Tsogo Sun Sprint

SATURDAY 26 MAY 2018 – Scottsville Racecourse


Featuring the


S A Fillies Sprint Grade 1

Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion Grade 1

Allan Robertson Championship Grade 1


They are tough and they are fast and for many decades they have descended on the most testing 1 200m track in the country for a unique one-day gathering of the fastest thoroughbreds in South Africa.

They are the cream of the country’s sprinters that will cover a kilometre from a standing start in less than a minute with anything up to 60kg on their backs and each one is out to prove he or she is the best.

The special occasion is Tsogo Sun Sprint Day at Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg on May 26 where the unique meeting with a Jackpot of four Grade 1 sprint races caters for the country’s top colts, geldings and fillies. The meeting is headed by the R1-million Tsogo Sun Sprint, an open merit-rated event that became famous many years ago for the great sprinting battles that took place under the banner of the Gilbey’s Stakes.

The R750 000 South African Fillies Sprint is a weight-for-age clash for the fillies and mares while the meeting also stages the first of three Grade 1 test for the two-year-olds in the Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion and the Allan Robertson Championship that each carry a stake of R750 000..

The Scottsville 1 200m track is very testing for horse and rider and many star sprinters have failed at the venue in the past. From the start there is a downgrade to the junction after which there is a gradual but steady climb for about 600m to the finish. This is where the runners are fully tested, facing a challenge that demands the extra power and stamina that makes a champion – and sadly many contenders have, over the years, been found wanting.

Conditions were rather primitive when racing began more than 100 years ago at Scottsville under the control of the then City Sporting Club which later became the Pietermaritzburg Turf Club that made racing history way back in 1962 when staging the country’s first ever sponsored race, the Gilbey’s Stakes. The race proved so successful that the following year the Smirnoff Plate was staged and the involvement of the sponsors continued through to 1996 when the golden Horse Casino at the Scottsville course took over the sponsorship.

Innovation was a key word at the Pietermaritzburg Turf Club which saw it stage the first International jockey’s race, the International Jockey Invitation Stakes, before becoming the first racing club in the world to hold a “skins” meeting. To add to its list of firsts, it became the first club in the country in 1988 to stage three Grade 1 races on one day then made racing history the following year when including four Grade 1 sprint races on the card as the four legs of the Jackpot which, incidentally is the popular bet that made it’s first appearance at the Scottsville venue.

The Tsogo Sun Sprint meeting is the Mecca of sprint racing in the country and the rolls of honour of all four feature events on the card include the names of truly great sprinting thoroughbreds. In the Tsogo Sun race itself names like Jet Master and Dambuster that each won the race twice and the fillies that beat the boys home – Scarlet Lady, Sunera, Bold West and Splendid Ann.

The SA Fillies Sprint was introduced to the programme in 1971 and the list of winners send tingles down one’s spine, fillies like Marie Galante, Joie De Grise and Laisserfaire that each won it twice, Harry’s Charm, National Colour, Via Africa and the darling of the sprinting world in the country, Carry On Alice.

The Tsogo Sun Medallion was first run as the Smirnoff Plate in 1963 and is acknowledged as the premier sprint race for two-year-olds in South Africa. Here the roll of honour not only reflects the names of great sprinters but those of many great trainers like Terrance Millard, Herman Brown Senior, David Payne, Mike Azzie, Buller Benton, Joe Joseph and Dennis Drier who has won the race seven times and six in eight years – the last being the Twice Over colt Sand And Sea that won impressively in 2017.

Out of their stables and those of other conditioners came runners like Prontisimo, Empress Club, King’s Rhapsody, Smackeroo, Royal Currency, Master Polly, Tracy’s Element and Historic Lady.

The year after the Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion was first run, The Allan Robertson Fillies Championship was staged for the two-year-old fillies to complete the programme of four Grade 1 sprint races on the same afternoon.

Last year the 27-1 outsider from the Gauteng yard of Paul Matchett, Brave Mary, stunned the large crowd and the connections of the more fancied runners when she burst away from the pack to win as she liked. Names that conjure up memories of beautiful and exciting fillies include the likes of Little Gambler, Rock Star, Queen Of Tonga, Forward Filly and the magnificent Breyani.

In all, Saturday, May 26 is one of the most important days in South African racing, a day that always promises action and excitement at the very highest level and a day that every lover of the thoroughbred should never miss.