Picture: 123RF/Chris Van Lennep
Picture: 123RF/Chris Van Lennep

Chris van Niekerk — leading owner for the 2019/2020 season — has cemented his position as the John Magnier of SA racing with a third success as the country’s champion in this important area of the sport.

For many years Magnier has been the backbone of the Coolmore operation in Ireland with shrewd business acumen and this is an asset Van Niekerk also possesses.

Discussing his latest achievement, Van Niekerk told Business Day: “It’s been a strange racing season [because of the virus]. So I guess we should not be surprised by, maybe, a somewhat unusual outcome.

“Sean Tarry, my trainer was champion trainer, John Koster and Klawervlei Stud where I am a shareholder crowned champion breeder and I am champion owner — strange things do happen.”

Racing is on a roller-coaster ride and — 12 months ago at the Equus banquet at Emperors Palace — Van Niekerk did not flinch from saying the industry was in deep water but needed a more positive perspective.

He said: “We seem to find it difficult to be positive — especially when things are not so good. The reality is that they are never so bad as they seem.

“We humans seem to have got this unfortunate trait — we think negatively and, as a result, what transpires is only negative. We need to get to the real issues — there are always solutions to be found. We need a sustainable future and must not pull in 10 different directions.”

The final stakes totals earned by owners have been published by the National Horseracing Authority and it shows that Mario Ferreira has burst on the scene in the same way Leicester City emerged as the giant killers in the Premier League a few years back.

It is seriously ironic that Portugal-born Ferreira got within R100,000 of Van Niekerk's total as a result of one of his horses, Invidia, bagging R2,5m in a race sponsored by Van Niekerk’s own company, Cape Thoroughbred Sales.

With restricted stakes included into the totals, it shows Van Niekerk had 54 winners earning R7,162,013 while Ferreira’s 45 wins saw him bank R7,059,738.

However, if restricted races are omitted, it was a clear-cut victory for Van Niekerk with a total R6,554,013 compared to Ferreira’s R4,222,238.

Nevertheless, the arrival of Ferreira on the racing scene will be warmly welcomed as the sport needs to attract as much new blood as possible.

Invidia, a son of Twice Over trained by Ashley Fortune, boasts a bankroll of R3,076,500 and Ferreira could not have had a better start to the new season than what transpired at HollywoodbetsGreyville last Saturday.

Paths Of Victory, who cost Ferreira R220,000 as a yearling when purchased from Rathmor Stud, lived up to his name by taking top honours in the WSB Gold Cup and a cheque of R250,000.

Though Paths Of Victory had beaten the Gold Cup second favourite Marchingontogether in a 2,400m race in March, it is probably fair to say that Ferreira would have been pleased to see the gelding run a place.

Ferreira’s three-year-old filly Princess Calla finished a creditable third in the grade 1 Thekwini Stakes, but his Dynasty colt Validus, a recent maiden winner, found the step up in class too much in the grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes finishing unplaced behind SentByDestiny.

Of course, it would have been unusual if Van Niekerk’s familiar blue and red colours did not make it to the No 1 box at this important meeting. The victory — in facile fashion — came from his three-year-old filly Ecstatic Queen in the grade 2 Debutant Stakes.

While Van Niekerk will have been pleased with the win, he does his sums and will be aware that the winner’s cheque was just a fifth of what he paid for the filly as a yearling.

Who owns the third horse behind Ecstatic Green? Correct, Fiftyshadesdarker races for Mario Ferreira. The Portuguese entrepreneur looks on course for a big season.

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