horse racing in early johannesburg
horse racing in early johannesburg

In pursuit of fortunes… Johannesburg, South Africa

(Photos : DVMinerals/ABDN/VinatgePC)

SANSUI SUMMER CUP

Saturday 28 November 2009 will witness the staging of Johannesburg’s most historical race, the Grade 1 R2,000,000 Sansui Summer Cup to be run over 2000m at Turffontein Racecourse.

The Summer Cup is almost as old as Johannesburg itself with the inaugural event taking place in 1887, a year after the dusty mining camp that would become Johannesburg sprang to life on a farm called Turffontein, following the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand. It’s fitting then that the race is run at a venue that overlooks the city’s landmark mine dumps.

Nicci Garner writes on Tab Online that these dumps form an integral part of the Summer Cup history. Well into the 1880’s, news about the “discovery of gold” on the Witwatersrand resulted in an influx of fortune seekers who came from all walks of life in coaches and ox wagons, as well as on foot and horseback.

Johannesburg was then a bleak region dotted with the occasional marsh, but what the settlers had in common was that they were prepared to gamble their lives on the chance of making a quick fortune.

The first horserace in Joburg took place in December 1886 and the inaugural Summer Cup was run the following year as the Johannesburg Handicap. The race was won by outsider Haco, a five-year-old trained by Mr du Plessis and ridden by J Bundy, and no one could have imagined that from its humble beginnings, the Summer Cup would become one of South Africa’s most famous racing events.

In its heyday the Summer Cup was the highlight of the Johannesburg feature-race season and one of the city’s social events of the year, but following Cape challenger King’s Guard’s victory in 1971, the name of the race was changed to accommodate a new sponsor. As the years rolled by further changes were made to the event’s name, conditions and date which diminished the race’s glitter until it eventually became the Champion Stakes, run annually in April.

In 1999 horseracing and tote betting company Phumelela reintroduced the Summer Cup to the racing calendar in its traditional format.

Many famous horses have won through the years and they include Pamphlet (1917), Lenin (1940), Cuff Link (1963), Caradoc (1966) and Home Guard (1970).

One horse who really grabbed attention was the Jack Butler-trained four-year-old, Java, who pulled off a remarkable Summer Cup hat-trick from 1956 to 1958.

Elevation was to repeat those exploits almost 20 years later. Trained by the inimitable George Azzie, the chestnut landed his first victory in 1972 when the race was run as the Holiday Inns for the first time. He went on to score again in 1973 before completing a fantastic hat-trick under a big weight in 1974.

SUMMER CUP HONOURS ROLL 1999 - 2008

YEAR

HORSE

OWNERS

TRAINER

JOCKEY

1999

EL PICHA

Messrs Brian B Roux, TM Millard, A Swersky

Geoff Woodruff

Robbie Hill

2000

DELTA FORM

Mr & Mrs MA Airey, Messrs WI Geary, OV Leibrandt, RJ Simpson, BB Sinclair

Mike de Kock

Guillermo Figueroa

2001

INGLESIDE

Mr B Kantor

Mike de Kock

Kevin Shea

2002

EVENTUAIL

Mr & Mrs L Jaffee

Geoff Woodruff

Piere Strydom

2003

WOLF WHISTLE

Mrs PM Sargent, MP Egan, HR Enderle, WW Fenner, PK Harris

Mike de Kock

Kevin Shea

2004

TYSON

Messrs MK Naidoo & R Pancham

Stuart Pettigrew

Piere Strydom

2005

ILHA DA VITORIA

Mrs M Slack

Mike de Kock

Weichong Marwing

2006

MALTEME

MC Gerber, J Gerber, GL Blank, DI Catterall, MA Currie, GC Chamberlain & PG Joubert

Alec Laird

Brett Smith

2007

STRATEGIC NEWS

Messrs CG Snyman, JJ Snyman, L Steyn, MG Gramenie, DL Cunha, LL Cunha

Dylan Cunha

Glyn Schofield

2008

RUDRA

Messrs Tony Moodley, P Bayvel, MF De Kock, MC Gerber & F Ladeira

Mike de Kock

Kevin Shea