There’s an age old misconception that the Vodacom July (now in its third guise, having progressed from the Durban July to the Rothmans July), generally regarded as Africa’s greatest horse race, if not its greatest sporting event, is also the oldest race on the Kwa Zulu Natal racing calendar. However, that’s not entirely accurate as the Breeder’s Stakes was first run in 1895, and enjoyed its 113th renewal at Clairwood Park on Saturday.
With the exception of Imbongi and the tragically deceased Lostintranslation (both Summerhill-breds), the field represented pretty much the cream of the Kwa Zulu Natal three-year-olds. It was a compliment to the Summerhill sires, and to those that ply their trade on the farm, that eight of the sixteen that made up the field were sired right here. Indeed, seven of the sixteen were raised here, so it’s probably fair to say that in the game of cowboys and crooks, we pretty much had ‘em surrounded.
Before we get to the race itself, those who read this column regularly, will recall the untimely death six weeks ago of Kahal’s most famous son, Emperor Napoleon. At the time, he looked a blinder for the continent’s richest race, the R3.5million Gomma Gomma Challenge, and for a young stallion on his way to the top, this was a mortal blow. It was made all the more painful by the fact that Kahal had already lost what was arguably as talented a son, (and the winner of this very race last year) in Khebraat, so two from that fine crop had fallen by the wayside, and to the degree that he is not a stallion represented by that many runners, we can only conjecture on the impact it has had on his overall earnings. Khebraat had humbled no less a horse than the hero of last year’s Gomma Gomma Challenge Pick Six, in the 2007 edition of the KZN Breeders, as well as a horse who had come home third behind Dynamite Mike and Jay Peg in the KZN Guineas, Surfin’ USA, (and we all know where Jay Peg’s been to since.)
But you can’t get a good man down, and on Sunday, Kahal rose from the ashes once again, with his sons filling first, second and fourth just three representatives in the race. Overall, the race was a triumph for the Summerhill runners who claimed five of the first six spots home. For the record, Connington Stud’s Carbon Leader (by Kahal) took the lion’s share of the purse, while Sheikh Mohammed’s Galant Gagnant and Art Of War came home second and fourth respectively. These latter two where graduates of the 2007 Ready To Run, and both look capable of moving up from here, particularly Galant Gagnant who is shaping up to be a Derby prospect.