Summerhill's earliest taste of success in the event occurred in rapid succession courtesy of a brace of the issue of our multiple champion sire, Northern Guest. The first came in the midst of a storm of controversy which saw his daughter, Northern Princess challenged as the winner of the race, by the connections of one of his most famous sons, Senor Santa. That led to the staging of the famous match race, the Winning Form Team Challenge, arising from the handicapper’s spurning of the “The Senor’s” credentials to stay a mile when he was the unmatched champion sprinter of the land. While Michael Roberts, on the filly, rode his adversary to “sleep” in the match, Senor Santa subsequently vindicated himself with a Group One victory at a mile. Just three years later, another son of exceptional talent, Unaware, stole the limelight in what by then was the richest race at the distance on the African continent.
The special relationship which the farm forged with the hotel over many years of staying at Emperors Palace, led to the concept of a race attached to the Ready To Run Sale which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year; by its 8th renewal, the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup had become the richest horseracing event on the South African calendar at R3.85million, (richer, yes, than the Vodacom Durban July). While seven of the nine luminaries of that race to date are graduates of Summerhill, the success of the event and the publicity it attracted eventually witnessed the introduction of an added feature to the day’s sport through the conversion of the November Handicap to what is now known as the Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile.
While entries for the Ready To Run Cup are understandably delayed till just a week before its scheduled running to enable late qualifiers to make the cut, the Charity Mile entries have already been published, and appropriately, five (around 15% of the nominees) are graduates of the Summerhill draft at the Ready To Run Sale. While the most interesting of them is the emerging Sean Tarry-trained “star” Wukkin ‘Up, the other four all have highly advertised racing credentials as Group One and/or Classic performers in their own rights; that said, only multi-millionaire No Worries, in a quartet which includes the only colt in last year’s Classic generation to win Group Ones at both two and three, Rabada, the Guineas placed Champagne Haze and the multiple Group One-performing Intergalactic, doesn’t have issues with his draw.
Overcoming a poor slot is one thing, but when you have to do it against the Vodacom Durban July ace, The Conglomerate, recent Gold Challenge laureate, Mac De Lago, and Group One performers of the ilk of Master Sabina, New Predator, St Tropez and Deputy Jud, as well as the former winner, Bezanova, you’ve got some task on your shoulders.