Gold Cup
Gold Cup

1945 Owners Gold Cup Trophy

(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)


Greyville, Turf, 3200m

28 July 2012

South Africa’s most famous staying race, the 3200m Gold Cup (Grade 1) sponsored by Ladbrokes, brings the KwaZulu-Natal Champions Season to a close Saturday at Greyville Racecourse.

Some years ago, Sotheby’s auctioned the 1945 Owner’s Gold Cup trophy won by Hartford’sSalmon, and since its rightful home was here at Summerhill (which incorporates Hartford these days), we felt we had to buy it. So prized were these pure gold trophies and so magnificent the craftsmanship, we had to venture a king’s ransom in order to bring it home.

That’s what people were racing for in those days, and it was the knowledge that there were just a handful of these left in the vaults of the Durban Turf Club, which led us to propose to our old friend Alec Foster back in the 90’s, that we try to breed a Gold Cup winner. Being the sportsman that he is, Alec proceeded to do just that, the fruits of his endeavours being Cereus’ cruise in the 2002 renewal.

In all, we bred four horses with that in mind, one of them a nine time winner at distances up to a mile (we obviously read his pedigree wrong), one a Champion Three-Year-Old filly of her year and a dual Oaks winner, Icy Air (the recipe was right there,) and the other one damn near did it again. He was Amphitheatre, whose stirring victory in the Gold Vase (Grade 2) on the eve of the race cost him a 2kg penalty, which in the end cost him the Gold Cup as well, as he went down a neck in the dying strides to Highland Night.

Summerhill and Hartford have a distinguished record in the race. No property has produced more than three winners outside of ours, which has strung together a total of five all told, commencing with Salmon, Cosmonaut, and Alhambra, and in modern times Cereus and the Champion Stayer of two seasons ago, Desert Links.

Sarah Whitelaw looks back at the rich history of the Gold Cup :

“Over the years, the Gold Cup has been won by a host of horses - from complete outsiders to genuine champions. It is also the race which has many times determined the country’s top stayer (although sometimes it is the sole deciding factor - which makes the choice rather unsatisfactory).

The Gold Cup was first run back in 1926, when the race was won by Sun Lad who carried all of 6 stone 8 (or 46 kgs!) to victory. Sun Lad went off at odds of 9-1 and was owned by leading owner-breeder Sir Abe Bailey, who appropriately bred and owned the great staying sire Son In Law. The 1926 Gold Cup was one of just two wins for Sun Lad during the season, and he is unlikely to be regarded as one of the race’s better winners! The first Gold Cup was contested over today’s distance of 3200m and was worth a total of 2,000 pounds.

The first horse to win the Gold Cup on two occasions was Humidor, who was victorious in 1933 and 1935. Humidor scored his first win carrying just 50kgs, winning as a 5 year old. Runner up, Candican, was giving the winner over two stone! Two years later, the imported son of Galloper Lad carried 52.5 kgs to ensure himself a place in the record books. Humidor was more impressive in his second win - winning by a length, with another five lengths back to the third placed finisher.

While Candican put up one of the greatest weight carrying achievements ever seen in the race, another gallant effort came in 1930, when Glen Albyn (Bridge of Earn) ran second under 9 stone 10 - or 136 lbs. He was beaten just half a length, giving the winner, Artist Glow, one stone.

To date, four horses have won the Gold Cup twice, but the last horse to win South Africa’s premier staying race in consecutive years was Highland Night (Badger Land), who won the race in 2002 and 2003. Only once, has there been a dead heat in the race - and that was back in 1977 when Don The Stripe and Pacer shared the spoils.

Since 1945, the greatest winning margin in the Gold Cup has been the four and a half length winning distance put up by Devon Air (Sparkler), who triumphed in 1984.

Felix Coetzee, who partners In Writing in Saturday’s big race, has a magnificent record in the Gold Cup. Coetzee has won the marathon event on no fewer than six occasions, incuding three years straight with Devon Air, Voodoo Charm and Occult.

One rider who enjoyed even greater success in the Gold Cup was the late Charlie Barends. He captured the event seven times - and won it in back to back years with Chez Monty (1949 and 1950).

There have been a number of stallions who have played a major role in the history of the Gold Cup however, Hobnob (Gyr), widely regarded as one of South Africa’s all time leading sires of high-class stayers, never sired a Gold Cup winner. He did sire three placed horses in the big race. This lack of success is puzzling when taking into account the fact that Hobnob sired three Gold Bowl winners, two SA Derby winners and numerous Oaks winners.

Champion sire, Foveros, is one stallion who certainly made his mark on the Gold Cup. He sired Gold Cup winners Aquanaut, and Festive Forever, while he is also damsire of 2007 winner, Thundering Star.

Dancing Champ is another to make a real impact on the 3200m feature. Sire of two Gold Cup winners (Castle Walk and Space Walk), he is the maternal grandsire of the 2004/2005 winners, Major Bluff and Reveille Boy.

Back in the 1940’s, the sire Montrose, by English Derby winner Coronach, dominated the Gold Cup. Over a five year period, the offspring of Montrose captured the great race on four occasions! In total, Montrose sired four Gold Cup winners, who captured the race on five occasions. His Gold Cup winners were His Lordship (1948), Chez Monty (1949 and 1950), Ladys Mon (1951) and Coquimbo (1953).

While many future top horses have won the race, the list of champions beaten in the Gold Cup is a long one. The likes of Badger’s Coast (Badger Land), Surfing Home (Capote), River Jetez (Jet Master), Gondolier (Jamaico), Young Rake (Rakeen), Big Charles (Beau Charles), Grand National (Port Merion), Floatyourboat (Jet Master) and Furious (Savonarola) are just some of  the G1 winners and champions to have tasted defeat, often to inferior, and lightly weighted, horses in the Gold Cup.

Fillies and mares have enjoyed some success in the Gold Cup, without ever dominating their male rivals. The last female to capture the race was Colonial Girl (Stage Colony), who defeated Fairfields Fancy (Exclusive Patriot) by three parts of a length back in 2000. Other fillies and mares to win South Africa’s most famous staying race include Devon Air (1984), Festive Forever (1996) and Bella Bianca (1998). Both Festive Forever and Devon Air enjoyed success at stud, with the former producing the G1 winning champion Fearless (Western Winter) and the latter throwing two stakes winners. Devon Air is also the granddam of the high-class performers, She’s On Fire (Jet Master) and August Rush (Var).

While many Durban July contenders compete in the Gold Cup, the race has not been won by a July winner since Ilustrador in 1990 (although the 1993 Gold Cup winner Space Walk subsequently “won” the July on the disqualification of original winner, Surfing Home). Other horses to complete the July/Gold Cup double include Occult, Devon Air and Excise.

Famous for producing a number of upsets, and not a race which has been kind to favourites over the years, the Gold Cup has been won by such longshots as Stateway (33-1), Rack and Ruin (25-1), Fauvist (33-1), and Millverof (25-1).

The first three finishers in the 2011 event started at the odds of 45-1, 35-1 and 15/2 - with the favourite running fourth.

The most recent favourite to win the marathon event was Ancestral Fore, who landed the spoils in 2010.

The Gold Cup has a long and rich history, and, no doubt, Saturday’s race will further add to the races fabled past.

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