Businessman Chris van Niekerk could make racing history with third July winner
Businessman and prominent owner Chris van Niekerk has made many important decisions, but one of them could result in him making racing history with a third Vodacom Durban July triumph.
Van Niekerk has already won the July twice, with Heavy Metal and Pomodoro, and looks to have another exciting prospect in three-year-old Chimichuri Run. He and Markus Jooste’s company Mayfair Speculators purchased Chimichuri Run from Drakenstein Stud as a yearling for R1.1m.
Following the dispersal of many of the Mayfair horses, it is believed Van Niekerk was asked if he wanted to buy all the thoroughbreds he owned in partnership with Jooste. The answer was probably no, but — no doubt guided by his trainer, Sean Tarry — he did purchase some, including Chimichuri Run.
After the son of Trippi’s four-lengths win in the grade3 Spring Spree Stakes at Turffontein last Saturday, it is looking to be one of Van Niekerk’s best decisions.
What is important about Saturday’s success is that the colt was taking on some solid older horses, including grade1 winner Talktothestars. Chimichuri Run does not turn three years of age until October.
Tarry told Turftalk that the next start for Chimichuri Run was likely to be in October’s 1,450m Spring Challenge at Turffontein, after which he would make a decision to contest the Dingaans or not.
Then Tarry is likely to target one of the two $500,000 Cape Thoroughbred Sales (CTS) races scheduled for Kenilworth on Sun Met day (January 26). Van Niekerk is chairman of CTS, so he would delight in winning a race the company is sponsoring.
Drakenstein Stud will be happy with Saturday’s result, as the colt is out of their mare Spiced Gold, who they bought for R400,000. The filly, trained by Stuart Pettigrew, won the 1,800m SA Classic as a three-year-old.
Jooste, who answered questions in parliament last week, was again the subject of debate at the weekend after Mayfair Speculators received the award for "Leading Owner" at the Eastern Cape racing awards in Port Elizabeth. Sporting Post reported that this "elicited a nervous silence and then some light-hearted giggles".
However, one KwaZulu-Natal owner, who the news-paper did not name, called the award "an embarrassment for racing" while another commented that "discretion is the better part of valour".
Another person, also unnamed, said: "Could they not simply have used the moment to give the award to another local owner — there are a few we can think of — that were far greater champions than Markus Jooste could ever hope to be?"
Racing expert Robert Bloomberg has never been afraid to voice his opinion and this was no exception. Bloomberg, chair of the Western Cape racing awards panel, told Sporting Post: "I can’t comment on the rationale behind the decision and the criteria employed by other panels, but certainly from a Western Cape perspective we would have excluded Mayfair Speculators from the process in the interests of all."