DUNCAN Howells will be crowned the KZN Champion trainer for the second time in his career later in the year at the KZN Racing Awards. Overall KZN yards had a few highlights in the 2016-2017 season, but will be hoping for a better Graded class campaign this term.
Howells got the better of Dennis Drier in what has become an annual duel for the KZN title, although Cape-based Dean Kannemeyer, who has a satellite yard at Summerveld, threatened once more to join the fray.
The KZN Trainer’s Championship is decided by number of winners in KZN-based races. Howells finished with 75 to Drier’s 69 and Kannemeyer’s 58.
However, the highest stakes earner in KZN races was national champion trainer Sean Tarry. In KZN he had 42 winners and stakes earnings of R9,277,425.
Tarry won three Grade 1 events in KZN. Carry On Alice won the SA Fillies Sprint and Bull Valley won both the Tsogo Sun Sprint and Mercury Sprint.
Drier had two Grade 1 victories during the season, both in KZN. Sand And Sea won the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion and Lady In Black won the Grade 1 Thekwini Stakes. Remarkably, it was Drier’s sixth Gold Medallion victory in eight years and seventh overall.
Howells was second in stakes earnings in KZN races with R7,853,262 and Drier was third with R6,934,412.
On the national log Howells finished in eleventh place with stakes earnings of R8,144,138 (75 winners) and Drier was in twelfth with R7,784,163 (80 winners).
The duel at one stage in KZN was between Drier and Mike de Kock, but Howells emerged in the 2013/2014 season to beat De Kock to the title.
Drier won for the next two seasons from Howells as De Kock began diminishing his KZN operation.
However, this season it was the famously hard working Howells’ turn.
Drier had his winning-most month in August last year with 11 victories, a month in which Howells had only three winners.
By the end of September Drier was on 18 and Howells on ten and by October’s end Drier was on 23 and Howells 15.
Kannemeyer’s eight winners in November saw him moving into second place on 17 winners behind Drier on 25, while Howells was in third on 16.
Drier’s quiet spell was not surprising as he takes his best horses down to Cape Town to campaign in the Cape Summer Of Champions Season.
Howells, in typical fashion, emerged from his November drought firing on all cylinders and had his second best month of the season in December with eleven winners. His yard proved once more their dynamism during this month.
The three-cornered contest had now hotted up.
The log in the next six month-ends’ respectively read: December: Drier 28, Howells 27, Kannemeyer 26; January: Drier 33, Howells 33, Kannemeyer 32; February: Howells 39, Drier 36, Kannemeyer 36; March: Howells 43, Drier 43, Kannemeyer 41; April: Howells 50, Drier 49 Kannemeyer 45; May: Howells 55, Drier 54, Kannemeyer 47.
There was all to play for entering the last month of the season as the standings at the end of June were Howells 62, Drier 60 and Kannemeyer 56.
However, the Howells yard had their best month of the season when it counted. Their 13 winners in July saw them finishing the season six clear of Drier’s yard, who were in turn eleven clear of Kannemeyer.
Howells’ highlights were winning the Grade 2 Betting World 1900 with Ten Gun Salute, the Grade 3 Strelitzia Stakes with Neptune’s Rain, the R1 million BSA Mile with Legend and he also won three other Non-Black Type events.
Drier had his most disappointing Cape season this decade.
However, besides his two Grade 1 wins in KZN, he also won the BSA Million Sprint with Hack Green and the Cornubia/Phoenix Sun Durban Dash with the three-year-old filly Sommerlied, who in the first KZN meeting of the season last Thursday lowered the Scottsville 1000m course record to 55,61 seconds.
There were a few highlights for other KZN yards during the season.
Gareth van Zyl made a dream start to his career as a licensed trainer at Greyville on Friday night, 28 October, when sending out a winner with his first runner and later in the evening he capped it by winning the Listed Jonsson Workwear Michaelmas Handicap over 1900m with Celtic Captain.
Gareth also won a Non-Black Type race with Celtic Captain and won the Listed Gatecrasher Stakes with Trojan Harbour. He finished the season with 25 winners.
His father Gavin, who has a yard at Summerveld and a satellite yard run by his son Chesney at Turffontein, finished in 15th place on the National Trainers log and had 73 winners in all.
Among these was a Non-Black Type feature victory.
Charles Laird was as prominent as usual in KZN with 41 winners.
Paul Lafferty doubled his number of winners this season from 17 last term to 34.
Alyson Wright, Dennis Bosch and Mark Dixon all had good seasons with 31, 30 and 29 winners respectively.
Dixon’s crack sprinter London Call started the season with four wins on the trot including in the Non-Black Type Marula Sprint and ended it with a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint.
Lezanne Forbes, Yogas Govender, Dennis Bosch, Tony Rivalland and Michael Roberts all had one Non-Black Type victory apiece too.