It comes as no surprise whatsoever to have Model Man nominated as the South African Racehorses' Horse of the Year. Over the 12 months in question Model Man again showed his versatility by winning from 1100m to 2000m. He started 7 times for 5 wins, including the Barclays National Challenge - all Grade One races - and he was second in both the Gr1 Rothmans July Handicap and the Gr1 Mainstay 1800. His season's earnings of R608 470 took him well on his way to becoming South Africa's first equine millionaire - a feat he achieved 8 days after the voting period. His record speaks for itself and Model Man must surely rank as one of the most popular winners of the Horse of the Year title.
The Magnificent Seven is the number of digits in the earnings of South Africa's top racehorse Model Man, whose success in the Grade 1 Champion Stakes at Greyville saw him become the country's first equine millionaire.
Such has been the consistency of Model Man over the past two seasons that it was only a matter of time before he cracked the magic million. But despite a remarkable sophomore and four-year-old campaign, it wasn't until his first start at five that he reached this milestone in South African racing.
That he's done virtually everything required of him to be considered a worthy champion and lay claims to being the top horse in the country goes without saying. Those closely connected with Model Man wouldn't have been so bold as to predict such an illustrious career for the son of Filipepi (GB) mare Top Model from the first crop of Lyphard horse Elliodor (Fr) when he stepped into the arena during the evening session of the 1984 National Yearling Sales.
Breeder Colin Cohen recalls that there was nothing particularly special about the colt from his birth on 31 October 1982 to being sold at Germiston, except perhaps that with the passing of time "he developed well and grew into a big, exceptionally good looking yearling."
Model Man who'd been kicked on the chest shortly before the arrival at Odessa Stud of the screening panel, was not originally accepted for the 1984 National Sales and it was only on appeal that he was included among the 844 yearlings catalogued.
Reflecting back to the decision that led to home=bred Top Model's mating to Elliodor (Fr), Colin Cohen said they realised that the stud would have to start sending mares out and could not rely entirely on home-based sires. Artur Pfaff had brought in African Hope (GB) and Elliodor (Fr) to join Bally Game (Ire), Black Melody (GB), Kama (USA), Northern Drive (USA) and Who Duzzit (USA) at his nearby Daytona Stud at Ceres and the Odessa management thought that it was an opportune time to acquire a few stallion shares.
"Elliodor (Fr) was a horse of substance and we thought it would be a good mating for the small Top Model. Model Man was the result of that covering and her sixth foal since being retired to stud in 1977 after having won 5 times from 1000 to 1400m between 2 and 5 years along with 10 places including the Victress Stakes," said Colin Cohen. Top Model produced two more foals after Model Man in 1982 and was then barren to Dancing champ (USA) in 1985 and 1986. She was put back to Elliodor (Fr) last year. The mating produced a full brother to Model Man, but, unfortunately for breeder Colin Cohen, the foal only lived for 24 hours and then worse was to follow when the mare died two days later. There were no apparent problems with the foaling, although the foal was reported to be weak. "But we though he would make it," said the breeder.
At the 1984 National Yearling Sales trainer Pat Lunn had his attention drawn to the Top Model colt by Lawrence O'Donoghue, who was connected with the stable at the time. O'Donoghue remarked that he had ridden the Willie Kleb trained Top Model and what a nice filly she had been. As a result of this discussion, Model Man was earmarked as one of the 30-odd yearlings Pat Lunn would look at at the Sales.
He liked what he saw, a well grown colt with a magnificent head, and Model Man was short-listed with a price tag of around R60 000. "We got him for R38 000 and what a bargain he's turned out to be," reminisced Pat Lunn.
From the Sales Model Man was sent to Alan King's stud in the Natal Midlands. Here the colt was broken to saddle and put into light exercise in preparation for his racing career. "From the outset he gave us a tremendous feel. Here was a class horse, a model colt," quipped Alan King.
A latish foal, Model Man was given time to develop before going into full training with Pat Lunn at Clairwood. The colt was to race for the partnership of Alec Thompson, Pat's father John, and brother Anthony. Echoing the sentiments of Alan King, Pat Lunn said that Model Man soon showed that he was an above average sort.
