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Picture: 123RF/ MELORYS
Picture: 123RF/ MELORYS

The only certainty about the 2020/2021 “horse of the year” award — due to be announced on August 17 — is that the Equus panel will be taking flak.

Natalie Turner, chair of the committee, will be aware of this as every year the panel takes a pummelling on social media for decisions on some of the categories in which they must make a call.

If the buzz on social media is any guide, for a number of years there haven’t been as many candidates for the sport’s top award as in the distant past.

It would appear seven horses are in the running (in alphabetical order): Got The Greenlight, Kommetdieding, Jet Dark, Linebacker, Rainbow Bridge, Summer Pudding and War Of Athena.

This writer would give a narrow vote to Linebacker over War Of Athena, but Vaughan Marshall, trainer of the former, doesn’t seem very confident and says he makes Jet Dark “a big contender”.

The Sporting Post website is always a hive of activity and that’s certainly been the case with the award, with more than 50 posts showing support for nearly all seven mentioned above.

Perhaps it is strange that racing’s own newspaper, the Sporting Post, doesn’t have a representative on the Equus panel as Lance Benson is recognised as one of the country’s leading scribes.

Benson was asked on Tuesday to give his view on the top award and this was his response: “The SA horse of the year title often attracts some healthy and contentious debate, and last year Summer Pudding’s restricted exposure to competition against her own sex failed to stop the daughter of Silvano from being selected for the prestigious silverware.

“The criteria used by the esteemed judging panel — one would imagine that grade 1 performance holds the golden key — is not published and it’s difficult to suggest that emotion and public appeal do not play some sort of role. War Of Athena’s overall exploits would make her a popular and deserved choice in our book.”

Here are a selection of the newspaper’s posts:

Got The Greenlight: The reason I chose Got The Greenlight is because he’s a five-time grade 1 winner and for a young horse, what else can you say?

Kommetdieding: The “Kommet” is what heroes are made of.  I don’t think that Kommetdieding is the best horse in the country or best over the season. One big win in a handicap, though popular, is probably not enough in my mind to convince me.

Jet Dark: He beat the big boys twice. He has to hold the edge after his WFA [weight for age] exploits, but Linebacker has beaten him head to head and had a stellar season of his own. I’d be surprised if the winner came from outside this pair.

Rainbow Bridge: He has been consistent over a period of this year’s season. He has only been out of the first four placings once. For his age and merit rating, what more could one ask from a racehorse?

Linebacker: He was the most consistent performer against the best during the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal seasons. My prediction that the three-year-olds were top class is proven correct as Kommetdieding and Linebacker had the cream of SA all behind them in the Vodacom Durban July. The Cape three-year-olds were a cut above the rest. Jet Dark beat the best horses in the country, but not the best three-year-olds, Kommetdieding and Linebacker.

Summer Pudding: She won the Summer Cup from stall 18 carrying 59kg and trouncing her rivals. Surely, that must be high up there.

War Of Athena: She campaigned longer and harder than any of her rivals. She showed them what guts are made of. She won eight feature races in one season with wins over 1,200, 1,400, 1,600, 1,800, 2,000 and 2,450m. She won the Fillies Tripke Crown. That is my horse of the year.

The Equus committee has announced six nominations for the Champion Middle Distance award: Got The Greenlight, Kommetdieding, Jet Dark, Linebacker, Rainbow Bridge and War Of Athena. The winner of the 2020/2021 horse of the year title seems certain to come from this sextet.

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