Thursday, 01 April 2021 17:24


Malmoos 1 April 21

Horse Chestnut (1999). Igugu (2011). Cherry On The Top (2013). Louis The King (2014). Abashiri (2015). Summer Pudding (2020). Six stars of South African racing who were immortalised through their winning efforts in the Triple Crown and Triple Tiara, writes Gary Lemke for



by Gary Lemke, supplied by

Horse Chestnut (1999). Igugu (2011). Cherry On The Top (2013). Louis The King (2014). Abashiri (2015). Summer Pudding (2020). Six stars of South African racing who were immortalised through their winning efforts in the Triple Crown and Triple Tiara, writes Gary Lemke for

It’s never fair to compare champions from different generations, but Horse Chestnut was surely the best of those who have completed the “hat-trick”, not only because what he went on to achieve, but also because when he won the Triple Crown he did so by taking the Cape Guineas at Kenilworth, the SA Classic at Gosforth Park and the SA Derby at Turffontein. Unbeaten on different tracks around the country.

These days the Triple Crown and Triple Tiara is “only” run at Turffontein and the runners generally are taken from those based in Gauteng. That inevitably raises questions as to how good they really are considering those down in the Cape feel that the quality of their horses is favourably comparable to anything to be found elsewhere in SA.

However, a champion horse can only beat what he or she is put up against and both Malmoos and War Of Athena are odds-on favourites to win the SA Derby and SA Oaks, respectively, over 2450m at Turffontein on Saturday. This would see them join the illustrious list mentioned above and also see the “Triple” achieved by both sexes for the first time in the same year.

Can they do it? They should. Although the double is only 15/10, with both facing opposition that they’ve largely disposed of in winning the opening two legs. Given the manner of their victories in the Gauteng Guineas and SA Classic it really does seem as though the Triple Crown and Triple Tiara is gift-wrapped for them.

Malmoos has won six of his seven starts while War Of Athena is a seven-time winner from 13 starts and she’s won her last four races emphatically. In fields of level weights of 60kg again it really is difficult to look past these two favourites simply to try to find one to beat them.

With the Pick Six pool expected to be well over R5-million, both War Of Athena and Malmoos will be popular bankers. As will Got The Greenlight in the Grade One Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m. He too is currently at odds-on. In fact, if you take those three favourites with the three remaining fields will cost you R588 for a 100% ticket.

At face value it looks an easy Pick Six to catch, but on big race days the best laid plans often go awry. Should one of those three “bankers” not win – especially Malmoos or War Of Athena – then the Pick Six is going to be well worth catching.

Trainer Sean Tarry is always one to factor in on big days and he could well get things off to a good start with his juveniles in race one and two, Rain In Holland and Kuuma.

A win all to come of Kuuma, Got The Greenlight, Malmoos and War Of Athena is 11/1 on GGGaming.

Racing in the Cape is back at Kenilworth and although there are some small fields, they have a competitive feel to them.

The trainer worth following is Candice Bass-Robinson. She has a strong hand throughout the day but her best bets could be the fillies Marmalisa and Marina. She will also fancy her winning chances with Barzalona, Whatsinadream, Mr Cobbs and Snow Report.

Bass Racing tip:

Kenilworth, race 5. Marmalisa.

This talented filly takes on five rivals over 1200m on Saturday. She got within a length of the vaunted Kitty Cat Chat over the course and distance last time out and a reproduction of that effort should see her take a lot of beating here. She also receives 5kg from the other three-year-old in the field, Veronica Mars

Summer Pudding 25 March 21

Lyle Hewitson has gone through the 150-winners mark for the season to continue his relentless march to a third South African jockeys’ championship, writes Gary Lemke for


by Gary Lemke, supplied by

Lyle Hewitson has gone through the 150-winners mark for the season to continue his relentless march to a third South African jockeys’ championship, writes Gary Lemke for

