Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

When star race mare Igugu died trainer Mike de Kock said “she deserved a state funeral”, but now another talented female is being touted as a filly who could reach the same heights.    

Her name is Captain’s Ransom, a member of the powerful Justin Snaith stable, who had pundits searching for fresh superlatives when she captured Sunday’s grade 2 WSB Fillies Guineas at HollywoodbetsGreyville.

Her sixth career win from seven outings was made more noteworthy when Snaith stated in the postrace interview that “she was only 70% ready for this race”.

Of course, it’s a big ask for Captain’s Ransom to scale the same heights as Igugu, who became a household name after her win in the 2011 Durban July. When Igugu retired her breeder, Mick Goss of Summerhill Stud, said “she is one of the bravest fillies to depart this farm. She was also as talented a racehorse as this country has known.”

The brave effort Goss was referring to was the filly’s game victory in the 2012 J&B Met at Kenilworth in which she had a troubled run. In that race she beat Bravura and Gimmethegreenlight, sire of Premier’s Champion winner Got The Greenlight.

Igugu certainly was a globetrotter, also competing in Dubai, Hong Kong and the UK before retiring to stud in Australia. Sadly, according to the Australian stud book, she passed away in November 2016, but news of her death did not reach De Kock until nine months later.

De Kock commented at the time: “It boggles my mind that it took the best part of a year for us to get to know about Igugu’s death when she’s the type of mare who’d deserve a state funeral. Igugu was a wonderful champion in all respects, a top mare with vast amounts of courage and a big favourite to all in the yard.”

The emergence of Captain’s Ransom’s as a possible champion is a feather in the cap for Moutonshoek Stud, who bred the filly out of the unraced mare Cinna’s Ransom. They also had the distinction of breeding last weekend’s SA Fillies Nursery winner Sheela.

After the win of Captain Al in the grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas, breeder Bennie van der Merwe said: “She didn’t look like this as a yearling! That’s why we only just covered the service fee.”

Igugu won the July as a three-year-old and it will be interesting to see if Captain’s Ransom’s owners, Suzette and Basie Viljoen, decide to go the same route. No decision is likely to be made until the daughter of Captain Al has run in the Woolavington 2000.

Even so, bookmakers are keeping the three-year-old as a 12-1 chance in the ante-post market.

The Viljoens are certainly a welcome addition to the owners rank — particularly for breeders. Suzette Viljoen signed for seven yearlings at April’s National Sale in Germiston where she spent a total of R3.23m.

She finished in fifth place in the top buyers list. Her purchases included an R850,000 Trippi filly from Spring Valley Stud, a R750,000 Dynasty filly from Blue Sky Thoroughbreds and two R500,000 yearlings from Avontuur and Varsfontein.

The Viljoens farm cattle near Schweizer-Reneke on the banks of the Harts River in North West.  It is commonly referred to as the “City of Sunflowers”.

Similar to a gold prospector getting a strike on his first dig, the Viljoen’s have enjoyed almost instant success in the sport after trainer Corrie Lensley got them interested two years ago. Many others who have owned horses for years are still waiting for the glory of a grade 1 win.

Unquestionably, the R225,000 the Viljoens laid out to buy Captain’s Ransom at the 2019 National Yearling Sale has proved to be the best investment of their lives. 

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