THERE have been numerous debates over the years as to who was the best horse ever bred in South Africa, writes SARAH WHITELAW. However, the question of which was the best filly ever to race in this country has largely been overlooked.
This list compiled consists of fillies and mares largely on their South African record, although Ipi Tombe’s feats both locally and abroad make her a definite inclusion.
A truly great racemare, Kings Pact had to overcome a really tough campaign as a 2yo – which included a remarkable nine race winning streak. She won the Clairwood Winter Handicap (now Champions Cup) as a 2yo – an all but unheard of achievement. Kings Pact went on to land the Champion Stakes as a 3yo, winning the WFA race by nearly ten lengths in the process, and setting a new race record in the process. She went on to land the Natal Derby – at the remarkable odds of 10-1 ON, but was beaten narrowly in the Cape Derby. Kings Pact also ran fourth in the July – giving the winner nearly two stone!
Not only was Dignity a champion on the racetrack, she is also the dam of champion racehorse and sire Dignitary. She was unbeaten at two in five starts, but was defeated, as the favourite, in the SA Derby. She won a Durban Merchants -and put up a staggering display to win a Merchants carrying 9 stone 12! Her son, Dignitary, was the first SA bred horse to top the general sires list.
Despite being injured in a float accident, Olympic Duel recovered to establish herself as a true champion. She beat the colts in some of the biggest races, winning the J&B Met, Champion Stakes and Mainstay International. In the latter race, Olympic Duel had to tote top-weight, and still managed to defeat Met winner Divine Master. In total, Olympic Duel won no fewer than seven G1 races, and was twice placed in the Durban July. She went onto become a successful broodmare. Her descendants include recent G3 Champagne Stakes winner, Northern Heritage.
Ipi Tombe, one of the greatest!
The Zimbabwean bred overcame an ordinary pedigree to become a champion both locally and internationally. During her career, Ipi Tombe made 14 starts, and won 12 of them. She was unbeaten in her overseas campaign, winning feature races in both USA and Dubai – where her wins included a facile triumph in the Dubai Duty Free (where she thrashed subsequent Duty Free dead heater, Paolini). Ipi Tombe won South Africa’s most famous race, the Durban July, as a 3yo, and won four of her five starts in South Africa. Unfortunately, she is yet to replicate her success on the track at stud, despite being sent to some of the world’s top sires.
The Argentinian bred was a true superstar, and one of the best fillies ever to set foot on a South African racetrack. Nicknamed the “Galloping Goldmine”, Empress Club was unbeaten at two, where her wins including easy scores in the Smirnoff Plate and SA Nursery. At three she was named Horse of the Year, and beat colts in the Cape Guineas, SA Guineas and Administrator’s Classic. Remarkably, she then downed older males when landing the rich Administrator’s Cup. At four, Empress Club won both the Met and Queen’s Plate, beating champion Flaming Rock on both occasions.
A half-sister to champion Ecurie, Empress Club was later exported to the US, where she won the G3 Hillsborough Handicap. Retired to stud, Empress Club produced the minor stakes winners Azouz Pasha and Empress Pegasus. She died suddenly in 2004.
One of the best fillies in a vintage era of great horses, Renounce had the misfortune of competing against the likes of Sea Cottage, William Penn and Java Head. Nontheless, this great filly managed to win both the Cape Guineas, Paddock Stakes and Met. She also landed the spoils in the Garden Province Stakes by a whopping seven lengths. Raced from two to five, the daughter of Arctic Flower won ten times, and competed against some of the greats of the sport.
Unfortunately, Renounce proved disappointing at stud, producing just a single winner.
One of just a handful of horses to win both the July and Met, Igugu did all that was asked of her during her South African campaign. The daughter of Galileo looked special right from the start, and was sold for R1 million at the 2009 Emperors Palace Ready to Run Sale. Recently exported to Dubai, Igugu won ten of her 12 starts in South Africa – and looked slightly unlucky in her only two defeats. She is the first filly ever to win the Fillies Triple Tiara, and her six length romp in the G2 SA Oaks (over the very talented staying filly Princess of Light) was majestic. In her only two starts against older, open competition, Igugu proved triumphant – despite a poor prep for the 2012 J&B Met. She is expected to add to her trainer’s superb record in Dubai.
So which was the greatest? While I have a soft spot for the mighty Olympic Duel, with her courage and class, personally I would side with the likes of King’s Pact who accomplished tremendous feats, and overcame considerable handicaps to do so. – sportingpost.co.za