It won’t be an easy choice for the judges – who have yet to be appointed in a coronavirus twilight world – with all prominent candidates having both pros and cons in their 12-month records. By contrast, the 2018/19 panel couldn’t have taken more than 10 seconds to agree on Do It Again as top dog.
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One of the aforementioned candidates can be scratched from the line-up early. As much as Katak has his ardent Cape Town supporters after a Kenilworth Winter Series clean sweep, he is surely not in the running as he hasn’t won at the top level yet.
Got The Greenlight was the Equus Two-Year-Old Champion in 2018/19 and looks a shoo-in for the Three-Year-Old gong this time around, having annexed both the SA Classic at Turffontein and the Daily News 2000 at Greyville.
Trainer Joey Soma’s colt probably came within a length of the ultimate Equus accolade when he ran second to Belgarion in the Vodacom Durban July, which would have given him three Grade 1s for the season, including the country’s top race.
Hawwaam, currently sitting in quarantine ahead of an eagerly-anticipated overseas campaign, also managed two Grade 1 wins. However, these were against opposition not as strong as what he faced in the Sun Met, in which he finished third.
The winner of that race, One World, topped the season’s stakes-earning count on R2.3 million from three wins in five starts. His Met performance was, arguably, against the best-of-the-best in the country at the time, so the Vaughan Marshall-trained colt – retired to stud immediately after that victory – must be in the Equus reckoning.
The Met happened before the racing world was struck down by coronavirus and prize money was slashed, so the stakes log is misleading. That race also happened before most racing folk had even registered a horse called Belgarion – a four-year-old trainer Justin Snaith had identified as a July prospect and was carefully steering through the handicapping jungle.
Belgarion’s Durban July win from a wide draw – though with a handy weight – was impressive, but he probably hasn’t done enough outside of that to crack the nod.
Which brings us to Summer Pudding, a feisty filly and charismatic galloper.
She gave rising training star Paul Peter his first Grade 1 trophy (in the SA Fillies Classic) on her way to a rare Triple Tiara triumph. She won six out of six, including another Grade 1 in the Woolavington at Greyville, before taking a well-earned rest.
Weighing against Summer Pudding is the fact that she did not race outside her sex and age bracket – which earlier female Equus champs Igugu and Empress Club did in their respective glory years.
Then there is the small matter of Summer Pudding racing in the silks of Jessica Jell’s Mauritzfontein stud. Jell is part of Mary Oppenheimer Daughters, the family business grouping that has temporarily bailed out bankrupt operator Phumelela while a business rescue plan is worked on. Whether this will count for or against the filly is an interesting poser.
Those are the runners; make your pick.
Horse owners’ body the Racing Association says the when-and-where of the 2020 Equus Awards will be discussed in the coming week. There won’t be any black-tie banquet for dishing out the silverware, but racing fans will still watch the adjudication with keen interest.
No bookmaker has yet opened betting on the awards, but that might come once date and format are announced.