eLan Gold Cup
Mercury Sprint Grade 1
World Sports Betting Champions Cup Grade 1
Premier’s Champion Stakes Grade 1
Thekwini Stakes Grade 1
Umkhomazi Stakes Grade 3
The Debutante Grade 3
The Festival of Racing on Super Saturday 28 July 2018 is Gold Circle’s grand and golden finale to Champion’s Season where the country’s leading thoroughbred marathon, the R1.25-million, eLAN Gold Cup, heads a comprehensive programme of events second only to that on Vodacom Durban July day.
The 12-race meeting boasts no less than four Grade 1 events including the R1-million World Sports Betting Champions Cup over 1 800m and the top weight-for-age speed event, the R1-million Mercury Sprint over 1 200m.
The two other Grade 1 events are the R750 000 Premiers Champion Stakes and R750 000 Thekwini Stakes, the final clashes over 1600m for the country’s top two-year-olds. The Grade 2 Gold Bracelet is for fillies and mares at weight-for-age with penalties while the Umkhomazi Stakes and The Debutante are Grade 3 races at set weights over 1 200m for the juveniles.
The World Sports Betting Champions Cup over 1 800m was for many decades run as the premier event at Clairwood Racecourse, formerly and famously run as the Clairwood Winter Handicap and the Mainstay 1800. Some thrilling finishes form part of the race’s history, most notably when the great Sea Cottage came from the back of the field to win in the mid sixties – he won it two years running – and then, that incredible race battle in 1987 between the then Rothmans July first and second placed runners, Bush Telegraph and Model Man, and the Gauteng raider Main Man.
Four-year-old Model Man carried 57kg and was 8-10 favourite under Basil Marcus, Bush Telegraph with his July jockey Garth Puller up was set to carry 53kg with his July penalty and was 18-10 in the betting. Easy to back at 10-1 was Main Man in spite of Jeff Lloyd being his pilot.
With Main Man carrying just 49kg, Lloyd set him alight and he skated clear of the field and the two fancied runners became involved in an incredible battle up the home straight as they tried to reel Main Man in. They closed with every stride but the line came just too soon and he held on to win by a neck from Model Man with Bush Telegraph a length back in third.
Marinaresco, trained by Mike Bass who was retiring after the meeting, won the race in 2016 when he and wife Carol were honoured with the race being named after them and came back last year to make a little bit of history in winning the Vodacom Durban July for their trainer daughter, Candice Bass-Robinson.
Other notable winners included Spook Express, El Picha and Free My Heart.
The eLAN Gold Cup over 3 200m has been run at Greyville since 1921 and for decades was the second most famous race in the country attracting country-wide interest and betting. It is a merit-rated handicap and a tough test of ability and stamina for horse and rider and only one horse, Highland Night, managed to win the race two years running early in the new century.
Formally run as the Natal Flying Championship at Clairwood, the 1 200m event became the Mercury Sprint in 1986 and, as an open weight-for-age race, is the most important speed event in the country. It has been won by great sprinting thoroughbreds like Harry Hotspur, Signor Amigo, Flobayou, Jet Master, JJ The Jet Plane, National Colour, What A Winter and National Currency and never to be forgotten was the sensational clash in 1988 between the filly Splendid Ann and Springing Leopard, both from the Terrance Millard yard, that fought a bitter neck and neck battle up the straight with the filly just getting the decision.
The two juvenile races over 1 600m, the Premier’s Champion Stakes and Thekwini Stakes, are the races that give the racing industry and punters the best indication of the potential champions of the future, particularly in their three-year-old season.
Super Saturday brings Champions Season to a close and most of the big guns of the sport will return to the Cape and Gauteng. It will be another nine months before they return so get to Greyville and be part of the celebration of another great festival of the best racing in the country.