SCOTTSVILLE Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg, the centre of speed in South African racing, hosts the Golden Horse Sprint race day for the 52nd time on Saturday.
The venue has been a focal point of South African racing innovation over the years with the country’s very first Jackpot being staged there as well as the first international jockey challenge. The R750 000 Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint was also the very first sponsored race in South Africa when it was first run as the Gilbey’s Stakes in 1962.
Unique in South Africa as the only meeting staging a Jackpot of four Grade 1 races and for many years the only meeting boasting four Grade 1 races on the card, the first running of the Golden Horse Sprint was such a major success that the two juvenile races, the R600 000, Grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship and the R600 000, Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Medallion – the latter starting life as the Smirnoff Plate – were introduced to the programme the following year.
In 1971, the Gr 1 South African Fillies Sprint was added to complete the Grade 1 quartet. Initially run as the Natal Fillies Sprint and making its appearance on the programme for the first time with a stake of R5 000, this weight-for-age race for fillies and mares is the ultimate test for the ladies on the South African calendar. The status of the race was upgraded in 1984 when it became the South African Fillies Sprint and has carried Grade 1 status for some years.
The Allan Robertson Championship was first run in 1964 as the Breeders Champion Fillies Stakes and is the top sprint for juvenile fillies in the country. The name was changed to the Allan Robertson Championship in 1974 in honour of Mr Allan Robertson, who founded the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of South Africa.
Great names of horses, jockeys and trainers have been associated with the winners of this race including Charlie Barends, Michael Roberts, Herman Brown senior, Terrance Millard, David Payne, the late Aubrey Roberts and Johnny Dawson who all won the race more than once.
The Tsogo Sun Medallion was first run in 1963 as the Smirnoff Plate and is the top two-year-old sprint in the country. Some of the finest speed horses in the land have added their names to the roll of honour. Among them was one of the most magnificent thoroughbred specimens bred in South Africa, National Currency, who went on to beat some of the world’s best in Dubai.