Picture: 123RF/ MELORY S
Picture: 123RF/ MELORY S

The last batch of racing awards — handed out by Cape breeders at the weekend — rubber-stamps the decisions made by the Equus panel in the middle of August.

After the announcement of the Equus winners, there were three that can be termed “controversial categories”. These  were horse of the year, champion middle-distance horse, and champion two-year-old colt/gelding.

Rainbow Bridge was named winner of the first two categories and Good Traveller secured the two-year-old award.

The three-man Cape panel also named these two horses winners of these categories in their province, which meant Cape trainer Vaughan Marshall, trainer of Linebacker and Ambiorix, was left out in the cold once again.

With Rainbow Bridge winning the Cape’s premier race The Met, it gave Eric Sands’s star performer a lot of points in his home province and, perhaps no surprise, he was preferred to Summerhill Stud-bred War Of Athena.

But it was the Equus panel also naming Rainbow Bridge as champion middle-distance horse which saw huge reaction from the media and on social media.

Commenting in Turftalk, the website’s editor Ken Nicol stated: “Linebacker was the only nominee in the middle-distance category to win two grade 1 races over these distances. He finished a close second to the ‘people’s champion’ Kommetdieding in the Durban July, defeating all the older horses comfortably.

“Rainbow Bridge clearly wasn’t himself that day so Vaughan Marshall’s stalwart can count himself most hard done by not to have received the accolade.”

Nicol continued: “If Marshall was the paranoid type [he isn’t] he may well have been thinking the Equus panel had a vendetta against him when his juvenile colt, Ambiorix, was also snubbed for the award in favour of Good Traveller.”

The three-man Cape panel also gave the award to Good Traveller, who is trained by one of the province’s top conditioners, Glen Kotzen, and bred at Ceres-based Lammerskraal Stud.

Ironically, Ambiorix was bred at Oldlands Stud and this Hermanus-based operation, run by Barbara Sanne and her son Ian, won the award at the weekend for outstanding breeder.

Most would agree this was a good call as — with Klawervlei champion breeders — it gave the panel the chance to honour a stud which had enjoyed a memorable season.

Apart from grade 1 winner Ambiorix and grade 2 winner Netta, the biggest success of the campaign for Oldlands came in the grade 1 Garden Province Stakes on July day when rank outsider Zarina upstaged three talented females in War Of Athena, Captain’s Ransom and Princess Calla.

Zarina’s starting price of 75-1 tells the story of how big a surprise the victory of the daughter of Master Of My Fate came to racing fans, but bookies were delighted. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined all three of the major contenders getting beaten.

The Australian grade 1 success of Yulong Prince — formerly named Surcharge and trained on the Highveld by Stuart Pettigrew — was also recognised, with the panel naming him international horse of the year.

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