EMPERORS PALACE READY TO RUN SALE
TBA Complex, South Africa
1 & 3 November 2013
It’s not only about the cash: it’s also a matter of style. Wherever you go in the horseracing world, you’ll find races that have stood the test of time, where the fans turn up in their droves for the sake of the rush, as much as the “dosh”. On the first Saturday in May, 165,000 aficionados jam themselves into the infield at Churchill Downs for the annual renewal of the Kentucky Derby. By no means the most valuable race in the land of the free, the pangs of “My old Kentucky home’, limitless quantities of mint julep and 135 years of history-making, render it the most compelling of all American racing spectacles.
The first Saturday in June has been the preserve of the English Derby at Epsom Downs for more than three centuries; that it’s not the richest race on the calendar and despite its contestation over the world’s “quirkiest” racecourse, does nothing to detract from the fact that the Derby remains the biggest crowd-puller in British sport.
Back home, the Durban July is the best-endowed sporting event on the African continent, though it wasn’t always so. Several pretenders have usurped that title from time-to-time, but it matters not: however many turn up on the outer fields after a Kings Park rugby test, there’s nothing to touch the infield at the Durban July when they line-up for the “thirteenth”. A hundred and sixteen memories, countless heroes, assassinations, betting coups, breed-shaping characters and incomparable competition guarantee the “July’s” status as the nation’s favourite sporting spectacle, and if you’re in the racehorse game, the one thing we all want above any, is a place among the twenty on the way to the post, not one of the 60,000 in the crowd.
Which brings us a little closer to home, and the “little” matter of the world’s richest Breeze-Up race. The Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup is only up for its 7th renewal, but already it’s carved an enviable niche in the annals of our game, with four Guineas winners, any number of millionaires, and talking of the “July”, a winner and two runners-up in the past three years. As a big race precursor, there’s nothing to touch it, but there’s more to the Ready To Run than just good conversation, old whiskey and Classic horses. There’s an old saying among its oldest consignors, that if you’re not already a millionaire, the Ready To Run can make you one.
Igugu, Pierre Jourdan, Smanjemanje, Fisani, Imbongi, Paris Perfect, Hear The Drums, Desert Links, Hollywoodboulevard, Blue Voyager, Mannequin, Icy Air, Emperor Napoleon, Pick Six, Rebel King, Nhlavini, Outcome, Bianconi, Bold Ellinore and Vangelis, some of them bought for modest money, have all reached the magic milestone, and for a sale patronised by most of the nation’s leading stud farms these days, you can bet this is only the appetiser.
At R3million, the Ready To Run Cup is not only Africa’s second richest horserace, it’s as much as the Sharks and Western Province had on the line for Saturday’s Currie Cup final. There’s another dimension though, to the Ready To Run, which takes it beyond the “one-trick pony” realm, and that lies in its style. We’ve talked about the English Derby, we’ve talked about the Kentucky Derby, and we’ve talked about the July, but what we haven’t talked about, is the patrons of the Ready To Run. For all their grandeur, none of the Derbies or the July, can match the “Emperors” version for its “royal” connections.
No race on the Gauteng calendar generates the “gas” of the Cup, and it’s not only the cash, but the occasion. Many a septuagenarian will tell you that you need to go back to the Summer Cups of the 50s and the 60s to know the buzz we’ll witness again in Saturday’s parade ring. Racing in general and the Ready To Run in particular, have been the beneficiaries of the love of the sport of two of the continent’s most respected heads of state, their Majesties King Letsie III and Queen Masenate of Lesotho, and just last year, the grace of the raceday claimed the endorsement of the world’s most glamorous “royal”, Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco. The prestige of the sale has its genesis in the assembly at the Summerhill gallops of some of the nation’s most astute judges of horseflesh, and in the appointment this year of Peter Miller, the former minister of finance, as Patron of the Gallops, for his outstanding service to racing over several decades.
No doubt about it, the Emperors Palace Ready To Run has arrived, and it’s here to stay. Pizzazz, charisma and cash, all the ingredients of an epic, and whether you’re a player or a spectator, you can’t help but be at the bullring when the auctioneers take to the stand at 4pm on Friday.
Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup
Saturday 2nd November
Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale
Lots 1-110 • Friday 1st November
Lots 111-248 • Sunday 3rd November