Horse Of The Year

Richard Fourie

Could Legislate be the next Horse of the Year

Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July meeting at Greyville confirmed a few likely Equus Award winners for the 2013-2014 season. However, the title of South Africa’s Horse of The Year for the season still has an open look to it.

Current front runners for the award are Yorker, Legislate, and Beach Beauty with the former looking a possible favourite to take the title. SASOC Triple Crown winner Louis The King will als have his supporters, although defeats in his last two outings, albeit at least one looking unfortunate, will not help his cause.

Yorker looks hard to oppose, at this stage, to be named Horse of The Year. The son of Jet Master has had a superb season, winning all of the Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup, Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes and Gr1 President’s Champion Challenge as well as finishing second in the Gr1 J&B Met, and third in a slow run Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge.

Having accounted for some of the country’s very best runners in open company, and consistently excelled, Yorker is a leading contender to take top honours. Legislate, whose July win looks to have ensured his being named Champion 3YO Colt, is also a contender, having won four in a row. With his win in the July somewhat overshadowed by controversy, Legislate has nonetheless enjoyed a superb season, having won three of the country’s top contests for 3yos as well as the Vodacom Durban July.

It is interesting to note that the two leading contenders for the title of Horse Of The Year are sired by two former SA Horse Of The Year winners – Yorker being by Jet Master and Legislate being a son of Dynasty. The latter is also the sire of the magnificent mare Beach Beauty, who is a sho-in to be named the Equus Champion Older Filly/Mare for a second consecutive year.

Beach Beauty is also a potential candidate for Horse Of The Year honours. The diminutive star, one of the best loved champions to have raced locally in recent memory, beat Yorker when second in the Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge and picked up three Grade One wins this season. The mare also won the Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes over a field which included the brilliant L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winner Capetown Noir (Western Winter) and subsequent Million Mile winner No Worries (Kahal).

However, the fact that Beach Beauty’s Grade 1 victories came against fillies and mares, and that she never won a Gr1 race in open company will count against her. Saturday’s Greyville meeting also established likely Equus Award winners in Alboran Sea (2YO Filly), Legislate (3YO Colt), and Beach Beauty (Older Filly/Mare). The title of Champion 3YO Filly appeared wrapped up when In The Fast Lane (Jet Master) won the Gr1 Woolavington 2000. Yorker, it would appear, should be a cert to named Champion Older Male in August.

However, a few Equus Awards will come down, no doubt, to the Gold Cup meeting at the end of the month, and nothing happened this weekend to change that view. Title of Champion 2YO Colt is still very much up for grabs, although unbeaten Afrikaburn’s win over Gr1 Tsogo Sun Medallion hero Guiness (Seventh Rock) makes him the frontrunner for that award.

Via Africa (Var) should be named Champion Sprinter, with the Var filly having scored Grade One wins in both the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint and Gr1 Cape Flying Championship. Her pair of top level victories also ensure that Via Africa be nominated as Champion Older Filly/Mare, although it is impossible to see Beach Beauty losing that award.

The likes of Hot Ticket (Silvano), Louis The King (Black Minnaloushe) and the eventual Gold Cup winner (the race is due to be run at the end of July) would appear to be the likely nominees for Champion Stayer – although whether or not this category should even exist in South Africa is a different story. The Champion Stayer title would appear to be an anachronistic award, as in many years, it falls to a horse who has won but a single major race during the season. Hardly the campaign of a champion!

One award which often proves contentious is that of Broodmare Of The Year. Occasionally won by the dam of Horse of the Year, this year the award would appear to lie between three mares – Star Of Arcole (Foveros), Mystic Spring (Royal Academy) and First Arrival (Northern Guest). The classically bred Star Of Arcole achieved a remarkable feat when her daughter Ash Cloud (Black Minnaloushe) won this season’s Gr2 SA Oaks, to become the third Oaks winner produced by Star Of Arcole. Ash Cloud was preceded by Princess Of Light (Var) and Arcola (Caesour) as Oaks winning daughters of Star Of Arcole.

The latter is also the dam of the very useful stayer Drill Sargeant (Dynasty), and it is a testimony to the excellence of Star Of Arcole that all her top horses are sired by different stallions. While Star Of Arcole has been a truly exceptional broodmare, so too is First Arrival. The latter is the dam of In The Fast Lane (a dual Grade One winner this season and hot favourite to be named Champion 3yo filly).

First Arrival was also represented by the stakes winning Rock The Country and promising 2yo Light The Lights. The dam of former Gr1 winning sprinter Let’s Rock ‘N Roll (Muhtafal), First Arrival has been represented by four blacktype performers to date,and is also dam of this season’s smart 2yo Light The Lights. Mystic Spring, both the dam and granddam of stakes winners this season, has now been represented by no fewer than five stakes winners.

Her tally includes ill-fated champion Rabiya and his tragically equally ill-fated sister Rafiya, as well as the high-class graded stakes winning fillies Secret of Victoria and Spring Lilac. While her sole stakes winner this season, Touch The Sky, was a Listed winner, Mystic Spring’s overall stud record surely entitle this mare to some consideration in this category?

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