Wild West - look Ma, no stick
There are some great sprinters around, and the two that may well have been the best of the decade meet early in the year. Lord Randolph beats Sunera in the Gr1 Cape Flying Championship (WFA), but the imported filly takes her revenge in the Cape Merchants, breaking the course record in the process.
Trainer Terence Millard‘s Argentinian filly Ecurie starts at odds of 1/3 in the Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas (renamed Highlands Classic). The odds are surprising because of the fact that she hadn’t been well a few days before the race, and her running had been in the balance. When Ecurie hit the front 300m out, the betting seemed to spot on, but Mark Sutherland on stable companion Bimbina (also an Argentinian filly) had different ideas. They took off in the last 100m and Ecurie had no answer to the challenge. Bimbina won by a half, to give Graham Beck his second Fillies Guineas winner.
All this added spice to the Gr1 Paddock Stakes, in which Bimbina was set to meet another stable companion, the superb Up The Creek, as well as Enchanted Garden and Velozia. This time Millard’s Up The Creek took the honours and her winnings to over a quarter of a million Rand.
Trainer Ralph Rixon has near heart failure when the jockey on his fancied runner Wild West in the Gr1 J&B Met drops his stick somewhere in the straight. The Roland Gardens colt (22/10 favourite) makes it home all right, but by less than a length, his jockey Greg Holmes furiously hitting the horse with his hand in the last few metres! The race is run on the old track at Kenilworth, as the turf on the “new” course is giving major headaches and is in the process of being replaced.
Michael Roberts master tactician
The wind blows storm-strength on the day of the Gr1 Richelieu Guineas, for which Natal visitor Model Man is favourite, fully expected to retain his unbeaten record. Millard has the filly Ecurie as well as Potomac (both Argentinians) in the lineup.
The Gr1 race becomes a triumph of jockeyship, however – for jockey Michael Roberts. He takes the lead like a bat out of hell, storm wind behind, up the back straight. This takes relatively little out of his horse, as the wind does most of the work. It gives the pair the decisive lead, however, when the runners hit the wind front-on and Sea Warrior’s victory is never really in doubt. Ecurie runs second ahead of Potomac, while Model Man – who hadn’t travelled down well from Natal and clearly wasn’t himself – runs out of the places. The best horse certainly didn’t win (as subsequent form would prove) – it was the best jockey who did, given a specific set of circumstances.
Winner’s Circle Goes National
Rumours fly as to how Sydney Press negotiates with the TBA, when not all of his Northfields yearlings are accepted for the Select Evening at the National Sales. It is said that Press shows intent to hold a sale all of his own if no change is made. The upshot of it is that the Select numbers are increased from 80 to 99 – including, no prize for guessing, all of Coromandel‘s Northfields yearlings. The revised Select List becomes a major source of discussion all around the country. As someone puts it later: “The TBA has ceased to represent the breeders. Like all bureaucracies, it only serves itself”.
Cape magazine Winner’s Circle goes national and is distributed to all owners, trainers and raceclub members countrywide. The March issue carries a long, detailed article on why Racefigures and Real Handicapping are so different. No one pays any attention.
The only woodchip track in the world that was actually used to race on, is no more. The track is located in the south of Holland and Dutch Jockey Club officials and trainers find it has become far too dangerous. The ideal turf-alternative clearly hasn’t been found, as Turffontein discovers later in the year when its own woodchip fibre track freezes over. The Club investigates the use of anti-freeze or salt to keep things moving, but the writing is on the wall.
New Select Evening at Nationals
Millard sends a string to the Rand and amasses stakes of over half a million in not more than two months. Bimbina wins the Helios Fillies Stakes and the Lancome Handicap. Enchanted Garden takes the Gr1 SA Oaks, while Cape Derby winner Potomac adds the Gr1 SA Derby to his laurels. Then Enchanted Garden and Potomac score a Millard one-two in the Gr1 Sun International. An objection by the jockey of Potomac against the winner is overruled.
Millard doesn’t win all the big ones though. Jungle Rock scores in the Gr1 Sun Classic, second leg of the Triple Crown, although his jockey earns a three week suspension for causing interference.
