(Photo : Freeman Stallions)
It wouldn’t be overstating things that London News record-breaking victory in Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr.1) in 1997, was as big an event for South African racegoers, as the Springboks’ World Cup victory was in 1995.
As a five-time Group One winner, he gave weight and draw to the whole field, and while it would be overdoing things to say he beat “the world” on that historic day, that he broke the Sha Tin track record and had some serious performers in his wake, is no exaggeration.
As we remember one of South Africa’s gamest racehorses, lamenting his passing reminds us that this was no one-race-wonder. The Classic at Turffontein, the Daily News 2000 and the July at Greyville, and an astonishing performance in the J&B Met are all part this man’s C.V. Yet it was that day at Sha Tin that sticks in the mind.
He was the first “South African” to win abroad in the post-political era, and he was the first to win at anything like this level in the East. But those who lived through the political turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, will know what events like this brought in the way of relief, and especially the recognition among local horsemen, that we could do it. It’s probably not beyond the realms of possibility, that it was this one performance that stimulated the likes of Mike de Kock to try their hands so in foreign climes in the years that followed. That’s another story, and it’s now so long, it demands a tome.
As much as anything, London News’ big day in Hong Kong was a tribute to the enterprise and sportsmanship of Laurie and Jean Jaffee, and the sad events of Monday which saw this great warrior laid to rest, brings to an end a spectacular chapter in the lives of three great South Africans.