"Still soft boned as a juvenile, his work was restricted to the sand track - the only time he went on the grass before his first race was when put through the pens and one 600m burst. Model Man went from strength to strength, showing me a lot on the sand where he toyed with Right Direction, an A division horse at the time. I knew then that we had a very, very good horse," recalled the young trainer.
It was as a late two-year-old that Model Man came out for his debut and although not at full racing pitch, he beat a field of maiden juveniles very easily by 3 ¼ lengths over the Clairwood 1200m. After an opening call of 5/1, the colt drifted to 7/1 that day - the longest starting price about Model Man in all his subsequent outings.
Pat Lunn's feelings after that debut victory were that "if he could win like that without really being tuned up, he must be something special."
Something special he was indeed, romping home over the same course and distance less than a month later - then as a three-year-old - and then beating the previous season's champion juvenile colt, Another Treat, comfortably in Greyville's 1600m Computaform Guineas at his third appearance. And so on to Scottsville for the South African Invitation Stakes (Gr2) where victory in yielding going over the 1600m against a smart field took him to the top of the sophomore class. In only four starts he ahd recouped something like three times his purchase price.
Model Man took his unbeaten tally to five when he completely outclassed a B Division field at Greyville and was then floated to the Cape for the 1986 Richelieu Guineas (Gr1) at Milnerton. That he was beaten out of the placings for the only time in 19 starts to date is now history. In retrospect Pat Lunn said that he shouldn't have run the colt in the Classic. "He didn't travel well, then had a bout of colic and looking back on it now, maybe he shouldn't have raced. That certainly wasn't his run" - a fact that subsequent races have borne out.
Back at home in Natal 2 ½ months later the colt ran a smashing trial for the Grade 1 Chris Smith Bloodstock Guineas when, as a 3/10 favourite, he cruised to victory in a B division 1400 at Scottsville. The Guineas itself, however, was a disaster for Model Man.
As he was poised to strike between Ecurie (Arg) and Another Treat in the straight, Ecurie (Arg) hung in and effectively put paid to whatever winning chance the Lunn colt had. Fourth at the line, Model Man was moved to third spot after a successful objection against the Argentinian filly but it wasn't much consolation for his connections as he was certainly travelling like a winner when the incident occurred.
Less than a month later Model Man was involved in tone of the greatest finishes seen at Greyville in many a year. Potomac-(Arg) and the Elliodor (Fr) colt matched stride for stride in the closing stages of the South African 2000 (Grade 1) and at the wire the photo-finish revealed the Argentinian colt the winner by the shortest of short-heads. Beaten, but not disgraced, Model Man nevertheless galloped himself right into the picture for his next race, the R350 000 Rothmans July Handicap.
Despite being drawn wide at 16 in a field of 18, Model Man attracted a weight of money, firming from 6/1 the day prior to the race to a firm second choice at 7/2 when the Rothmans field was sent on its 2200m journey.
Outpaced early, he ran yet another fine race to be fourth, only 1 ½ lengths off the record- breaking winner Occult.
Model Man closed his sophomore campaign with a brilliant victory in the R200 000 Mainstay 1800 (Grade 1) at Clairwood, coming on the scene late with a sustained run to win going away by the best part of a length from Ecurie (Arg) and Jungle Rock. It was his eleventh career start, for 7 wins, a second and two fourths and a healthy R319 970.
The colt pulled up a little sore after the Mainstay and this led to a new aspect to the colt's training curriculum. Pat Lunn called in the services of Kathy van Rooyen, a therapist who, with Fred Rickaby, had worked on countless horses. Since that day the therapist has treated Model Man on the Faradic machine and she has become an essential member of the team responsible for the well-being of the champion - a team which includes stable assistant Dennis Bosch and jockey Basil Marcus.
On the easy list for a while, model Man was brought back for his first start at four to get up and bet the very speedy Bold West over 1100m at Greyville in a prep race for the R200 000 Grade 1 Barclays National over 1600m at Turffontein.
