Top owner Van Niekerk shocks racing world by quitting
Gives partner Sean Tarry all the horses he is training, but will maintain breeding interests, says son
SA’s best-known owner, Chris van Niekerk, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday when his son Erich revealed his father was quitting the sport.
In an interview with Business Day, Erich van Niekerk said: “My Dad has had a long and successful innings [in racing], but he has made the decision to no longer have horses racing in his colours.
“He has given all his horses that are in training with Sean Tarry Racing to Sean. He will, however, maintain his breeding interests, notably with Klawervlei Stud,” said Van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk and Tarry teamed up in 1998 and the last 23 years has resulted in one of the most successful partnerships in the history of SA racing. Tarry’s career total of wins stands at 2,346 and include 60 grade 1 successes. Many of these were owned by Van Niekerk, who has been Equus Champion Owner three times.
His famous blue-and-red colours have been carried to victory in two Durban July races — Pomodoro winning in 2012 and Heavy Metal in 2013. After his second win, Van Niekerk quipped to reporters: “I could get used to this.”
National Colour — arguably Van Niekerk’s best horse — was voted Equus horse-of-the-year in 2006 and a year later won the 1,000m Nad Al Sheba in Dubai.
Then in 2008 Tarry made the decision to take on the best of Europe in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, and National Colour finished a creditable second (this correspondent was lucky enough to be present) in the grade 1 contest run at Newmarket.
Other talented Van Niekerk horses who spring to mind include Mythical Flight (SA record holder for 1,000m with a time of 54.96sec), French Navy (Champion three year-old colt/gelding 2014/15) and Buy And Sell (Daily News 2000 in 2007).
On July day this year, Van Niekerk’s four-year-old Shango won the Hollywoodbets 2,200 while other talented horses who ran on the same day included Eden Roc, Warrior’s Rest, Cirillo and Ikigai.
Turbulent weather caused the early curtailment of Tuesday’s Vaal meeting, but there is another eight-race programme scheduled for the same track on Thursday.
When Carl and Amanda de Vos sent up a Gimmethegreenlight filly from Varsfontein Stud to the National Yearling Sales three years ago, they will have been pleasantly surprised that the youngster was bought by another top farm, Jessica Jell’s Mauritzfontein Stud.
Jell clearly thought the filly, named I Dream Of Genie, would eventually be a good addition to her band of mares at her stud near Kimberley. She bid R550,000 to secure the daughter of Little Genie, who retired to stud a five-time winner.
In common with many horses owned by Jell and her mother, Mary Slack, I Dream Of Genie joined the stable of Mike de Kock and the filly has won once and been placed four times from six outings.
The filly, whose half-sister (by Silvano) made R225,000 at the National Yearling Sales in April, bids to win her second race when she takes on seven rivals in the seventh race over 1,200m. Bookies rate the De Kock inmate a 9-2 chance, which seems generous.
The early 3-1 favourite is Alec Laird’s five-year-old mare Emerald Crest, also a daughter of Gimmethegreenlight. She boasts four wins from 14 starts and, like I Dream Of Genie, is returning from a break.
Though the only three-year-old in the race, Ashley Fortune’s filly Franca could prove a threat with just 52kg on her back. The daughter of Rafeef is a two-time winner and ran a creditable third behind Full Velocity at Turffontein in August.
Ryan Munger, who rides Franca, can go close on another Fortune runner Capetown Affair in the third race. The merit-rating of the five-year-old has slipped to 58.
Gavin Lerena — fresh from riding his 2,000th winner last Saturday — has five booked rides at the meeting and the pick of the quintet may be Lucky Houdalakis’s runner Money Fighter in the fourth race.
A R160,000 son of What A Winter, Money Fighter meets some modest rivals and can take advantage of a favourable draw to beat Flying Grace and Letsdoit.
Lerena has an each-way shout on Bronco Blitz in the sixth race, but preference is for the Ashley Fortune duo of On Cue and Abulus. On Cue failed to justify favouritism last time out but had performed well prior to that run, while Lyle Hewitson will get the best out of recent maiden winner Abulus.
A horse which must be included in jackpot and Pick 6 perms is Paul Peter’s three-year-old Frontline Fighter. The gelding only received a two-point penalty for his recent four-lengths maiden win.
1st Race: (7) Corapi (2) Magic Number (5) Invincible Wall (3) Mister Blue Sky
2nd Race: (8) Dame Of Flames (9) Kizzmekia (1) Bold Decision (3) Frosted Ice
3rd Race: (9) Capetown Affair (8) Senescence (2) Humble Tune (1) Secret Is Ours
4th Race: (4) Money Fighter (3) Flying Grace (7) Letsdoit (8) Noble Striker
5th Race: (1) Mitch Got His Wish (4) Bella Rosa (7) Readysetglo (6) Linganomore
6th Race: (3) On Cue (5) Abulus (4) Frontline Fighter (1) Bronco Blitz
7th Race: (6) I Dream Of Genie (3) Emerald Crest (7) Franca (1) Greens
8th Race: (4) Miracle And Wonder (9) Rozara (3) Flower Of Scotland (2) Meteoric
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