Investec Derby 2011

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Investec Derby Festival 2011

I have just returned from England on an almost empty SAA flight. This begs the question: why was it so hard to get my booking in the first place. That aside, the flight was as always friendly and efficient (see more on this right at the end of this report). What a thrill to arrive home in Cape Town to glorious sunshine. I hear that it is snowing in Johannesburg and even in Namibia. Makes you marvel at this crazy world. It rained in London almost every day yet there is a drought in Newmarket and most of the countryside. My mom tells me that there are floods on the Cape East Coast and she says the worlds gone mad. She may have a point because strange things have been happening.
The trip to the Investec Derby at Epsom was such a privilege. I was really proud to be a South African amongst other proud South Africans at the world’s most important racing festival sponsored by a bank whose roots are strongly South African and headed by wonderfully talented South African businessmen.


John Freeman, John Koster, Hennie Barnard and Grant Knowles


Before the two day festival a group of us went to Newmarket to visit William Haggas’ stable. We were treated to morning gallops on the heath with William and his father-in-law Lester Piggott. Back to the yard before lunch at the Three Blackbirds pub in Wooditton with the man himself, trainer the following day of no less than the Oaks winner. This was the man that trained Shaamit to win the Derby’s 2nd ever classic entry and they are both winners. Well done Mr Haggas!

We also visited Juddmonte to see their stallions. Imagine seeing England’s two top sires in the flesh. They stand Green Desert’s sensational son Oasis Dream and Dansili, the leading European sire of stakes winners in 2010, as well as his Arc winning son Rail Link and Zarkava’s sire Zamindar. We also looked at a few interesting sire prospects.

As if it were possible to get any better than it has been these last two years, Investec’s sponsorship of the Derby Festival at Epsom has grown in stature again this year. Having seen two of the best horses in the world grace the all important winners circle at Epsom in their first two years of sponsorship it was inconceivable that the specialist bankers could maintain that lofty profile again in 2011. Champions like Sea The Stars and Workforce don’t happen every year, let alone in two straight sets like they have done in 2009/2010.

Looking at the pre-race coverage I wondered what could possibly do it for them this year. The answer became clear when the Queen’s horse Carlton House won the Dante Stakes. This set him up as clear favorite for the big one. The hype that followed public interest in all matters Royal so soon after Kate and William’s wedding came straight to the Derby. It made front page news in London like no other sporting event there before. The mood was jubilant, everyone wanted Carlton House to win. He’d be the most popular big race winner in history. Even the owners of all of the other fancied horses in the race graciously admitted that losing to the Queen would be an honor – and they truly meant it.

However the King of French horse-racing Andre Fabre and his 19 year old upstart with the un-French sounding surname Barzalona were having nothing of all that hug-royalty stuff. We lunched at the Investec Oaks on Friday with connections of the winning horse who told us in no uncertain terms that Mr Fabre had, the night before, assured the owners of Pour Moi that nothing could beat his horse this year. The Derby has eluded the 22-times French champion trainer until Pour Moi and Barzalona gave him the confidence to exclaim “this year it is ours” with emphatic confidence. With an official BHA rating of 113 this huge confidence was surely what made young Mickael stand bolt upright in his stirrup irons at full speed some meters before the winning line to proclaim his well-won victory. Imagine if he’d lost the race doing that! As it happens he won by a head and was warned of dangerous behaviour with an admiring slap on the wrists. We all admired young Mikael’s skill. Wouldn’t you like to be able to stand in your stirrup irons going full tilt at about 50 km/hour, at any time let alone after such a thrilling Derby victory.
Pour Moi is a son of Montjeu out of the Darshaan mare Gwynn and he is owned by Mr John Magnier of Coolmore, no stranger to the winning post at Epsom, in partnership with Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.  Montjeu has now sired three Derby winners with Pour Moi following Motivator (2005) and Authorized (2007).


2011 Derby winner Pour Moi with jockey Mickael Barzalona


The Queen’s horse spread a shoe somewhere in the race but this was not the reason for defeat. It is said that Pour Moi is as good as they get and looks every bit as useful as Investec’s two previous winners: Sea The Stars and Workforce, both of whom went on to win the Arc in Paris and European Horse of the Year titles for multiple Gr1 victories in their Derby year. I have to wonder whether Carlton House, the horse that Sheikh Mohammed gifted the Queen could ever win at Gr1 level over the Derby distance. His sire Street Cry was a precocious speed horse and though he did get a Melbourne Cup winner his average progeny winning distance is 7.48f (about 1500m) and even the great champion Zenyatta couldn’t get further than 2000m.

It’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year. Her Majesty has announced that her celebrations will commence at the Derby next year. To score a perfectly triumphal four in a row sponsorship record all Investec will have to do is install their wonderful marketing team and let Her Majesty’s legions of fans do the rest. Epsom and Investec enjoyed massive coverage this year because of the prospects of a Royal victory. The jubilee on its own next year will make it an event not to be missed. Already this year so many new young people came to the races. No question that Kate and William’s attendance had a significant impact on the record crowd.

“Pour Moi made the race all the more exciting with his come-from-behind remarkable performance. He seems to be a special horse and displayed his double acceleration when it was most needed. Both trainer and jockey won their first Epsom Derby. 19-year old jockey, Mickael Barzalona, won the Classic Derby in his first attempt, which is an achievement in itself.”