Two-year-old colt Main Man gives notice of greater things to come when retaining his unbeaten record in the Gr1 SA Nursery.
Another unbeaten juvenile resides in the Cape. Winner of the Cape Nursery, his name is Bush Telegraph.
“Select Evening” is an innovation at the National Sales. Instead of a Select Day, with just over 200 horses, the Evening has a mere 99 of what ought to be the most sought after lots. Indeed the highest prices yearling is one of these. The Northfields filly Sister Divine breaks all records when the hammer falls at a bid R300.000. Buyer is Hans Roos.
Coromandel and Northfields take the Sale by storm, with unprecedented promotional support. Sydney Press after all has an impressive track record in the retailing business and knows how these things ought to be done. Coromandel and Northfields head both aggregate and average at the Sales. As Press puts it: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.
Turnover at the Sale reaches R21 million, of which the Select group takes less than a third. Top priced colt is Dancing Champ‘s son First Champ who just outsprints another of that sire’s sons, Castle Walk: R240.000 to R210.000.
Corn Belt goes for R50.000 and the same price is paid by Millard for Royal Chalice (“too small” claim two prospective owners). R50.000 too is the price for Mill Hill. Harry’s Echoe goes for R47.000, Priceless Asset fetches R45.000, while for Young England the hammer falls at R25.000. Tony Factor needs just R8000 to secure Imperial Silver.
Bloodstock agent Chris Smith is the leading buyer, spending R3.1 million.
The Napier report is published, giving a five year plan for the administration of racing in the Transvaal. The report’s main thrust is the formulation of a new controlling body on the Highveld, which in the eyes of some looks to have the makings of a dictatorship. This is disputed by Napier, who calls the dictatorship accusation “totally unwarranted and in fact laughable”. He asks for the proposed body to be given a chance, before seeking to destroy it with destructive criticism.
Guineas Objection Upheld
Ecurie is first past the post in the Natal Guineas (or rather, the Chris Smith Guineas), but is relegated to fourth place for taking up the running of Model Man. Another Treat is awarded the race.
Potomac wins the SA 2000 by a whisker from Model Man. Jockey Felix Coetzee‘s balanced ride tips the scales and ranks equally brilliant to Roberts’ magic on Sea Warrior earlier in the year.
Controversy in the Gr1 Smirnoff Sprint when unbeaten 2yo's Bush Telegraph and Main Man fight out the finish. Main Man carries the Bush off a straight line, wins by a short head, but is subsequently relegated to second. The race is run in a new record time. There is immediate talk of a match race later in the year to settle matters between the two. Prize money of R200.000 for such a match is bandied about, but the contest does not materialise.
Sunera's Course Record
Newmarket gets full-time business management and sets about improving track and facilities. TAB Transvaal publishes its yearly figures, which show an increase in turnover on the previous year of 15% to R242 million. The Province collects a R27 million slice from this cake.
The Transvaal OTA joins the Western Province OTA in the Winner’s Circle venture. The magazine now becomes the official mouthpiece for both OTA’s.
Nijinsky becomes the first stallion to sire the winners of the Epsom Derby and Kentucky Derby in the same year, thanks to Shahrastani and Ferdinand.
Sunera breaks the Scottsville track record when winning the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint. Occult captures the Republic Day Handicap.
Millard's July 1-2-3
Occult scores a notable double by winning the Rothmans July.following his Republic Day Handicap victory. He makes virtually all the running and finishes in front of Schweppes winner Fools Holme and Enchanted Garden with Model Man in fourth. Thus Millard saddles the first three past the post, although the least fancied of his three wins the race. Enchanted Garden puts up the most meritable performance, carrying top-weight (less sex allowance) and proves herself to be the filly of the decade beyond a doubt.
Bush Telegraph scores in the Administrators Juvenile Championship on July day. Main Man declines the confrontation.
Millard becomes the first trainer in South African history to win stakes of more than R2 million: his 102 winners collect R2.6 million.
In Natal, the TBA and Chris Smith hold yearling sales within days of each other, as they had done the previous year. TBA’s top price is R100.000, Smith goes one better with R110.000. The two sales organisations settle their differences shortly afterwards and agree on a formula whereby the TBA retains the National Sale and the August Sale, while Smith will run the remaining regional sales.
