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The J&B Met

The Cape's most famous horse race.

A spectacle of glossy vibrance and intense exhilaration enveloped in a cauldron of sensual excess that sets the pulse racing. This is the core of J&B Met day at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town on the last Saturday of January of every year. It’s a gathering of the rich and famous, the fashion junkies and the thousands who seek to explore the intensity of life in the hubbub of the milling crowds. It provides the vehicle for dreams as the masses experience the thrill of the thundering hooves and the brute force of the majestic thoroughbreds as they compete for glory in the greatest race on the southern tip of Africa.

It is an experience of passion that draws over 50 000 people to the picturesque setting where for decades the mighty beasts and their diminutive pilots have fought side by side in their quest for victory.

This is horseracing at its absolute best. This is the J&B Met.

Wild West 1986 J&B met

Wild West wins the 1986 J&B Met without a stick. Winning from High wonder and Mauritzfontein (GB)

The first recorded winner of the Metropolitan Mile, as it was originally known in 1883, was Sir Hercules and, while the race had a chequered existence for many years in the early 1900’s, by the 1960’s it was firmly established as one of the “big three” races in the country along with the Vodacom Durban July and the Summer Cup in Gauteng.

The race really came alive for those outside of racing circles when in 1978 J&B stepped in as sponsor and the J&B Met as we know it today was born.

And as if to celebrate the dawning of a new era, into the line-up for the race as a four-year-old that year stepped one of the greatest horses ever to race in South Africa, Politician, a magnificent chestnut with an outstanding record. He was the talking point of South African racing and a horse the public wanted to see.

The crowds streamed into the course drawn by the aura of this all-conquering beast and he never let them down. With “Big Race” Bertie Hayden in the irons, he cruised home by 3,25 lengths.

With a stake of R50 000 that year and a sensational finish, the large crowd was thrilled and the foundation was set for the development of the J&B Met into the massive racing and entertainment spectacular that it is today.

And if the thrill of the first J&B Met was not enough, Syd Laird returned the following year with Politician and jockey Bertie Hayden and South Africa watched in awe as possibly the greatest performance by a thoroughbred in South African history was played out before an even greater crowd than the year before. Carrying top weight again – this time under 58,5kg – Politician became boxed as they swept into the home straight. There was nowhere for him to go and with 200 metres of the race left the chances of him getting a run let alone winning looked impossible.

Kenilworth Racecourse

Kenilworth Racecourse

But the strapping chestnut was not to be denied and virtually finding his own way through the horses ahead of him he produced an explosive burst of breathtaking acceleration to catch the champion filly Festive Season just short of the post and beat her by half a length.

It was a performance not seen before or since.

It took another 30 years for Politician’s feat of back-to-back J&B Met wins to be emulated and it came in 2007 in the form of the well named Pocket Power.

Trained by Mike Bass, Pocket Power did not venture up the coast to KwaZulu-Natal for the winter season during his sophomore year. Instead Bass aimed him at the Cape’s winter season “Triple Crown” and the sleek son of Jet Master became the first horse to achieve the treble of the Cape Winter Guineas, Cape Winter Classic and the Cape Winter Derby.

From there it was on to the L’Ormarins Queens Plate where Pocket Power took on the cream of the older horses for the first time at weight-for-age. It was a close-run thing as he edged out Silver Mist in a thrilling finish. Next up was the J & B Met, where ridden by Jeff Lloyd, Pocket Power lived up to his favourite’s tag, winning comfortably.

Following was a winter of near misses in KZN where Pocket Power failed to win but back on home territory for the Western Cape Sizzling Summer Season, he put those disappointments behind him winning both the L’Ormarins Queens Plate and the J & B Met to emulate Politician’s fine record.

But Pocket Power and his connections were not content with back to back wins and the mighty gelding was back again in 2009 in both the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the J&B Met.

When he won the Queen’s Plate for the third time in three years the fairy tale was in sight. Could he possibly win his third J&B Met in a row and forever keep the coveted J&B Met floating trophy as his own?

The answer was given and given with contemptuous ease before a packed Kenilworth Racecourse on a glorious summer’s day. Three from three! Spectacular! What other history could this great horse possibly write?

The J & B Met roll of honour includes the names of many of the top horses to race in the country including Foveros, Wolf Power, Model Man, Empress Club, London News, Horse Chestnut and Yard-Arm.

