The 2016 South African Championships reach a climax next weekend with Super Saturday (July 30), when the Champions Cup is top of the bill on a superb card at Greyville racetrack in Durban. And then it’s ‘Oscar’ time - when honors such as Horse of the Year and Champion Breeder are handed out at the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of South Africa’s annual Equus Awards (Tuesday, August 16).
In the countdown to that event, here are five of the biggest achievers of the championship season so far.
Newsmaker of the Season: Talktothestars
The 4-year-old son of Overlord’s rags-to-riches background has made him the year’s most popular Thoroughbred, with a following to rival that of recent star sprinter JJ The Jet Plane. He started out honing his skills as a sprinter at minor South African tracks before graduating to become the highest-rated horse in the country. It was his victory under top weight in the G1 Tsogo Sprint at Scottsville on June 4 that really set him apart.
Record of the Season: Piere Strydom
Riding The Conglomerate, Piere Strydom made it four Durban July victories after outsmarting his rivals to take home the R4.25 million prize. Strydom shares the record with just three other jockeys – Harold “Tiger” Wright, Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech.
Most Memorable Win: The Conglomerate (Durban July)
Despite a bad draw on the outside and odds of 22-1, The Conglomerate produced a stunning finish to grab the spoils under Piere Strydom. The rider steered the Joey Ramsden-trained gelding into fourth early on as Dynamic controlled the race, then burst into the home stretch five adrift to go clear in the final furlong.
Team of the Season: trainer Joey Ramsden and owners Markus and Ingrid Jooste
After their Durban July win with The Conglomerate, Ramsden and the Joostes teamed up again to take the G1 Mercury Sprint with Red Ray. It was Ramsden’s first Durban July and Red Ray’s first G1.
Comeback of the Season: Red Ray at the Mercury Sprint
Things weren’t going well for the 5-year-old. A disappointing seventh when favorite for a G2 at Meydan in Dubai in 2015, he returned to South Africa this year but underperformed in both the Tsogo Sun Sprint and the G2 Post Merchants. But trainer Joey Ramsden worked his magic for the G1 Mercury Sprint at Greyville last week, when the son of Western Winter, fitted with blinkers for the first time, scored a memorable victory.
Marinaresco’s bid to join the party
Will Super Saturday’s G1 Champions Cup on July 30 add a final highlight? South Africans can watch live to see if Durban July runner-up Marinaresco can go one better, while U.S. race fans will be able to live-stream the Durban race at advance deposit wagering sites like TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, and NYRA Rewards. They can also visit Sky Racing World’s website australianracing.com for form guides and tips on South Africa’s major races.
David Haslett, a former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April, 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.