Some Equus Award cat­e­gories still up for grabs

The Star Early Edition - - RACING - AN­DREW HAR­RI­SON

THE two-day Gold Cup Fes­ti­val of Rac­ing, tak­ing place at Greyville next Satur­day and Sun­day, brings the cur­tain down on the sea­son and while some of the cat­e­gories for the Equus Awards are al­ready fairly set­tled as far as likely can­di­dates are con­cerned and up for de­bate, there are still a num­ber of ques­tions to be an­swered come the fi­nal two race meet­ings.

Two cat­e­gories that go down to the wire al­most ev­ery year are Cham­pion Two-year-old Male and Filly. As things stand at present Gr1 Al­lan Robert­son Cham­pi­onship win­ner Brave Mary, Gr2 SA Fil­lies Nurs­ery win­ner Green Plains and Gr2 Golden Slip­per win­ner Desert Rhythm would ap­pear to be the prin­ci­pal con­tenders for the filly’s award.

Of this trio, only Desert Rhythm is an en­try in the Gr1 Thek­wini Stakes next Sun­day and vic­tory there will go a long way to ce­ment­ing her place at the top of the pile.

Mus­taaqeem

In the male cat­e­gory, Gr1 SA Nurs­ery win­ner Mus­taaqeem will be an au­to­matic con­tender as will Gr1 Tsogo Sun Gold Medal­lion win­ner and un­beaten Sand And Sea along with Gr2 Golden Horse­shoe win­ner Pur­ple Di­a­mond. The lat­ter pair are both en­tries in the Gr1 Pre­miers Cham­pion Stakes.

Other cat­e­gories that are far from set­tled are Cham­pion Older Male and Cham­pion Mid­dle Dis­tance.

Ob­vi­ous con­tenders for both cat­e­gories are Le­gal Ea­gle, Whisky Baron and Marinaresco.

Le­gal Ea­gle and Whisky Baron are done for the sea­son but Marinaresco will en­hance his chances in both cat­e­gories if he tri­umphs in the Gr1 World Sports Bet­ting Cham­pi­ons Cup next Satur­day.

In the older male cat­e­gory, Gr1 Ris­ing Sun Gold Chal­lenge win­ner Cap­tain Amer­ica must be in con­tention as well as in the Cham­pion Miler cat­e­gory where he will be up against reign­ing Horse of the Year, Le­gal Ea­gle.

Cham­pion Stayer has al­ways been a bone of con­tention with the only Gr1 that falls into this cat­e­gory (2400m and fur­ther) be­ing the Gr1 SA Derby, ob­vi­ously re­stricted to three-year-olds.

All other stay­ing stakes races over ground are Gr3 or Listed, in­clud­ing the eLAN Gold Cup that has been down-graded from Gr1 to Gr3 in spite of a Gr1 stake of R1 mil­lion.

How­ever, no mat­ter the down-grade, it still ranks as the coun­try’s lead­ing race over ground through tra­di­tion and also as most of the coun­try’s best stay­ing horses com­pete on a level play­ing field.

Derby win­ner Al Sa­hem will be in con­tention and the Gold Cup is likely to have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on the Equus judges.

Carry On Alice, re­tired af­ter her tri­umph in the Gr1 SA Fil­lies Sprint, and who won a Gr1 in each of the four sea­sons’ that she raced, has sur­pris­ingly not won an Equus award al­though fea­tur­ing promi­nently in nom­i­na­tions each year.

She is a strong con­tender this year for Cham­pion Older Filly or Mare and also Cham­pion Sprinter.

Sil­vano

Sil­vano has sewn up the Cham­pion Stal­lion award for the sec­ond time ahead of the re­cently de­ceased Cap­tain Al while Klaw­ervlei are way clear of peren­nial ri­vals Sum­mer­hill Stud in the lead­ing stud cat­e­gory The hu­man cat­e­gories are all but done-and-dusted. Markus and Ingrid Jooste un­der the May­fair Spec­u­la­tors ban­ner will again walk off with the tro­phy as lead­ing own­ers. Cham­pion Trainer elect Sean Tarry has en­joyed a phe­nom­e­nal year and has left his ri­vals trailing.

At time of writ­ing he had sent out 211 win­ners for record stakes of over R35 mil­lion, R15 mil­lion more than near­est ri­val Justin Snaith.

Sim­i­larly, An­thony Delpech is un­chal­lenged for the Cham­pion Jockey ti­tle ahead of Gavin Ler­ena.

The Equus Awards will be held at Em­per­ors Palace in Jo­han­nes­burg on Tues­day evening, Au­gust 15.

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