As a social function the J&B Met is renowned throughout the country and has become so popular that in recent years the gates of Kenilworth Racecourse have had to be closed midway through the afternoon and the “house full” signs put up as more than 50 000 people crammed into the picturesque venue.

Like the great sporting and social events around the world, the J&B Met is a celebration of beauty and magnificence – a gathering of the majestic thoroughbreds and the beautiful people who flock to Kenilworth Racecourse in their thousands to be part of the very special occasion.

 

A list of Winners of the J&B Met

Date Horse Jockey Trainer Owner Breeder
1883 Sir Hercules
1884 Goldfinder
1885 Ariel
1886 Game Dayrell
1887 Alarm
1888 Maid of Honour
1889 Whittington
1890 Master Cecil
1891 Stockwell
1892 Earl Godwin
1893 Goldwing
1894 Magnolia
1895 Plum
1896 Commodore
1897 Sir Rupert
1898 Sanson
1899 The Gown
1900 Isobath
1901 Devil-a-Saint
1902 Bellthorpe
1903 Neron
1904 Creso
1905 Black Bess
1906
1907
1908
1909 Billy Boosey
1910 Bill of Fare
1911 Farinier
1912 Springlawn
1913 Springlawn
1914
1915 Curwella
1916 Curwella
1917 Mild Draught
1918
1919 Battleplane
1920 Battleplane
1921 Canterbury Tales
1922 Clare Clan
1923 Primus
1924 Musketeer Dan
1925 Clare Clan
1926 Grand Chase
1927 Hussein Granville Gorton J W S Langerman
1928 Roamer
1929 Roamer
1930 Patysford
1931 Zonell
1932 Reel II
1933 Boveney
1934 Eccentric
1935 Sir Francis
1936 Moonlit
1937 Asbestos
1938 Moonlit
1939 Glolite
1940 Ming
1941 Royal Chaplain
1942 Royal Chaplain
1943 Zamora
1944 Zamora
1945 Feltos
1946
1947 Thorium
1948 Desert Rat
1949 Thorium
1950 Sostrum
1951 D D T
1952 Murrayfield
1953 Prince Bertrand
1954 Snipe
1955 Tropical Night
1956 Minnetonka
1957 Marion Island
1958 Sympathetic
1959 Bulbul Cookie Amos
1960 Appeal Court
1961 Frantic
1962 Jerez Stanley Amos Cookie Amos A P du Toit & P G Engelbrecht
1963 Polar Bear
1964 The Giant
1965 Speciality
1966 Renounce Duncan Alexander Cookie Amos Paul Dolt J C van der Walt / Gelykfontein Stud
1967 Ding Dong James Maree
1968
1969 Peter Beware Terrance Millard P J de Wet
1970 Snow Fun Duncan Alexander J Bell Mr W Winshaw
1971 Night Off
1972 Force Ten
1973 Gold Flame Terence D’Arcy Messrs Rogers and Engelbrecht Birch Bros
1974 Yataghan Bertie Hayden Mr J Schimmel
1975 Sledgehammer Michael Roberts Fred Rickaby Mr & Mrs C Hurvitz Mr Wolf Fisher
1976 Gatecrasher Garth Puller Herman Brown
1977 Bahadur Mr R Meaker Allan Robertson
1978 Politician Bertie Hayden Syd Laird Mike Javett & Mrs E Tenderini Birch Bros
1979 Politician Bertie Hayden Syd Laird Mike Javett & Mrs E Tenderini Birch Bros
1980 Sunshine Man Felix Coetzee Peter Kannemeyer Mrs H Braam J W Stubbs
1981 Queen’s Elect
1982 Foveros Basil Marcus Herman Brown snr Owner JR Syndicate Warren Hill Stud
1983 Arctic Cove Terrance Millard
1984 Wolf Power Jeff Lloyd Ricky Maingard Birch Bros Syndicate Birch Bros
1985 Charles Fortune Grant Kotzen Michael Airey Mr & Mrs Pip Davies,Mr & Mrs Ronnie Napier Rondebosch Farms Stud
1986 Wild West Greg Holme Ralph Rixon Circle Seven Syndicate Paul De Wet/Zamdvliet
1987 Model Man Basil Marcus Patrick Lunn Messrs A Thompson,A J and J D Lunn Odessa Stud
1988 Mark Anthony Felix Coetzee Terrance Millard Mr L Jaffee,Mr Abe Swersky,Mr Graham Beck Hoog Eind Stud
1989 Fearless Streaker Felix Coetzee
1990 Jungle Warrior Felix Coetzee Eric Sands Mr D J le Roux Mr D J le Roux
1991 Olympic Duel Felix Coetzee Terrance MIllard Messrs T L Bailes & S C McCarthy, Mr T L Bailes
1992 Divine Master Jeff Lloyd Peter Kannemeyer
1993 Empress Club Anton Marcus Tony Millard Mr L & Mrs J Jaffee Haras Abolengo
1994 Pas De Quoi Garth Puller Peter Kannemeyer Mr DA & Mrs S J Stevens Mr & Mrs H Stegeman
1995 Surfing Home Jeff Lloyd
1996 La Fabulous Robbie Fradd
1997 London News Dougie Whyte Alec Laird Mr L & Mrs J Jaffee,Messrs D R Dittmer,N Naidoo,G Reddy & V Samuel Koster Bros
1998 Imperious Sue Anthony Delpech Mr & Mrs John Brandtner Mr & Mrs John Brandtner
1999 Horse Chestnut Waichong Marwing Mike De Kock Mr & Mrs Harry Oppenheimer Mr & Mrs Harry Oppenheimer
2000 Badger’s Coast Guillermo Figueroa
2001 Bunter Barlow Glen Hatt Mike Bass
2002 Polo Classic Barend Vorster Eric Sands Terry Lowe, Phil Galasso, Louis Kirsten
2003 Angus Piere Strydom Brett Crawford Sabine Plattner
2004 Yard-Arm Mark Khan Geoff Woodruff Lammerskraal Stud Lammerskraal Stud
2005 Alastor Garth Puller Sean Tarry Ambiance Stud
2006 Zebra Crossing Jeff Lloyd Neil Bruss
2007 Pocket Power Jeff Lloyd Mike Bass Mr N M Shirtliff and Mr & Mrs A D Webber Zandvliet Stud
2008 Pocket Power Bernard Faydherbe Mike Bass Mr N M Shirtliff and Mr & Mrs A D Webber Zandvliet Stud
2009 Pocket Power Bernard Faydherbe Mike Bass Mr N M Shirtliff and Mr & Mrs A D Webber Zandvliet Stud
2010 River Jetez Glen Hatt Mike Bass Mr & Mrs C A Amm and Mr N M Shirtliff Zandvliet Stud
2011 Past Master Gerrit Schlechter Darryl Hodgson Hassen Adams Hyjo Stud
2012 Igugu Anthony Delpech Mike de Kock Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum & Mr & Mrs A J Macdonald Kia Ora Stud
2013 Martial Eagle Aldo Domeyer Yogas Govender Sabine Plattner Wilgerbosdrift

