Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

American expert Barry Irwin once described him as “the very heart and soul of the sport of horse racing”. Praise indeed in a sport where accolades are hardly showered about like confetti.

Irwin was talking about Robin Bruss, who has engineered international transactions involving major racehorses and stallions for many years.        

So when it comes to trying to fathom who will win the 2019/2020 horse-of-the-year award, Bruss’s opinion is of particular interest.

Zimbabwe-born Bruss bred his first thoroughbred in 1975, and bred dual Durban July victor Do It Again, whom he sold to Drakenstein Stud for R1.1m in a foal share deal. 

The Equus awards will be handed out on Sunday in a 40-minute programme from Tellytrack headquarters in Rivonia (7.30pm) as Covid-19 rules out the usual banquet at Emperors Palace.

The judging panel consists of two racing journos from Gauteng, two from KwaZulu-Natal and a commentator not yet 30 years old. The sole Cape representative is Ken Nicol. It’s not exactly a province lacking in knowledgeable racing people. Five who spring to mind are Stan Elley, Charles Faull, Karel Miedema, Jehan Malherbe and Robyn Louw.

A study of comments on social media suggests the horse-of-the-year title rests between four candidates — they are (in alphabetical order) Got The Greenlight, Hawwaam, One World and Summer Pudding.

Bruss had no hesitation in nailing his colours to the mast of Mike de Kock’s star performer Hawwaam, who has begun his journey to continue his career overseas.

“My vote goes to Hawwaam, but I would rather give it to his mother Halfway To Heaven — three foals to race in the season and three grade 1 winners who won six grade 1 races in the campaign,” said Bruss.

“I would imagine all three [Hawwaam, Rainbow Bridge and Golden Ducat] will be among the nominees for horse of the year. They are all by different sires, the success can only be laid at her door.”

Turffontein trainer Joe Soma will be biting his nails before Sunday’s announcement as a case can certainly be made for his star three-year-old Got The Greenlight.

Not only did the son of Gimmethegreenlight chalk up grade 1 wins in the SA Classic and Daily News 2000, he ran a cracker from a wide draw in the Vodacom July, running a close second to the year-older Belgarion who he was meeting at level weights.

Then there is a large contingent of racing fans who are convinced the Equus panel will opt for Paul Peter’s unbeaten three-year-old filly Summer Pudding.

One blogger in Sporting Post declared: “While Summer Pudding is unproven out of the three-year-old filly ranks, I would be pleased to see her win the ‘horse-of-the-year’ — not because I think she is the best horse in the country, but rather because she has produced the most impressive achievement of the season winning the Triple Tiara and then going down to Durban to capture the Woolavington.”

Also very much in the mix is One World, who beat Haawwaam by nearly four lengths in the Sun Met but didn’t race again. Still, he took top honours in the Met from a wide draw and won three of the five races he contested in the first half of the season.

His chances rest on whether the panel considers racing for only six months of the campaign is a negative factor or not.

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