As the curtain comes down on the 2016-17 season as well as this column, some important questions will be answered at this weekend’s two day Festival at Greyville.
Not least is who is likely to be voted “Horse-of-the-Year” at the Equus awards banquet there are probably four in the running: Marinaresco, Whisky Baron, Captain America and Bela-Bela.
Two experts, Robin Bruss and Racing Express’ Jack Milner, believe Marinaresco will get the award if he wins Saturday’s World Sports Be ing Champions Cup.
“It must count against Whisky Baron that he hasn’t raced for half of the season so Marinaresco is probably favourite although Bela- Bela will come into the equation if she can beat the boys,” said Robin.
Jack commented: “If Marinaresco wins on Saturday, he’d be my choice. If not, he is in the mix with Whisky Baron and Captain America if he wins.”
Personally, I hope Marinaresco doesn’t win – I still believe punters were thrown a curved ball with his unplaced run in the Gold Challenge.
The Cup should be a fascinating race and the tote are o er- ing an enticing consolation bet whereby if your horse runs first in the Champions Cup and second in Sunday’s Gold Cup – and vice- versa punters receive a dividend.
My Champions Cup bet is two Quartets – double oat Bela-Bela and Ten Gun Salute with the eld as well as double oat Bela-Bela and Black Arthur with the eld.
It’s possible I have over-rated Ten Gun Salute who has two lengths to find with Black Arthur on the July form, but the fact Weichong Marwing has stuck with Duncan Howells’ charge is a massive plus.
Black Arthur was only just over a length behind Marinaresco in the July and I feel he can finish in the money this time.
Another important Equus category is Champion Two-Year-Olds and in the male department – much will depend on the result of the Premiers Champion Stakes.
My advice here is take the double – Sean Tarry’s Golden Horseshoe victor, Purple Diamond, with Kinaan in Sunday’s eLan Gold Cup. You had to like the way the Var colt won on July Day and with Piere Strydom as the pilot – the youngster can provide the champion trainer with another feature race win.
It’s very rarely that I go for the favourite in the Gold Cup but this year is an exception. Not only is Kinaan a son of the best stallion in the world in Galileo, but had the perfect prep when Callan Murray partnered him into third place in the Gold Vase.
The 20-year-old Murray just a month away from his 21st birthday is the Jordan Spieth of SA racing although he’s a long way to go before he can boast a similar bank balance!
Victory for Kinaan likely to be challenged by Hermoso Mundo would probably see Mike de Kock’s charge walk o with the Equus Champion Stayers trophy.
There’s no Equus award for the media this year, but the decision has actually work in journos favour with Drakenstein Stud taking up the baton and offering a cash prize. The winner of the award – being judged by Team Valor’s Barry Irwin will be announced on 15 August.
Looking back at the season, it’s been particularly memorable for two trainers Sean Tarry and Brett Crawford. When Sean reached R27 million in stake earnings in the 2015-16 campaign, it was a gure which some suggest- ed could stand for years.
How wrong was that assessment! The 48-year-old looks like ending the season with earnings of R36 million – and he’s reached that figure without winning any of the “majors” the July, Met or Summer Cup.
Brett Crawford finished in 12th place in the national log in 2015-16 – what a difference 12 months later with the likeable Cape trainer in third position with more than 100 winners.
Finally, after 14 years this column is coming to an end, and I would like to thank Nicci Garner, Robert Garner and Jack Milner for their support over this long period.
I probably caused them a few headaches along the way, but they’re experienced journos who realise readers need some comment on racing’s issues not just race meeting previews.