SANSUI SUMMER CUP (Grade 1)
Turffontein, Turf, 2000m
30 November 2013
The Summer Cup, sponsored by Sansui for the first time in 2009, is nearly as old as Johannesburg itself and has a rich and fascinating history.
It was first run in 1887, a year after the dusty mining camp that was to become Johannesburg sprang up on the farm Turffontein following the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand.
No one could have envisaged then that 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.
In the 1970s changes to the name, conditions and date diminished the race’s glitter and it eventually became the Champion Stakes. 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 the race down the years and they include Pamphlet (1917), Lenin (1940), Cuff Link (1963), Caradoc (1966) and Home Guard (1970).
One horse who really grabbed the attention of the country was Java, trained by Jack Butler. He pulled off the remarkable feat of a Summer Cup hat-trick, starting in 1956 as a four-year-old before going on to claim the honours again the following two years.
The mighty Elevation was to repeat the exploits of Java 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. Elevation went on to score again in 1973 before completing a fantastic hat trick under a big weight in 1974.
In more recent times Roland’s Song stands out with consecutive wins in 1990 and 1991 and few racing fans will forget the emphatic manner in which the brilliant Empress Club stamped her authority on the race in 1992.
Top trainer Mike de Kock has won the race a record nine times with six of those victories coming since the race’s reintroduction in 1999 - Delta Form (2000), Ingleside (2001), Wolf Whistle (2003), magnificent grey mare Ilha da Vitoria in 2005 and then Rudra who smashed the opposition in 2008. And De Kock nearly did it again in 2009, when his charge Meet At Malamala was a close third. Then in 2010 he saddled Flirtation to win the race. De Kock’s first three winners were Evening Mist (1989 when the race was run as the Administrator’s Champion Stakes), Record Edge (1997, the Skeaping Champion Stakes) and Golden Hoard in 1998 (Champion Stakes).
Summerhill has an entry in the big race, with 2012 Vodacom Durban July runner-up, Smanjemanje. The seven-year-old gelding seems to be in form once again and is peaking nicely, and if any of his earlier victories are anything to go by, he could one again be a “giant-killer” in a race loaded with class.