The Kuda Insurance-sponsored rider has been at the top of his game in recent weeks and booted home three winners for the Sean Tarry stable at Turffontein last weekend, including the Listed Jacaranda Handicap and the Grade 3 Sycamore Sprint.
While the latter two wins came at a combined distance of seven lengths (a five-length win on Seehaam and two length win on Tropic Son), it was the short-head win aboard Pyromaniac in the opening race at Turffontein that was eye-catching.
Hewitson and Smanga Khumalo, riding Mitch Got His Wish, were involved in a thrilling battle over the last 250m with nothing separating the pair. But Hewitson got Pyromaniac’s nose down on the line where it mattered to win by a short head, with the third horse 19 lengths further back. The son of Silvano, bred by MainChance Farms and the Coolmore Partnership, is one for the notebook, but it was only Hewitson’s brilliance that got him into the winner’s box.
Going into Monday’s meeting on the Greyville polytrack Hewitson had recorded 151 wins for the season. He added to that tally in the last race on the card and followed up with a double at the same venue on Wednesday. That left him on 154 wins ahead of Thursday’s meeting at the Vaal, and Friday’s at Fairview.
He has a commanding lead at the head of the jockeys’ race – Greg Cheyne (106), Warren Kennedy (104) and Khumalo (100) are next best – and looks destined to pick up a third South African jockey’s championship.
In 2017/18 he was crowned champion for the first time with 184 winners and he followed up with his second title in 2018/19 when he had 219 winners.
However, possibly the statistic that says that Hewitson is riding better than ever comes in the percentage of wins he has had this 2020/21 season. He stands at 14.6 percent, which compares favourably to his previous two title-winning campaigns of 12.6 and 14.0 percent.
Also, his fitness and relentless pursuit of perfection has seen him ride all over the country and his dedication is shown by the fact that he has ridden nearly 400 more races than Kennedy this season and nearly 500 more than Cheyne. Hewitson has had over 1000 mounts, with Muzi Yeni (90 wins) the second most prolific with just over 800 rides.
Hewitson is also about to surpass 800 career winners in South Africa, where his career percentage stands at 12.92 – again showing that his current 14.6 winning rate for the season makes it his most successful since he became a jockey.
South Africa is renowned for being a conveyor belt when it comes to producing jockeys of world-class calibre. In last week’s column we focused on the emergence of the female jockey in the United Kingdom, in particular Holly Doyle and Rachael Blackmore. However, here the female riders are still few and far between, but Hewitson is consistently proving himself as being the next big thing to come out of the saddle, from an international perspective, when it comes to our jockeys.
This weekend the big news is the return of the brilliant filly Summer Pudding, who is a very short-priced favourite to win the R250 000 Colorado Stakes (Grade 2) over 2000m at Turffontein.
The four-year-old comes off a 77-day rest but the fact that trainer Paul Peter has thrown her straight into a 2000m feature suggests she is ready to take on and beat her small field of opponents. The Silvano filly’s main mission is the Vodacom Durban July, but her comeback on Saturday will be watched by enthusiasts, even if she is not worth actually backing at odds of 1/4.
She has only lost once in 10 races – at Kenilworth in the Paddock Stakes in January – but back on home turf and in this field it should be an armchair ride for Warren Kennedy.
The next Cape meeting is at Durbanville on Monday and final fields have been declared. There is no betting at the moment but my bet of the day is Santa Maria in race one. The Trippi filly caught my eye when second on debut at odds of 44-1 and I think she is the type of two-year-old who is going to get better with every run and in fact could turn out to be well above average

Cheltenham 18 March 21

Racing’s diversity was on full display this week with the four-day Cheltenham Festival taking place in the UK.

by Gary Lemke, supplied by

Racing’s diversity was on full display this week with the four-day Cheltenham Festival taking place in the UK. This marked the highlight of the UK “jumps season” and it annually brings together some of the best horses from England, Ireland and France.

This year it went ahead behind closed doors, another casualty of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but at least we got to see some fantastic racing. There were also some memorable performances – plus a punter’s success story when Paul Dean included Envoi Allen as his final leg win which could have turned a £5 (R100) multi into a £511 225 (R10-million-plus) return.

The punter was initially offered £275 000 (R5.6m) as a cash out by Betfair ahead of Envoi Allen’s race on Thursday. It was the last leg of a bet he struck last year and three of the horses were taken ante-post at good odds ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. In a pre-race deal brokered with them, he eventually settled on £322 000 if Envoi Allen won, or £250 000 if she didn't.

Just as well, because Envoi Allen fell at only the fourth fence and was out of the race!

However, the horses themselves played their part in the Cheltenham Festival, with some odds-on favourites and other short-priced winners helping punters stay afloat, but there were also a couple of rank outsiders, including the 80-1 shot Jeff Kidder on Tuesday’s opening day.

Perhaps the best story though was that of Rachael Blackmore who became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle, when she won on the favourite Honeysuckle, the mare staying unbeaten in 111 races.

Blackmore was second in the Irish jockeys' championship last year and is at the forefront of the rise of women’s jockeys in the UK. The 24-year-old Holly Doyle earlier this month equalled her own record of winning five races at one meeting, having become the first female jockey to ride five winners on the same card at Windsor last August.

After the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival though Blackmore had ridden three Grade One winners and was leading the jockeys’ standings halfway through the meeting. All three of her winners – Honeysuckle, Bob Olinger and Sir Gerhard – were well fancied in the betting, with two starting favourite and one at 9-4 second favourite. That in itself shows the confidence shown in her by the trainers and connections and she had a chance on another favourite, Embittered in the Grand Annual Challenge Cup, before her mount fell.

But, in the hurly-burly and physical world of jumps racing Blackmore has been a leading light at the biggest Festival week on the calendar. And Doyle’s exploits on the Flat show that women riders should have nothing to fear from their male counterparts. It would be heartening to see this trend coming to the surface in South African racing a well.

This weekend there are two meetings in South Africa, at Turffontein on Saturday and Durbanville on Sunday.