A bit of History

It was in the year 1792 that the noble thoroughbred first stepped ashore in the fairest Cape; the first of the breed to land on the African continent and the beginning of what has become one of the biggest industries in the land.

The Cape of Good Hope was the birthplace of racing in South Africa with Lord Charles Somerset playing a major role in the establishment and development of the sport in the region.

The first recorded race, the Turf Club Purse, was run on Green Point Common on Monday, September 18, 1797, and won by the five-year-old Zemman Shaw.

The race was organised by the African Turf Club – later to become the South African Turf Club then the Western Province Racing Club and now Gold Circle Western Cape which today has as its flagship event, the R2,5-million, Grade 1, J&B Met.

The first recorded winner of the Metropolitan Mile, as it was originally known in 1883, was Sir Hercules and, while the race had a chequered existence for many years in the early 1900’s, by the 1960’s it was firmly established as one of the “big three” races in the country along with the Vodacom Durban July and the original Summer Handicap in Gauteng.

As the original home of racing in the country, the Western Cape had a strong base to build on with a vibrant breeding industry to support the racing and many of the best trainers in the business – men who have become legends and who based their powerful strings in the region.

While the J&B Met retained its status as one of the big three, it had begun to lose its sparkle with the handicap conditions and large fields resulting inevitably in a few good horses competing against numbers of opponents not blessed with the same degree of ability.

