WHILE only one horse has won the SASCOC SA Triple Crown since it was introduced in 1999, writes NICCI GARNER – the mighty Horse Chestnut in the inaugural year – three horses have come close in the last 10 years, notably Surveyor in 2003, Hunting Tower in 2006 and Pierre Jourdan in 2010. The Triple Crown series of races for three-year-olds comprises the R1-million Gauteng Guineas over 1600m, the R2-million SA Classic over 1800m and the R1.5-million SA Derby at 2450m.
The chasm in distances and that the three races are run within two months means that it takes a most remarkable individual to win the Triple Crown (or the females’ equivalent, the Triple Tiara) and the R2-million bonus for accomplishing the feat. Two have won both the SA Classic and SA Derby but did not have a shot at the Triple Crown because they finished unplaced in the Gauteng Guineas – in 2004 Greys Inn, trained by Mike de Kock and now a successful stallion, and in 2008 Lance Wiid-trained King’s Gambit, who was subsequently sold to England where he won two races including a Grade 3 event.
Hunting Tower won both the Gauteng Guineas and the SA Classic, but did not run in the 2450m SA Derby of his year. This well-performed eight-time winning son of Fort Wood is still in training as a nine-year-old and is currently campaigning with De Kock in Dubai.
Pierre Jourdan, who will be running for trainer Gary Alexander in the Hawaii Stakes, one of the supporting features on Gauteng Guineas day this Saturday, repeated Hunting Tower’s feat of winning the Gauteng Guineas and the SA Classic. His connections did not shy away from a Triple Crown attempt, but Pierre Jourdan did not relish the combination of muddy conditions and the 2450m distance on Champions Day in 2010 and had to settle for second to De Kock’s Irish Flame. In England geldings cannot run in the “Classics” (the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes) – they are races set aside for horses to prove themselves for stud.
That is not the case in South Africa and just one other Gauteng Guineas winner in the last decade has gone on to become a stallion. Oracy, who won the Gauteng Guineas in 2009, is currently standing at Klawervlei Stud in the Western Cape and enthusiastic reports have come from the farm about his first foals, which were born late last year.
De Kock has won the Gauteng Guineas twice in recent years, with Imbongi (2008) and last year with Link Man, who is being given a long rest after his downfield run in the Queen’s Plate last month. Imbongi also won the KZN Guineas before going on to enjoy a successful international campaign. He has returned to South Africa and is being ridden by Mike Fleisher at Joburg Country Base. De Kock has played a hand in the subsequent careers of three other Gauteng Guineas winners – Surveyor went on to win the Jebel Hatta Stakes (G3) for the champion trainer, 2004 winner Grand Emporium gave him his only victory to date in the Godolphin Mile (2005) and 2007 Guineas hero Biarritz, subsequently bought by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, enjoyed a relatively successful campaign in the desert in 2009 and 2010.
With a six-out-of-10 record with Gauteng Guineas winners, will this year’s hero take the fancy of the “Three Wise Men’’ (De Kock, bloodstock expert Jehan Malherbe and veterinary surgeon John McVey) – assuming one of his four runners does not win the race? De Kock, who will send out three runners for the Gauteng Fillies Guineas, has had a virtual stranglehold on the race in recent years, winning it four times since 2006.
He is the only trainer to have won the Triple Tiara and the R1-million bonus with his charge Igugu winning the Gauteng Fillies Guineas (1600m), the SA Fillies Classic (1800m) and the SA Oaks (2450m) last year. His other Gauteng Fillies Guineas’ winners were Rememberance (who became a broodmare at Mauritzfontein Stud), Zirconeum (who went on to race in Dubai) and recently retired Fisani. Although this year he is not bullishly confident about his chances in either race, nobody will be too surprised if he repeats last year’s clean sweep. Whatever the outcome, the winners look assured of a bright future!
Photo: Horse Chestnut and Igugu.