The feature events are the Big T are the R125 000 Sycamor Sprint (Grade 3) over 1160m and the R100 000 Jacaranda Handicap over 1800m. In the sprint Winter Smoke and Tropic Sun are drawn on opposite sides of the track as they thunder down the straight and it might pay to watch the earlier races and see if there’s any significant draw advantage on the day.

The Jacaranda Handicap is a collection of fillies and mares and the in-form Lyle Hewitson looks to have strong claims on Seeham, with very little to separate Magical Flight and Sparkling Water on their last run.

Interestingly, Anton Marcus is in Joburg for the meeting, and he rarely goes home empty-handed, while it’s interesting to note that Cape trainer Brett Crawford raids with one runner, Kelpie, a filly that Marcus rides for him in the second race.

Durbanville is where the Cape Town action is on Sunday, the feature being the R200 000 GG Gaming Klawervlei Farm Sale Graduate over 1250m.

The draw has been unkind to some of the fancied horses, which has opened the way for the Candice Bass-Robinson trained Global Goddess to make a bold bid from draw 5 under Aldo Domeyer.

Thursday, 11 March 2021 20:28


Bernie 10 March 21

It feels as though we are just coming up for a quick breather when taking a look at this weekend’s race cards, following a flurry of big features and Grade One racing.


by Gary Lemke, supplied by

It feels as though we are just coming up for a quick breather when taking a look at this weekend’s race cards, following a flurry of big features and Grade One racing.

Still, there is some important stuff to tackle, with Turffontein staging the Derby and Oaks Trials (both listed races) over 2000m on Saturday. This is a pointer to both those three-year-old staying races looming.

For both the Derby and Oaks Trials the winner is staring at us from off the race card pages. But, I urge caution. The colts and geldings’ race has attracted 11 runners and the fillies equivalent nine runners, but the highest merit rating of any horse across both races is only 88. There are three-year-olds that are lightly raced and could show plenty of improvement, while others might be ambitious entries.

I don’t have a strong feel for either race, so I’ve been using the process of elimination to whittle the contenders down. I’m not a big fan of young horses (and these three-year-olds fit into that category) wearing blinkers so early in their careers. And while it has become a lot more popular – some trainers routinely fit it – I also think twice when looking at a young horse fitted with a tongue tie. It might suggest there’s a breathing problem, which hinders a horse more the longer the distance.

So, I might be well off the mark here, but that’s racing. Everyone’s an expert after the horses cross the finish line.

But, in narrowing the fields down, simply based on the above, I’m left with six horses in the Derby Trial: Pamushana’s Pride, Invincible Warrior, Bold Resolve, Earl, Ushuaia and Midnight Caller. Of those Sean Tarry has three (four in the field in total) and you’d expect that jockey Lyle Hewitson had the choice of rides. Not that jockeys always get it right, but he’s on Invincible Warrior. Pamushana’s Pride looks to have a lot of heart, so needs to be considered too.

Similarly, the Oaks field is narrowed down to six horses: Ideal Jet, Traveling Wilbury, Astral Plane, Keeping The Peace, Queen Bomi and Ayraam. The two daughters of Dynasty, Travelling Wilbury and Ayraam will keep improving and will relish this distance.

There’s a Grade 2 on the card, the Senor Santa Stakes over 1160m and this looks really competitive. Ten of the 14 runners have merit ratings of 114 or higher and the lowest is a 102. There’s proper speed in this race. Keep an eye out on Mount Pleasant who has been really disappointing in his last two starts over a mile. It might well be that he bounces back to his best with a big run over a sprint. There also should be a piece of paper separating True To Life and Chimichuri Run, although the speed in the race seems to be on the outside which would favour True To Life.

Last week we were spot on with saying Malmoos would be hard to oppose in the SA Classic at Turffontein. We even suggested that 13-10, available at the time, was a generous price. Imagine the surprise when he drifted out to start at 51-20 as Catch Twentytwo was backed to beat him. Malmoos still came home like an odds-on shot though, rewarding those who had continued to back him through the betting drift.

In the Western Cape you know that winter is coming when racing switches from Kenilworth to Durbanville. The “country corse” is actually a delightfully intimate place to go racing and improvements to the track in recent times has made the racing fairer than it used to be. Not long ago, if your horse wasn’t a front runner and it wasn’t drawn in the first five gates from the fence you could virtually draw a line through its chances.

Now, with the track being flattened out and the turn being made wider, an inside draw is still an advantage, but others have winning chances as well. Now too a horse is able to come off the pace, whereas previously it was a front-runner’s playground.

Still, with racing reverting to Durbanville this weekend, the inside draws will probably still be the more favourable, while those who like to race handy should be given preference when you’re studying the race card.

Bass Racing had a good say at the office last week with three winners and they are sponsored by GG Gaming. They don’t appear to have any standout winners on the card, but Bernie (race 2), Swazi Queen (race 3), On Your Marks (race 4), Master Of Power (race 6) and Golden Dah (race 8) might be their best runners on the card for the stable.

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