So often in racing, as in life, it's the big ones that succeed. We've become accustomed to the big owners with their big priced horses from the yards of the big trainers pulling off the sport's biggest prizes. Perhaps it's only right, for after all they're the ones with the biggest stake in the game. But it's nice when a small owner, who has faithfully stuck with his small trainer, steps from the wings to grab the main part of the play.
That in a nutshell is the story of Greyville's R150 000 1987 South African Guineas Gr1. The late defection of unbeaten Jungle Cove (USA) colt Bush Telegraph with a virus infection robbed the race of some of its glamour but there nevertheless, remained a star-studded field for the 1600m Classic. The betting indicated a four-way contest between the visitors Cowdray Park, Main Man, Honey Bear and Desert Legend.
There's no doubt that he quartet at the top of bookmakers' boards were entitled to their public support. Cowdray Park, a massive Royal Prerogative (GB) gelding, had bolted home by 10 lengths over 1400m at a 1/8 favourite in his only start of the current winter season; Main Man had been an end-to-end winner of the valuable 1600m SA Invitation Stakes on his previous visit to Natal and looked to be regaining his best form; Desert Legend was fresh from a 7 ½ length romp in the top division at Gosforth Park; while stakes winning Honey Bear, a Rothmans July Handicap entry, had won his previous start over 1400m at Greyville in most impressive style.
Way out at 20/1 virtually neglected in the betting was Sloop, one of two Natal challengers for the big prize. As the Tucson colt had won 8 times going into the Guineas and had been only 2 lengths off Bush Telegraph in the Rupert Ellis Brown Memorial at his previous start, these appeared to be particularly generous odds.
Main Man, adopting the same tactics he employed in the SA invitation Stakes, set a cracking pace from the start. As they swung into the straight, he was going easily at the head of the field form Heir To Riches, Cowdray Park and London Fog with honey Bear, Desert Legend and Sloop some 7 lengths off the pace. In the drive to the line, Desert Legend, down the centre, and Cowdray Park on his outside, appeared o pose the biggest threats to Main Man when Sloop, under a great ride from Nicky Shearer, came through under full sail to snare the leader inside the final 100m.
Running on strongly, Sloop went on to land the Guineas by a widening neck from Main Man with Cowdray Park staying on for third little more than a length further back, a similar distance in front of fourth finisher Desert Legend. Honey Bear finished a somewhat disappointing seventh, 6 ¼ lengths off the winner.
New track record
Such was the pace set by Main Man from the break, that Sloop not only bettered Rain Forest's 1983 race record but also improved the track record held jointly by Gatecrasher and Sure Sovereign by cutting out the 1600m in 1:34.
The race was a triumph for the small-time players in all respects. North Coast sugar farmer Alf van de Vyver dabbles with a few mares and has come up with a star in his home-bred Sloop, one of only four horses he has in training. For trainer Bobby Sivewright, victory was the pinnacle of his association with long-time friend and patron Alf van de Vyver. The pair, as owner and trainer, had seen the 1980 SA Guineas slip from their grasp when Ton Up was little more than a length too good for Destroyer, a colt who was later exported to the United States. A trainer with inexpensive horses, Bobby Sivewright has done well with his small string.
Sloop's sire Tucson, by Daylight Robbery (GB) out of a Silver Tor (Ire) mare, was bred to go fast and this he certainly did, winning 12 races from 1000m to 1600m, at which distance it was his class more than anything that pulled him through. He retired to stud in 1981 but has had very limited opportunities.
Alf van de Vyver went to R7 000 to secure Sloop's dam, Sister Ship, by the speedy Prince Tor (GB) from Olean (Fr) mare Prototype, at the 1978 Yearling Sales. Sister Ship duly won four races over the minimum distance at three and four and showed no pretensions of going much further, yet with her first foal, and by a sprinter at that, she has thrown a colt who not only gets 1600, but gets it easily as shown by his record-breaking guineas run as well as his King's Cup victory in only half a second outside track and race record. Sloop has now won nine of 16 career starts and only once missed out on a share of the stake division for earnings of a healthy R201 915.
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