Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Twenty-three years after the ground-breaking win by champion London News in Hong Kong, another top-class SA racehorse, Got The Greenlight, is set to follow the same route and contest the $2.23m QE Stakes at Sha-Tin racecourse. 

Turffontein trainer Joe Soma has pencilled in April’s rich race for his colt who won two grade 1 races last season and ran second in the Vodacom Durban July.

London News, racing in the colours of Laurie and Jean Jaffee, won the 1997 race in the hands of jockey Dougie Whyte, much to the delight of racing fans who made the journey to the Far East.

This writer was lucky enough to be invited on that trip and reported on the race for Business Day. The story made the front page, a rarity for the sport of horse racing.

Soma would be the first to admit he has had a roller-coaster ride as a trainer with ups and downs in his career, but he has proved he is a horseman of note and is delighted to be dining at racing’s top table again with the son of Gimmethegreenlight.

Regarding Hong Kong, Soma is aware the trip rests on the shoulders of Adrian Todd and whether an EU audit will enable easier access between countries for top races.

“Adrian has told me he’s hopeful of progress. It’s vital because we have neither the patience nor the money to subject ourselves to the long journeys which have to be endured due to the current quarantine restrictions,” said Soma.

Got The Greenlight is very much in the mix with Hawwaam, One World, Summer Pudding and Golden Ducat for last season’s horse-of-the-year award.

“This horse has been good to us, he is a star loaded with ability and he has the heart of a lion,” enthused Soma. That was certainly the case in the Durban July, where he ran second to the year older Belgarion, who he raced against at level weights.

“The money on offer in the Hong Kong race is a lot in any man’s language. It would be a career first prize for me and a just reward for my staunch co-owners,” he added.

Meanwhile, some hefty bets will have gone west with the defeat of the hot favourite Ghaiyyath in the grade 1 Champion Stakes in Ireland on Saturday.

Charlie Appleby’s star, winner of August’s Juddmonte Stakes at York, was expected to take the Irish race en route to the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on October 4.

However, it is never easy to beat trainer Aidan O’Brien on his home turf and his talented filly Magical got his revenge on the York result to win in game fashion by a neck. William Buick offered no excuses for Ghaiyyath’s defeat.

Bookmaker reaction from Betfair and Paddy Power was to cut Magical’s Arc odds to 8-1 from 20-1, but she is not a certain starter as the stable has another female, Love, as the favourite for the Paris race.

After the race, O’Brien said: “What she wants is always to eyeball a horse in battle. Seamie [Heffernan] was happy to make the running if William [Buick] wanted to get a lead. Seamie was going to go with him and keep her interested.

“It was a brilliant ride and she’s a serious mare. It’s really when you get into a battle with her that you see what she can do.”

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