pierre jourdan horse of the year
pierre jourdan horse of the year

Team Alexander - Pierre Jourdan - Horse Of The Year

(Photo : JC Photographics / Summerhill Stud)



Besides Johannesburg, is there a place in the world where racehorses compete at an altitude of 2000m? That’s one explanation, besides its 800 metre straight, why Turffontein is known as the “house of pain”.

For that reason, alone, any three year old with the speed to crush his opposition at 1200m, and the versatility to carry that speed two kilometres, has to be something. To ask him to take it another 450 metres, as Pierre Jourdan was asked on Derby Day, is testing the limits of reality. That’s why only one horse since the Triple Crown’s inauguration, has ever managed it, and it’s probably why the fact Pierre Jourdan’s record stands at 6 wins and 2 seconds from 8 starts instead of 8/8. The Derby might’ve undone him in the end, but it took little away from what he’s done for racing.

Saturday night was Highveld Racing’s opportunity to honour their new star, and they did it in grand style at the Emperors Palace, Fifa’s gateway to next month’s World Cup.

Up against the formidable likes of Smart Banker, Rudra, Regal Ransom, Irish Flame and the rest, there’s no doubt how anyone with any sentiment in their veins, would’ve voted. In the space of three short months, Pierre Jourdan has done more for racing and journalism’s pre-occupation with our sport, than any other horse in recent memory, and his clean sweep of the trophy deck was just reward for a spectacular season. First up, he took the Champion Three Year Old crown, and then the judges remembered his imperious closing effort in the SA Classic (Gr.1) by handing him the title of Champion Middle Distance Horse.

Pitted against all comers from all ages, his rewriting of racing’s script was climaxed with his annointment as Horse Of The Year.

This was a big moment in the pantheon of a big sport, but it was an even bigger moment for little owners. Here was a horse who reminded us all that this is a game we can all play, where limited budgets occasionally prevail over the unlimited, where people with cafes on street corners can level the playing fields with the mightiest. When the Emilio Baiseros and Gary Alexanders of this world get to beat the Harry Oppenheimers and the Michael de Kocks for a change.

Recalling his fellow Summerhill heroes, Hear The Drums and Imbongi, “PJ” was not quite forgotten, but shunned nonetheless by the overwhelming bulk of judges at the 2008 renewal of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale. In one of our sport’s great ironies, on one weekend, all three were poised to change racing’s landscape in three different parts of the world.

Hear The Drums, with a crack at history’s record number of wins, Imbongi taking on the world in the Hong Kong Mile (Gr.1), and PJ with a tilt at the Triple Crown. As modest as Pierre Jourdan’s R60,000 purchase price was, even more so was Hear The Drums at R42,000. Imbongi made neither. He was the forgotten man of the Ready To Run, raising not a single bid, and only, with the writing clearly on the wall, making any sort of a sale when just a half of him was acquired by Ronnie Napier and Michael Fleischer on the farm gallops.

For good measure, Summerhill took Breeder Of The Year, for the fifth time in six seasons.