While frequently attracting a small field, run as it is towards the latter part of the busy Natal winter season, the Grade 1 Champion Stakes over 2000m at Greyville has always been a race of considerable significance. In recent years it has served to confirm a horse’s status, as it did with Prince Florimund, Spanish Pool (Ire) and Fools Holme (USA) in 1982, 1984 and 1986 respectively. in some instances it has redeemed a horse’s claims, as it did with Swan Prince in 1981, while in others the race dashed the hopes of some, as it did with Wolf Power in 1983 and Spanish Pool (Ire) two years later. For Wolf Power it appeared as a gift in his path to a national stakes earning record, while for the Irish horse it provided the opportunity of bowing out of active competition as the first equine millionaire in South African racing.
This year’s running was of considerable importance as it afforded the brilliant Model Man yet another crack at that magic million in earnings, a goal that had eluded him in his two previous races. Following a season that saw him race seven times for five straight wins before a second place in the Grade 1 Rothmans July Handicap and then again in his final appearance of the term in the Grade 1 Mainstay 1800, Model Man was still R71 560 shy of R1 million going into the Champion Stakes. By the time August 8 came round, there weren’t too many horses left prepared to take Model Man on at weight-for-age terms over 2000m. Only five opposed him for the R125 000 event, which meant that each runner was assured a share of the stake. When one comes to think of it, R1 500 isn’t bad for running last in a race! Former J&B Metropolitan winner Wild West – who hadn’t won a race since that Kenilworth triumph some 18 months earlier – was the only one of his opposition capable of making a race of it, and it appeared a mere formality that Model Man would emerge the winner and become the first horse in South African racing to top a million in earnings. Perhaps the betting provided the best indicator to the fields chances – 1/5 Model Man, 5/1 Wild West, 16/1 Impressive Style, 20/1 Fair Value, 33/1 North Star and Mantovano. Apart from Impressive Style and Fair Value changing positions, that was how they finished. While Wild West was 1 1/4 lengths off the winner at the line, it was more of a case of Model Man first and the rest nowhere.
Extremely confident race
Basil Marcus, who has had an unbroken association with Model Man since the colt won last year’s Mainstay 1800 rode an extremely confident race. He took the favourite to the front at the break and then allowed Fair Value to lead him a length under sufferance from the 1600 to 700m, where he decided it was time to assert his authority over the race. Without coming off the bit, Model Man swept aside Fair Value as he set sail for the line and although Wild West threw out a belated challenge, the favourite was never in any danger and scored comfortably by a little more than a length with Fair Value a further 6 lengths adrift in third spot. The time of 2:1,60 mattered not – Model Man won as he liked to register his 13th victory from 19 starts for R1 005 440 and a promise of more to come before he’s retired to stud next year. Model Man is scheduled to return to Odessa Stud, the place of his birth, for the 1988 breeding season.
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