“I always felt confident during the race, and even though I was at the back the other good horses were just in front of me”, Barzalona told England’s Press Association. “It is fantastic and I don’t realize yet what has happened.”


It was not the worst day for the Queen and her Family because Carlton House showed enough potential and certainly can be considered for future races. She could afford a smile and still was happy with the performance of her horse, who was mounted by jockey, Ryan Moore.
It was evident that by winning the Epsom Derby by defeating the Queen’s horse, Mickael Barzalona, would not gain popularity among English fans, but he can take winning over popularity any day in his first attempt.The fact that 3 of the first four past the post were bred on the highly influential Sadler’s Wells x Darshaan cross is also significant. Sadler’s Wells and his sons have had a major impact on classic racing in Europe and on this Derby in particular. More to follow on this in future.
It was, in the end, the greatest show on turf.
Not just the Derby but the joyous family day out enjoyed very publicly by the Queen with her happy family. I read in the English press that this was the biggest gathering of the Royal Family since the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It certainly made the disappointment of third-place for Her Majesty’s fancied Carlton House almost trifling.



SAA really (I mean REALLY) ought to sponsor a big race in South Africa. Our favourite airline enjoys the support of thousands of racegoers, not only locally but internationally. The investment made by the sponsors of the Cape Premier Sale flying-in international buyers was worth a huge sponsorship on its own, add to this the South African contingent at the Investec Derby last week and the thousands of trips made by jockeys, owners and trainers to races and sales around the globe and it’s a major bonanza for airlines. Just imagine what could happen if SA horsemen decided to pool their bargaining power and support the airline that sponsored racing. Those that lost our custom would see a massive drop in earnings and we’d see airlines queuing up for a sponsorship deal. Who amongst the organisers in our country is going to take this idea by the horns?

One imagines that the same might apply to the privatisation of the British Tote. Non-sponsored race stakes in UK are poor and with the tote now completely in the ownership of non-course operators it’s not going to get any better. What would these betting companies do without our horses? Worldwide? I don’t pretend to understand the implications of what this means to racing in the UK but feel sure that somehow the rub-off of Betfred type thinking is heading our way too. Thank god for sponsors who can still see what wonderful value top end racing is as a public spectacle, and then thank god for sponsors like Investec who brand their sponsorship with such passion and wisdom.

I can’t resist copying the report we found in Pacemaker’s Owner Breeder magazine on how special the Oaks win was for William Haggas


Extra cheer for Investec boss Bernard Kantor delights in Investec Oaks victory for his friend and trainer William Haggas. Sunday, June 5, 2011 Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder

The day Investec signed the three-year sponsorship deal for the Derby meeting was not just a good one for the Epsom management team but for British racing in general. Anyone who has read the ‘Talking To’ feature in the June issue of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder cannot fail to be impressed by the passion and enthusiasm for racing and breeding espoused by Investec’s Managing Director Bernard Kantor, and his company has done much to raise the profile of the blue riband with an extensive and classy marketing campaign alongside its sponsorship commitment. Kantor has had a long-term and global connection with the sport and he will doubtless have enjoyed the result of the Investec Oaks more than any other race during the excellent two days of racing on the Epsom Downs.

The winner, Dancing Rain, was trained by his good friend William Haggas for Steve and Lee Taylor, but Haggas and Kantor have also enjoyed much success together on the track via the likes of Count Dubois, King’s Apostle and the half-siblings Moon Dazzle and Dupont. The last three named were all bred by Kantor under his Wentworth Racing banner. “The late Laurie Jaffee recommended me as a trainer to Bernard and the first horse I trained for him was Main Street back in 1997,” says Haggas, still hoarse from roaring home Dancing Rain more than 48 hours after her Classic success. “He’s a wonderful man to train for and he was thrilled that we won the Oaks.” Despite having a 100% strike rate with his runners in Epsom Classics – Dancing Rain having added to Shaamit’s 1996 Derby win – Haggas’s greatest regret is South Easter’s late defection from the Derby line-up in 2009, the first year of Investec’s sponsorship. The Galileo colt is owned in partnership by Kantor and Marcus Jooste. The trainer says: “From my point of view, preparing South Easter to run in the Investec Derby was like Sir Michael Stoute preparing Carlton House. When he scoped badly and I had to give Bernard the bad news, he said simply, ‘You have to do what’s right for the horse’. He didn’t even flinch and I know how desperately he wanted a runner in the Derby.”

Kantor was not the only one close to Haggas delighted to see Dancing Rain earn her Group 1 laurels. The trainer’s wife, Maureen, who, as a daughter of Lester Piggott must have a genetic pull towards Epsom, was the filly’s regular rider at home until an accident in early May left her with a broken leg. “Maureen was just putting Dancing Rain through our practice stalls at home and she jumped awkwardly and the filly went one way and Maureen the other,” recalls Haggas. “It was the day after her 50th birthday so I teased her that old women shouldn’t be riding racehorses but it’s been incredibly frustrating for her not to be able to ride Dancing Rain in the build up to the race.” Judging by the broad grin on Mrs Haggas’s face as she hopped on one crutch in the wake of their Oaks winner on Friday afternoon, she has long since forgiven both Dancing Rain and her husband for his unfortunate sense of humour.”


Maureen & William Haggas

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