You might have thought from the heading that this was aimed at conserving the last of a dying species, but it isn’t. It’s a celebration of local, provincial and national highlights from the weekend’s sports, and since our readers come here principally for news of the gee gees, let’s cut to the chase. When No Worries seized the initiative half-way up the Turffontein straight in the Johannesburg Spring Challenge (Gr.2) on Saturday, the message from his burly presence was simple: he was here for business and while he was still short of his best, he swatted off the challenges wherever they came from. Remarkably, for a horse whose earnings have already passed the R1.7million mark, he was earning his first “Black type”, in spite of a record of three previous Group One performances. Of course, he’d already been a winner of a million bucks event, sadly denied its Black type status for reasons best known to those who don’t know how the world deals with these things, but that’s a story for another day.
This of course, was the horse that earned Brian Burnard his moniker, “Buffalo Bill”, when he debuted as a racehorse owner just two-and-a-half years ago at the inaugural Emperors Palace Summer Ready to Run Sale in our School Of Equine Excellence, taking on and sometimes beating the established money, Alesh Naidoo, Keith Young and Glanville Gardiner. “Buff” has the booming voice of a big “daga” bull, and on big days and particularly in the Group Ones, you can hear it from the test pitch at Kingsmead cricket ground when the finish gets tight; he didn’t need it on Saturday. If the handicappers are not unkind to him, No Worries will be a contender come Summer Cup time, as Gavin Van Zyl still has a bit to work on.
Within the week, Tomorrow’s Miss skated home in the Emerald Casino Fillies Stakes (Listed) chalking up her first Black type victory for Roy Magner and his merry band of Justus van Wyk, Steve Chatfield, Kevin Soal, John Wright and Dr. Marx. She’s another advert for the Summer Ready To Run, a bargain buy at R80,000 for earnings of more than half a million now, and a timely prod that “there’s a horse for everyone at the Ready To Run”.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to confess that just a month ago, many a rugby supporter was forecasting the extinction of the Sharks, yet even with the troubled news of Jake White’s departure for the Hottentots-Holland, the Sharks have finally rediscovered their mojo (and their fans); their demolition of the Lions on Friday night (four in a row) has them in the box seat for a home semi. That’s a long way from the dismal prospect in early September of not finding a play-off berth at all. While it came at the cost of centre Paul Jordaan and hooker Karl Cooper, through the strange workings of the contract conditions for players in the national squad, it means that their game-breaking scrumhalf, Kobus Reinach, will be back in tow for both this weekend’s contest with the log leaders, and the play-offs after that. While their destiny is not in their hands alone, with Western Province looking to rest a few of their big men and the Cheetahs desperately hunting for a semi-final berth via a Lions defeat, those of us who call this neighbourhood home, might yet find ourselves watching a semi-final at King’s Park.
And then the history-maker. I don’t know about you, but I remember a speech at the post-match function by the former South African rugby supremo, Danie Craven, when he lauded the 1970 All Blacks as the best team since the 1955 Lions, and you’d have to think that the 1974 Lions were in that class. That said, judged even by their own phenomenal standards, this has to be the best All Black side New Zealand has fielded, maybe the finest rugby team the world has ever seen: which puts the Springboks’ victory on Saturday into a different context.
At last, we have the players and a coach who’s finally realised, as the fans did a few years ago, that the traditional kick-and-chase of Springbok rugby is not only a dinosaur, it’s for the bin. There can be nothing as disheartening for the five tight men who slave away in the engine room to win the ball, only to see it kicked into the hands of the best counter-attacking force the game has ever known. On Saturday, the Springboks gave full expression to the handling skills they’d had in the closet for the best part of three decades, and voila! Three sublime tries in the first “forty” against the tightest defence in the business. The key to the All Blacks success has been their conditioning, which told in the last 40 to make it a cliff-hanger. Until womanhood’s wobbly knee-maker, Sharkthrob Patrick Lambie, took aim from 53 metres for the silver.
Double for Treve
We put ourselves under a bit of pressure with our treatise on the Head family in our preview of Europe’s greatest horserace, the Prix de l Arc de Triomphe (Gr.1), staged in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne on Sunday. Unbeaten through her three-year-old career, and the heroine of the big race by five last year, Treve’s colours had been stripped down three times this term, so in sticking our necks out, we might have been accused of listening to our hearts rather than our heads. Except that the wonder filly is trained by the master’s daughter, Criquette Head-Maarek, who knew what she’d been battling with and persisted in the belief that she had one more big run in her. No worries, mate; as she purred her way down the Longhchamp highway, she put away Europe’s best mile and a half horses with the imperious grace of history’s greatest Arc winners, becoming only the seventh horse in almost a hundred years to win two of them. Never mind the pressure: on the day France Galop staged six Group Ones: three of them went to Criquette (2) and brother Freddy. It goes to show, blood still counts.
South Africa Leading Breeders By Stakes
1 August 2014 - 5 October 2014
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