Some Equus Award categories still up for grabs
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.
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 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.