The Sun Met is not only the oldest of South Africa’s “big four” horse races but with new sponsor Sun International doubling the prize money to R5 million, it is also the most lucrative Grade 1 race in the country. It takes place on January 28 at Kenilworth racecourse.
The Met was first run in 1883, almost a century after the first locally bred thoroughbred foal wobbled to its feet and grew to elegant and imposing maturity in the shadows of the craggy mountain range.
In that first Met, run as the Metropolitan Mile, Sir Hercules proved the fleetest in a field of seven. In the next eight decades, the race grew in stature, sometimes being run as many as five times a year. But the handicap conditions and large fields often resulted in the best equines in the land staying at home, rather than competing in a race that had become notoriously rough and prone to upset results.
In 1973, the Western Cape racing authorities decided to change the conditions in order to attract the best horses – and the new race conditions yielded the desired result, with horses travelling from all over the country to compete.
The honour roll over the next five years included Yataghan, Sledgehammer and Gatecrasher.
Although the meeting attracted racing purists, it had far to go to become as popular as Durban’s July Handicap, which had long caught the imagination of the nonracing public and become a national sporting and betting event.
It was only when whisky distillers J&B stepped in to sponsor the Met in 1978 that the race’s public profile ballooned.
Nowadays, about 30 000 people swing through the turnstiles at the beautiful Kenilworth racecourse and the winners in the past 26 years reads like a Who’s Who of the South African turf.
In recent years, Cape trainer Mike Bass has dominated the race, with Pocket Power winning the race three years running, from 2007 to 2009. His full sister, River Jetez, did the same the next year.
- Don’t forget to enter The Citizen’s Sun Met competition. Two lucky readers will each win a once-in-a-lifetime VIP experience at the races.
The lucky pair will win return flights to Cape Town, including transfers, two nights’ accommodation, meals for two people sharing and a VIP experience at Kenilworth on race day. The winners will also receive R2 000 free TAB bets, R3 000 in cash, R3 000 clothing vouchers and R2 000 free TAB win or place bet on a horse of the winner’s choice in the main race.
There are also two runners-up prizes of R1 000 free TAB bets and R1 000 free TAB win or place bet on a horse of the winner’s choice in the main race.
See below how to stand a chance to win this fabulous prize. The competition closes on Friday, January 20.