Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA
Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

Similar to the Kennedy clan in the US, the lives of one of SA’s best-known families, the Oppenheimers, are often under scrutiny. Happily, unlike the Kennedys, who have suffered an almost curse-like number of tragedies, times have never been better for Mary Slack, daughter of Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer.

In fact, if Slack is humming along to the old hit song September by Earth, Wind & Fire, it would be totally understandable. It has already been a momentous month.

It began on the first day of September when Slack’s MOD (Mary Oppenheimer Daughters) won the vote over the challenge from UK bookmaker Betfred for John Evans’s business rescue plan for Phumelela Gaming.

It launched a lifeboat for racing, which was floundering in choppy seas.

It got better for Slack with the weekend’s announcements of the virtual Equus awards, where it is fair to say she pretty much swept the boards.

These are the categories she won:

  • Horse of the year: Summer Pudding. She was bred at her Wilgerbosdrift Stud and the filly’s unbeaten season was enough to convince the panel the three-year-old should win racing’s highest award.
  • The Equus committee gave Slack a “Lifetime Achievement Award”, which is richly deserved for her unswerving support of the sport.
  • Mauritzfontein/Wilgerbosdrift won the “Outstanding Breeder” award.
  • Summer Pudding won the “Champion Three-Year-Old Filly” category.
  • The Wilgerbosdrift mare, Halfway To Heaven, won the “Champion Broodmare” category. Her fifth produce, Celestial City, fetched R7m at the 2020 National Yearling Sale in July.

So, if Slack allowed herself a glass or two of SA’s excellent wine on Sunday night, she was fully entitled to as she toasted what has been a huge first two weeks of September.

Of course, the Equus panel’s decision on horse of the year has resulted in plenty of debate on social media.

Steve Reid said on the Sporting Post website: “I don’t agree with the panel on Summer Pudding. While she is undoubtedly a top filly and unbeaten, the fact remains she never took on the colts and this makes others more deserving.”

Another post stated: “In all fairness to Summer Pudding, I could not make a case for any of the other nominees so perhaps it is the correct verdict.”

There was also the worry — from one poster — about the panel. “Having a look at the composition of the panel, with a significant percentage employed by Phumelela, I wonder how influenced the ownership of the winner was?”

What is interesting is that Sporting Post ran a poll among its readers and they gave a resounding vote to Summer Pudding, with 41% siding with her against 12% for Got The Greenlight and 11% for Hawwaam.

Given that some of the country's experts sided with Got The Greenlight and Hawwaam, the big margin in favour of Summer Pudding is something of a surprise. Donald Trump will be hoping that the polls that currently place him behind Joe Biden for the US presidency are not equally as accurate.

What would be interesting is for the Racing Association, which ran the awards, to reveal how the five-member panel voted for horse of the year. Was it a close call? Was it 3-2? Was it 4-1?

Karel Miedema, editor of Sporting Post, appears unhappy with the current set-up. He posted: “It’s clear they need to work on the parameters and composition of the voting panel.”

Three Equus winners — Sean Tarry (champion trainer), Chris van Niekerk (champion owner) and Luke Ferraris (champion apprentice) — team up with four-year-old Putontheredlight in the seventh race at Turffontein on Tuesday. Time may prove this is Van Niekerk’s next equine star.

However, first the Pomodoro gelding has to get past trainer Paul Peter’s runner Astrix. Given the trainer’s outstanding handling of Summer Pudding, this is no easy mission for the Tarry inmate.


1st Race; (1) Local Knowledge (11) Cosmic Ray (12) Abia (3) National Liberty

2nd Race: (13) Time Command (10) Sea Ways (5) Dr Doolittle (7) Lets Talk

3rd Race: (6) On Broadway (1) Senescence (3) Fire Flower (10) Only The Brave

4th Race: (3) Golden Spiral (1) Gypsy Woman (2) Miss Khalifa (4) Lass Going West

5th Race: (2) BattleofTrafalgar (1) Bold Ransom (9) Visiway (4) Urban Rock

6th Race: (1) Mill Queen (2) Magic School (3) Wisteria Walk (5) Invisible

7th Race: (6) Putontheredlight (4) Astrix (9) Nafoorah (7) Holy Man

8th Race: (5) Laetitia’s Angel (2) Peaceontherocks (1) Soul Of Wit (7) Top Drawer

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