Equus Champion Breeder Award
(Photo : Summerhill Archives)
“Nobody owns a monopoly on a championship.”
Don’t worry, we know the feeling. When Smanjemanje went down a nose in the Vodacom Durban July two weeks ago, it was the second time we’d been denied by a slim margin in the big race. Angus suffered the same fate at the hands of Ipi Tombe in the 2003 renewal, and if those decisions had gone our way, we’d now be sitting on six July wins, one ahead of the legendary Birch Brothers, who dominated the Breeder’s Premiership for more than half of the last century. They actually have six July winners to their credit, but they’ve won five Julys, the explanation being the dead-heat between Sea Cottage and Jollify in 1967.
The Jockey’s Championship this year is going to the wire just as narrowly, with Anton Marcus heading the log on 182 victories and Anthony Delpech breathing down his neck on 177. There are twelve days left in the season, and this one can go either way now. Delpech got a “holiday” of a few days recently for a riding infringement, and he took time out to visit Hartford House with his family. There was an air of despair about him, as he felt he’d blown his chances with the suspension, but it’s a measure of the man that he’s back in the hunt.
He did his prospects a turn yesterday when he picked up the chance ride on Great Smokey, a Summerhill-bred who was totting up a double at the Vaal with an end-to-end performance under a masterful judgment of pace. Of course, we’re in our own battle for our eighth Breeder’s Championship at the moment, having surrendered the lead to Klawervlei during June, when they pulled more than R400,000 ahead at one stage. We’ve clawed our way back, and we’re now sitting with a lead of just on a million.
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You might take comfort in such a cushion, but it remains possible for us to be overhauled, and we won’t be making any claims until the “big lady” has had her say on July 31st. If we do pull this one off, it’ll be one of the more satisfying. By our own standards, we haven’t had a great year, despite the fact that we’re in front in terms of Stakes winners, but it says something for the toughness and durability of our stock that they’ve run more often and earned more on average than our pursuers, who now have an advantage in terms of numbers at the track.
Either way, we’re prepared for any eventuality. Nobody owns a monopoly on a championship. The Summerhill team long ago identified other markers by which it wants to be measure. They know the equations others don’t seem to know. Great harvests come from arid sources. Seven Breeder’s Premierships, the winners of four Durban Julys, three J&B Mets, three Summer Cups. They all sprung from nowhere. The other thing that drives them, is knowing that one day you’re going to be beaten; it’s the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose: you are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.