and Ramzan Kadyrov in Dubai. Considering the Chechen president’s other recent acquisition, Gitano Hernando, shows just how highly South African bred horses are rated in the international market.

With continued research into finding a solution to African Horse Sickness and efforts to make changes to our export protocols, the industry continues to eke progress on both these fronts.

All in all, it has been an exciting and busy year. With the current global economy and echoes of Gordon Brown’s double dip recession coming back to haunt us, there will be tough challenges ahead, but hopefully plenty to look forward to and celebrate as well.

So although there are only a handful of people who might be receiving awards in the next few weeks, here’s to everyone in our industry. Congratulations to all our owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders for owning, training, riding and breeding our horses. Thanks to all our vets, physios, farriers and grooms for keeping our horses fed, fit and sound and thanks to our punters for betting on them. Thanks to our operators and the NHA for running the show and of course to our wonderful horses – You’re the heart and soul and the reason we do what we do. Here’s to you!

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