The 2017 South African Champions Season came to a close with a two-day meeting at Greyville at the end of July with success in the features by the Weiho Marwing trained Hermoso Mundo in the R1.25m, Grade 3 eLAN Gold Cup (3200m) and the Brett Crawford trained Sail South in the R1m Grade 1 World Sports Betting Champions Cup (1800m).
The win by Hermoso Mundo, under Gavin Lerena, crowned him as the unofficial king of the staying triple crown after the Gold Bowl over the Turffontein 3200m had turned into an exercise gallop as Hermoso Mundo put five lengths over the opposition, although the 3000m of SABC Gold Vase was the complete opposite as the result decided after a stewards’ inquiry.
The Equus Award for South African stayers has over the years been a contentious category. On many occasions the country’s staying ranks have been thin and the award inevitably going to the winner of the Grade 1 South African Derby. Although Hermoso Mundo’s three victories have come in Grade 3 company, he threw his hat into the ring as they are genuine staying events.
Cape Town trainer Glen Kotzen rounded off South African Champions Season on a high note as he landed the final Grade 1 juvenile race of the season as Eyes Wide Open edged out Ancestry in the R750,000, Premiers Champion Juvenile Stakes (1600m).
In the Champions Cup Sail South made short work of the opposition, including Captain America, as he stormed to victory over Captain America and Matador Man with the filly Bela-Bela in her swansong kicking on late for fourth. Last year’s winner Marinaresco and Durban July winner did not feature in the running.
Sail South has been an excellent performer for Crawford, this was his ninth win from 37 starts and a fitting win for a horse that has earned stakes in 21 of his races.
With the season drawing to a close, Crawford has had the season of his life with this win his sixth Grade 1.
The Champions Season is a vital component for the wagering and breeding sectors each year for the South African industry as well as the wider community.
The Durban July meeting on the first Saturday of July had some 50,000 patrons on course at Greyville to watch Candice Bass-Robinson become the first woman trainer to win the R4.25m, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July (2200m) with Marinaesco under Bernard Fayd’Herbe.
"Our turnover was 5% up on the day and from that perspective it was an amazing day. I think in general terms though it was one of the best meetings and events that we have ever staged," said Gold Circle's Patrick Loker about the Durban July meeting.
This raceday alone meant that the regional economy was predicted to have a R260 million injection directly from the meeting.
The projections done by Durban Tourism pointed to an anticipated direct expenditure of participants and spectators to be R133.3 million.
South Africa’s carnival racing now moves to Turffontein.