Abe Bloomberg retires after 50 years as steward of the Cape Turf Club at Milnerton. Bloomberg had been chairman of the Club for an equally incredible 30 years.
The jockey championship is in the balance until the final day of the official season, Jeff Lloyd short heading Basil Marcus.
Model Man wins the Mainstay, for which Enchanted Garden was favourite. Ecurie runs second, Enchanted Garden appears to be over the top.
Sunera wins on her final appearance, taking the Gr1 Natal Flying Championship (WFA) from Lord Randolph. Sadly, the champion sprint filly dies shortly after her retirement.
The Christie Commission
In the Transvaal fears are expressed that the Provincial authorities, who hold the purse strings, might use their power to force Highveld raceclubs into line. Fears are heightened by the Provincial appointment of a one-man commission to investigate horseracing. The commission is established as a direct result of the five year plan introduced in the Napier-report. Former Turffontein GM Sandy Christie is the commissioner, and hopes to complete his inquiry in a period of one to two years. Transvaal MEC for Racing, John Griffiths, vehemently denies any take-over attempts on the part of the Province. The commission is merely a vehicle to facilitate rationalisation and only there to help overcome racing’s shortcomings, he says.
The Clubs racing at Newmarket introduce computerised barrier draws, whereby a computer generates random numbers for all nominated runners in a race.
New Pick Six bet in Natal
The Pick Six is introduced at Scottsville in September.
The Cape introduces the All-Up bet. Made in Hong Kong (and successful there), the new bet makes it to the front page of a Cape newspaper at its introduction (could it be that there’s little else to report given the prevailing State Of Emergency regulations?), but receives little support from local Cape punters.
OK Gold Bowl going for a song
King’s Choir wins the OK Gold Bowl and Main Man gets his due reward when winning the SA Invitation Stakes from start to finish in wet going, dispelling any doubts as to his ability to stay a mile. Bush Telegraph avoids the confrontation.
The Natal Breeders vote Jungle Rock their Horse of the Year. Chili Bite, voted Best Older Horse, wins a Natal award for the third year in a row.
Western Cape Breeders, too, have their awards dinner. Occult is Horse of the Year and Millard a predictable Trainer of the Year.
Winner’s Circle editor Karel Miedema receives the Computaform Award for Best Contribution to racing and breeding, but greatly upsets the gathered Cape racing administration with his acceptance speech. He highlights the fact that a large business like Cape racing is still run by self-perpetuating social committees. Miedema is ostracised by some of the raceclub stewards for many years afterwards.
National Racing Awards venues are allocated on a rotating basis, now that the Association of Raceclubs has taken over prizegiving. With the turn falling to Natal, Enchanted Garden becomes Horse of the Year in Durban. To no one’s surprise Terence Millard becomes Trainer of the Year, as well as ‘Outstanding Personality’. Felix Coetzee retains his title of Jockey of the Year, having ridden 135 winners for stakes of R2.2 million.
Grooms go on strike in the Cape, leaving trainers to cope with preparation for a Saturday meeting, which takes places as normal. The Sunday after the meeting the dispute is resolved, grooms accepting a wage increase of 25%.
Barclays Bank joins the sponsorship ranks, taking over the former Hawaii Stakes. Now worth R200.000, the Gr1 race is run over 1600m and linked to the R1 million Operation Hunger sweepstake. The planned meeting is washed out, however, and has to be postponed until the following Tuesday. Second favourite Model Man has little trouble in scoring, Enchanted Garden finishing second. Favourite Jungle Rock runs unplaced.
Jungle Cove heads the stallion statistics, ahead of Roland Gardens and Royal Prerogative. Highlands Farms are the leading breeders.
Equine Flu Causes Havoc
Racegoers arriving at a Milnerton Saturday meeting in December find the track deserted. Equine flu has swept through the stables in a matter of hours and racing is cancelled. The same devastating flu hits the Transvaal and Eastern Cape virtually at the same time. Racing in all provinces except Natal comes to a sudden halt, while most of the studfarms in the regions are also affected.
How bad, people ask, can it get?
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