Visiting trainers began to baulk including the legendary Sydney Laird and it was time for an in-depth look at the race and its future. In 1973 it was changed to a conditions race – weight-for-age plus penalties – and it drew a deep new breath on which to build for the future.

In spite of its new image and obvious acceptance from within the racing industry, it still lacked public acceptance as anything other than a horse race featuring the best thoroughbreds in the country. It was in need of a rejuvenating injection of enthusiastic promotion to restore it to its former glory and that came in 1978 when Justerini and Brooks, producers of J&B Rare Scotch Whiskey, stepped in as sponsor and the J&B Met was born.

And as if to celebrate the dawning of a new era, into the line-up for the race as a four-year-old that year stepped one of the greatest horses ever to race in South Africa, Politician, a magnificent chestnut with an outstanding record. He had won two of his three starts as a juvenile and six of his 10 starts as a three-year-old including the Dingaans, the Cape Guineas, the Cape Derby and the South African Guineas.

After running fifth in the Rothmans July, now the Vodacom Durban July, as a three-year-old, he was second in the Champion Stakes at Greyville then won the Hawaii Stakes at Turffontein and the Cape Trial Handicap at Milnerton. He was the talking point of South African racing and a horse the public wanted to see.

The crowds streamed into the course drawn by the aura of this all-conquering beast and he never let them down and, with “Big Race” Bertie Hayden in the irons, he cruised home 3,25 lengths clear of dead-heaters Arion and Fast Piece.

With a stake of R50 000 that year and a sensational finish, the large crowd was thrilled and the foundation was set for the development of the J&B Met into the massive racing and entertainment spectacular that it is today.

And if the thrill of the first J&B Met was not enough, Syd Laird returned the following year with Politician and jockey Bertie Hayden and South Africa watched in awe as possibly the greatest performance by a thoroughbred in South African history was played out before an even greater crowd than the year before. Carrying top weight again – this time under 58,5kg – Politician became boxed as they swept into the home straight. There was nowhere for him to go and with 200 metres of the race left the chances of him getting a run let alone winning looked impossible.

But the strapping chestnut was not to be denied and virtually finding his own way through the horses ahead of him he produced an explosive burst of breathtaking acceleration to catch the champion filly Festive Season just short of the post and beat her by half a length.

As Hayden remarked afterwards: “I couldn’t ride him in the end, I had all this horse under me and we had nowhere to go. There was nothing I could do so I just threw the reins at him and let him do what he could. It was just amazing, he took off and fought his way through to the front.”

And trainer Syd Laird, nicknamed “The Bear” and not one too liberal with words of praise, said Politician “combined his strength with a great action and terrific fighting spirit to be a truly outstanding racehorse.”

It was a performance not seen before or since and Politician became the first horse to win the race in consecutive years.

The roll of honour includes the names of many of the top horses to race in the country including Foveros, Wolf Power, Model Man, Empress Club, London News and Horse Chestnut.

Over the years victory in the race was claimed by horses from all parts of the country but three families dominated – the Lairds, Millards and Kannemeyers who between them won the race 10 times.

Syd Laird won it twice with Politician in 1978 and 1979 and Alec Laird won it with London News in 1997.

Terrance Millard won it with Arctic Cove in 1983, Mark Anthony in 1988 and Olympic Duel in 1991 while his son Tony Millard won it with Empress Club in 1993.

The Kannemeyer team, Peter and son Dean, won the J&B Met with Sunshine Man in 1980 then with Divine Master in 1992 and with Pas De Quoi in 1994.

As a social function the J&B Met is renowned throughout the country and has become so popular that in 2002 the gates of Kenilworth racecourse had to be closed midway through the afternoon and the “house full” signs put up. More than 50 000 people had crammed into the picturesque venue.

Through aggressive marketing and innovative promotion by J&B and Gold Circle Racing, heady fashion has become synonymous with thoroughbred racing and both are taken to the very limit on this day to produce a sensual mix of power and stunning beauty for which the occasion is internationally acknowledged.

Like the great sporting and social events around the world, the J&B Met is a celebration of beauty and magnificence – a gathering of the majestic thoroughbreds and the beautiful people who flock to Kenilworth Racecourse in their thousands to be part of the very special occasion.