Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

On two of the biggest days in the 2021 racing calendar  — the Met and Durban July — owner Suzette Viljoen has experienced the highs of success and the lows of tragedy.

A relatively new addition to the owners ranks who bought her first horse in 2018, North West resident Viljoen has seen her star rise dramatically and she has the chance of being named leading owner at the end of July.

The best day so far in 2021 for Viljoen came at Kenilworth on January 30 when her talented three-year-old filly Captain’s Ransom made it five wins from six starts when winning the grade 1 Majorca Stakes. The daughter of Captain Al beat Clouds Unfold by three lengths.

At the same meeting, Viljoen’s pink and blue colours were worn by jockey Warren Kennedy on her stayer Atyaab. She says pink is for the girls and blue signifies her favourite rugby team, the Blue Bulls.

Atyaab, trained by Zietsman Oosthuizen, had been bought by Viljoen on an online sale. The son of Dundeel was originally purchased in Australia by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum for A$260,000 (R27.6m).

He joined the powerful yard of Mike de Kock and won four races before the decision was made to offer him for sale. Oosthuizen spotted the horse online and persuaded Viljoen to buy the gelding for R150,000.

Atyaab surprised many people when — at odds of 80-1 — he finished sixth behind Summer Pudding in the Summer Cup at Turffontein at the end of November.

Oosthuizen then aimed Atyaab at the grade 2 Western Cape Stayers over 2,800m and, to Viljoen’s delight, he completed a notable big race double for a woman who — with her husband Basie — farm cattle near Schweizer-Reneke.

Fast forward to July day at Hollywoodbets Greyville and the chance of another double from the same two horses looked very much on the cards.

Captain Ransom’s jockey Richard Fourie told the media it would be “no race” for Captain’s Ransom in the Garden Province Stakes, but it did not turn out that way. The three-year-old drifted in the betting market and trailed in sixth about three lengths behind the winner Zarina.

Even if Captain’s Ransom had won, it would not have been much consolation for Viljoen. Atyaab was one of the leading fancies in the 3,000m Gold Vase, but he broke down during the race and had to be destroyed.

Because owners were not allowed at the Greyville track due to pandemic restrictions, it was one saving grace that Viljoen was not at the track as news of the horse’s demise would have been tough to handle.

According to statistics in the Turftalk website, Viljoen is in second place in the national owners log, with her 60 winners this term having amassed R4.70m in stakes. This is R300,000 less than leading owner Chris van Niekerk.

The destination of the owners trophy will depend on which owner fares better at the final meeting of the season at Greyville on July 31. Both Sean Tarry, who trains for Van Niekerk, and Justin Snaith, one of a handful of trainers with horses owned by Viljoen, are sure to aim some of their best performers at the numerous feature races.

Tarry might run Gold Vase winner Nebraas in the Marshall’s Gold Cup, but this will not help Van Niekerk as the four-year-old is owned by Al Adiyaat. However, he does own Victoria Paige, who returned to her best form when winning at Turffontein last Saturday.

Viljoen owns the juvenile filly Maryah, and this R300,000 daughter of Querari — trained by Lezanne Forbes — won her debut race at Scottsville before running unplaced in the grade 2 Golden Slipper on July day. It is possible she could run again at the end of July.

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