The Schweppes R250 000 Challenge
"One sparkling performance after another from Schh? you know who", so says the ad for that popular mixer. It could now well be read "Hmmm? Marcus and mighty Model Man" following the pair's magnificent performance in the R250 000 Gr1 Schweppes Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood Park mid-June.
The copy writers might have had Model Man in mind when mention was made of one sparkling performance after another. Always rated a classy colt, the four-year-old must surely now lay claims to being the best horse in South Africa, no matter what the outcome of the Rothmans July Handicap, for which he has been set to concede weight all round.
Value for their money
Schweppes (South Africa) Ltd, the sponsoring company since 1983, have certainly had value for their money since taking over the backing of the event, now one of the major races on the national calendar.
First run as the Clairwood Champion Stakes in 1972 when the brilliant Sentinel scored the first of two successive victories, the race has grown in value and importance and the list of winners reads like a Who's Who in South Africa's turf greats - Sentinel, Yataghan, Sledgehammer (ZN), Gatecrasher, Bold Monarch (NZ), Politician, Over The Air three times in succession, Wolf Power and Spanish Pool (Ire) each twice running, and then Fools Holme (USA) - an impressive array of Thoroughbreds.
Keeping pace with the increasing importance of the race has been the prize money. From an opening R8 000 when Sentinel won in 1972 - the race having replace the June Handicap on the Clairwood Park programme - the stake received regular boosts, hitting R100 000 with the first sponsorship in 1983 and doubled the following year. This year's running saw an additional R50 000 added to the prize, resulting in Model Man adding the R153 120 winner's share to an already healthy earnings figure of R645 320 to put him well in line to becoming the country's first equine millionaire. And all that for an outlay of R38 000 at the 1984 National Yearling Sales.
Model Man has been extremely well handled by trainer Patrick Lunn, who has programmed his charge's career with meticulous care. The colt raced only once at two, winning a juvenile 1200 at Clairwood in the closing week of the season. He went off at 7/1 that day - the longest starting price about Model Man in all his subsequent outings. He won six of ten at three last season, including the Mainstay 1800 Gr1, SA Invitation Stakes Gr2, and Computaform Guineas, was touched off in the SA 2000 Gr1 and was fourth in both the Rothmans July Handicap Gr1 and Chris Smith Bloodstock Guineas Gr1. His only "off the board" finish to date was in last year's Richelieu Guineas Gr1 - his sole blemish in an otherwise impeccable track record.
The colt came out at four to short-head the very speedy Bold West over Greyville's 1 100m, slammed Horse of the Year Enchanted Garden and a useful field by 5 lengths for the Gr1 Barclays national 200 000 at Turffontein, had an easy romp over 1400 at Clairwood in a Met pipe-opener, and then went on to land the big one at Kenilworth, holding out Enchanted Garden and the best in the country had to offer in the J&B Metropolitan Stakes Gr1. The Schweppes Challenge Gr1 was his fifth win in as many starts this term.
The 1987 Schweppes Challenge again attracted the class of field one has come to expect, the 12 runners having amassed R3 599 648 in stakes from successes in 101 races. But the measure of superiority of Model Man over his rivals is perhaps best illustrated by the betting - 6/10 Model Man, 4/1 Jungle Rock, 6/1 Main Man, 12/1 Miracle Mowers winner Melun (USA), 16/1 Yamani and Ecurie (Arg), and you could virtually write your own ticket about the balance.
As he had done at Kenilworth, Model Man again showed a certain amount of reluctance to enter the starting stalls but once coaxed into his number four berth, gave no more cause for alarm and was away smartly when the gates were sprung.
On settling down it was former Chris Smith Bloodstock Guineas winner Clean Break who adopted his customary role and went out to make the running with Ecurie (Arg), Sea Warrior and Main Man in close attendance. By the time they went into the first turn, Clean Break had skipped clear from Sea Warrior, Ecurie (Arg), Main Man and Jungle Rock with Model Man and Melun (U&SA) racing together about 5 lengths off the pace.
Powerful driving finish
This was pretty much the order as they field swung into the home run with 600m left to race. As they straightened up, Bartie Leisher sent Main Man to the front from a fading Clean Break with Jungle Rock and Ecurie (Arg) the first to give chase. In the meantime, Basil Marcus had moved the favourite towards the inside fence coming off the false rail and going through the 400, was still 4 lengths adrift but settling into a powerful finishing drive.
The race had taken on an entirely new complexion and was as good as over by the time they hit the 200 with Model Man having gone about 2 lengths clear and going further ahead with every stride. Never letting up in his relentless gallop, Model Man had a widening 6 lengths to spare at the line from Jungle Rock who stayed on well to run Main Man out of the substantial second stake by ¾ length. Close on 2 lengths further back in fourth spot was the Argentinian filly Ecurie.
Also grabbing a share of the prize money was Desert Legend - together with Main Man the only three-year-olds in the field - in fifth place with Drill Hall Stakes winner Yamani sixth.
There can be no excuses for the beaten horses - they were simply outclassed by a brilliant racehorse. Jungle Rock, having his first outing for the Millard stable, ran a good enough race but a real disappointment was the American-bred Melun.
The son of Riverman had won very gamely in the Miracle Mowers, was racing neck and neck with Model Man to the straight in the Schweppes and then just did not go on with it to finish ninth of the 12 runners.
Raced by Alec Thompson, Anthony and John Lunn, Model Man has notched 12 victories, a second and two fourths in 16 career starts and is without a shadow of doubt, the best representative, not only of his sire Elliodor (Fr), but also of his distaff side seen out to date.
Bred by D. Cohen and Sons at their Odessa Stud at Ceres in the Cape, Model Man is out of stakes-placed Filipepi (GB) matron Top Model, the only foal of Victoria Stakes winner True Beauty, herself from extremely moderate racehorse Otomie, who nevertheless produced five winners from five runners.
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