What been planned as a lightning raid turned out to be an enforced five-day stay after soaking rains on the Transvaal brought about a three day postponement to the Turffontein fixture. Fears that he might have been affected by the altitude in his extended stay were dispelled when Model Man bounded away in the yielding going to slam Horse of the Year Enchanted Garden by a widening 5 lengths with the remainder of the field hopelessly beaten.
The equine flu epidemic necessitated a change of plans in his programme and when racing returned to normal, it was the R300 000 J&B Metropolitan Stakes (Grade 1) at Kenilworth that presented itself as the next obvious goal. A 5 ½ length breeze in a top division 1400 at Clairwood showed him to be fit and well, and this time, avoiding the long road haul to the Cape, Model Man was airlifted into Cape Town.
Under a brilliant ride from Basil Marcus who had become his regular pilot since the Mainstay, Model Man kept going resolutely in the straight to notch his third successive Grade 1 win and, having beaten the best there was to offer during the term, put himself firmly in line for that magic million, his earnings then standing at R645 320.
Back in Natal for the winter season, his obvious prep race for the Rothmans July Handicap was the R250 000 Schweppes Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood, an event which had rapidly grown into one of the major prizes on the racing calendar. He gave his rivals a galloping lesson in this Grade 1 stakes, drawing further and further away in the stretch to win by a widening 6 lengths.
And so to the Rothmans July Handicap, a race which as is its custom, had attracted the best available Thoroughbreds in the country. A worthy favourite, Model Man was unable to go with them early and had only four runners behind him as the field swung into the straight at a cracking pace. Recording the fastest time over the final 400m, Model Man pegged back all but unbeaten Bush Telegraph to be beaten for the first time in 7 starts.
The Grade 1 Mainstay 1800 three weeks later was undoubtedly the race of the season, with the renewed clash between Model Man and Bush Telegraph enjoying top billing - the former out to crack the million and the latter to maintain an unblemished record. It was not to be for either, Model Man going under by a nose to Main Man, a colt later destined to sell for a million rand, with Bush Telegraph little more than a length back third.
Twice in contention for the million - victory in either the Rothmans or the Mainstay would have assured this - Model Man had to wait for the opening round of his fourth term of racing before finally achieving this milestone. A couple of seasons back Irish horse Spanish Pool had to win Greyville's Champion Stakes to become the first millionaire in South African racing, but he ran perhaps the worst race of his career to finish seventh and bow out of active competition with R913 899 in earnings. Second in the race that day was ill-fated Wild West, who posed the only apparent threat to Model Man in the six-horse field for the 1987 running of this Grade 1 event.
There was never any doubt in the minds of the faithful who flocked to Greyville on Saturday, August 8, sending Model Man off at /5 with Wild West at 5/1, the only other runner remotely considered in the betting. After briefly surrendering the lead in the main stages of the race, Model Man stode to an historic 1 ¼ length victory over Wild West with Fair Value a further 6 lengths back third.
The Champion Stakes was a remarkable thirteenth win in 19 starts, and thereby set a new national stakes earning mark of R1 005 440 - an exceptional record by an exceptional horse.
What now for Model Man ? "He's been in light work since the Champion Stakes. He only needs one or two more gallops and he'll be right there again. At this stage we have a second crack at the First National at Turffontein in mind, then possibly the Sun International in April followed by the Schweppes Challenge, Rothmans July, Mainstay 1800 and the Champion Stakes. But it all depends on Model Man's soundness when the time comes," said Pat Lunn.
All things being equal and with Model Man fit and well for these proposed races, the Champion Stakes next year will be his final track appearance and then it's back to the place of his birth, Colin Cohen's Odessa Stud, where the magnificent son of Elliodor (Fr) is due to commence stud duties in 1988. Model Man, who has been syndicated at a million rand as a stallion, has been leased back to Alec Thompson, John and Anthony Lunn for the remainder of his racing career.
We salute a horse who has brought a lot of racing pleasure, not only to those who have been closely connected with him, but to countless members of the racing public throughout the country.
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