paul matchett

Paul Matchett
(Heather Morkel)

While he obviously has a purpose behind his tenacity, one fellow with an axe to grind over the conditions attaching to the Sale and the entries for the Big Race the day before, is Paul Matchett, who has been as successful as any trainer connected with the sale in producing quality runners from it.

This year, Paul has one of the leading fancies for the R1,25 million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup (at Turffontein on the 1st November) in Fakazi, winner the weekend before last of the Goldfields Sprint under 58kgs. Paul has been of the view that fillies are under sufferance with their 2,5 kg allowance from the colts in this race, and that there should be a split stake and separate events for colts and fillies. While his reasoning is understandable, it was on the advice of the handicapper that we arrived at the 2,5kg allowance, and our purpose was to develop a massive jackpot which would get people’s adrenalin rushing for the money involved in a single race.

Of course, we’re now looking at something of the order of R1,5 million (it’s likely to well exceed that, provided the owners come to the party), and been growing interest in the event all the time. Our difficulties though, in a split event arise principally from the fact that there would be an undoubted dilution in the concentration of quality in two races, given that we limit the sale to 150 entries (or thereabouts), thus providing buyers with the best odds in the world of claiming the spoils in what has become the richest horserace attached to a Ready To Run Sale anywhere.

As Graeme Hawkins explains, the Top Sport Bloodline Million (as it was in those days) was one helluva race when the field was combined, but its impact on the public imagination dissipated dramatically as soon as the event was split, so if only for that reason, we should continue to do as we have in the past, for the time being at least.

Truth is though, we have to keep banging on the door of the Graded Stakes committee, who have vacillated in their response to the demand that this race should carry Black type status. They awarded it to the race when it was at R500 000 the first year, they were vindicated when the first four past the post in the inaugural event revealed a Group 2 class field, and yet, swayed by all sorts of debatable interventions, they’ve taken the status away for this year, the excuse being that nowhere else are restricted races recognised as Black type.

It didn’t take us too long to provide any number of examples of restricted Listed events in both Australia and America, where the Graded stakes system is more akin to ours than the Group race (or pattern system) applied in Europe, which the Graded Stakes committee finally acknowledged. Nonetheless, they’ve stuck to their guns, and we need to persuade them with a couple of good results, that they erred in judging it the way they did.