(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
SOUTH AFRICAN HORSERACING
If you’ve been reading these columns, you already know the bursting pride with which Summerhill is celebrating its eighth consecutive Breeder’s Championship. This is a country with a rich tradition in horsemanship, and we are surrounded in the racing game with professionals whose talents match those of others across the world. We’ve often pointed to the achievements of our trainers in the international realm, and the fact that one of the most sought-after jockey’s titles, (Hong Kong), has been in South African hands for 19 of the past 20 years. It follows then, that back at home, you can expect matching achievements among those who ply their trade in South Africa, and there are several.
Lest he should be lost in the wash, the winningmost achiever is Northern Guest, Summerhill’s most famous resident of all-time. He clinched his tenth Broodmare Sires’ title this year, beating the modern day record of Mr. Prospector in the process.
Mike de Kock ascended to his seventh Trainer’s title, his third in a row, and to put these into perspective, remember, several of his best horses are abroad, yet his earnings this season were almost 50% better than his nearest pursuer.
Jet Master made it six Sires’ premierships, with five Group One winners - quite astounding! In any normal year, horses like Silvano and Var, who chalked up the most stakes winners with two champions respectively, would’ve been standouts; but they were relatively pale by comparison with Jet Master, who should finally be recognised as “the greatest stallion of all time”. We need to recall here that he was a R15,000 weanling, that there were no stakes winners in his first four dams (the family resided here, so we know it intimately), and that he has made it in the most competitive stallion environment in our history.
Markus and Ingrid Jooste have aspired to their fifth Owner’s title, and Anton Marcus, who contributed handsomely to that award, took the Jockey’s Championship for the second year running. Spare a thought here for young Gavin Lerena, who rode his heart out (and broke it in the process), in going down by one winner on the last day of the season. Both these fellows were exemplary in their professionalism, and both are grand ambassadors for the game. Lerena will have his day, and many of them to boot, but for now, Anton continues to be the standard by which our jockeys are measured, not only for his riding talents, but for elevating the profession from the perspective of his conduct, his gentlemanliness and the adage that there’s no substitute for hard work.