HORSERACING as a sport has flourished in Japan due to the support of government, writes DAVID THISELTON.
One of the most significant moments from a South African perspective at Meydan in Dubai last Saturday night might well have been when the Klawervlei-bred Vercingetorix, who has uplifted the lives of a co-operative of grooms, chased home the breathtakingly brilliant Japanese horse Just A Way in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free.
Vercingetorix (winning), a significant example of South African success. (Andrew Watkins).
The Japanese government prioritised horseracing as an important industry after World War II and it has been operated under direct government control since 1948. In 1954, the government established the Japan Racing Association, a semi-governmental corporation, to conduct all aspects of horse racing.
Just A Way is the latest in a succession of world class Japanese racehorses that descend from the immortal stallion Sunday Silence, who won the first two legs of the US triple crown in 1989 and was imported to Japan in the early 1990s. Gentildonna, who won the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic at the same meeting, is also a Japanese-bred that hails from Sunday Silence.
The Japanese government has also thrown its weight and financial support behind their thoroughbred breeding industry. This has allowed Japanese horseracing to become a world leader and a source of virulent national pride.
South African breeding continues to make an impact abroad and in this regard a lot is owed to the stud owners that have imported stallions like Silvano, Var, National Assembly, Western Winter, Fort Wood, Oratorio, Black Minnaloushe, Trippi, Mogok, Rakeen and others, often at great expense, as well as some top class broodmares.
However, Vercingetorix’s success might have opened up a whole new ball game as the South African government played a significant role in his early life. It is well documented that Vercingetorix was bought off Klawervlei Stud as a weanling by a grooms co-operative thanks to a R200,000 grant by Donald Mubusela and Thami Klassen of the Department of Trade and Industry.
The co-operative, chaired by Abraham Carelse of Riverton Stud, later sold the Silvano colt for R1,4 million at the National Yearling Sale and with the proceeds they have been able to establish themselves as breeders with significant prospects. It is a fairytale economic empowerment story. Vercingetorix had won his previous two starts in Dubai, including the Gr 1 Jebel Hatta, and his three runs there earned his connections 4,728,800 dirhams (over R13,5 million).
Economic benefits will usually accompany national sporting success, so another significant moment last Saturday night came when jockey Anton Marcus carried the national flag proudly after winning the Gr 2 US$1 million Godolphin Mile on the South African-bred Variety Club. The twice Equus Horse Of The Year was followed home by another South African-bred, Soft Falling Rain.
Variety Club had two wins and a second during his Dubai stint for earnings of 2,796,800 dirhams (over R8 million), while multi-million amounts would have also been earned by other South African-bred Dubai Carnival winners, Shea Shea and Sanshaawes. In fact De Kock’s Dubai string, not all of whom were South African-bred, raked in 12,996,200 dirhams in total (close to R37,5 million).
This success highlighted the potential that the South African horseracing industry has to contribute to the economy. The statistics quoted above would “go through the roof”, as De Kock has often put it, if the stringency of the current export protocols could be lifted. South African horses currently have to endure the stress of an arduous five month journey via Mauritius and the UK just to reach Dubai due to quarantine requirements.
This is an area where government support could definitely make an impact. An advancement in the export situation would also help the country’s Olympic bid.
About the author
-David Thiselton of Gold Circle Publishing is a former Equus Racing Journalist of the Year.