Prolific owner Hugo Hattingh is the type of racing personality this country needs more of as he loves horses and has a desire to grow the sport. Few would begrudge him and his family a win with the Glen Kotzen-trained Eyes Wide Open in the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday.
Hugo regards Eyes Wide Open as the best horse he has ever owned, better even than the like of Light The Lights and Gold Standard, although he admits to possibly being a touch biased.
The family race under the name Chrigor Stud and the Kotzen-trained Gold Standard was their first July runner last year.
Hugo said, “He also drew on the outside, but Eyes is suited to Greyville and Gold was probably not.”
Eyes Wide Open has run five times on the Greyville turf, including a win in the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes over 1600m as a two-year-old, a third in the Grade 1 Champions Cup as a three-year-old last year, and this season he has won the Grade 2 WSB 1900 and finished second in the Grade 3 Cup Trial.
Kotzen was philosophical after he drew wide in barrier 18 and said at least he would be able to stay out of trouble, while there also looked to be a lot of pace around him.
The Dynasty colt will sport the most colourful silks in the July.
Hattingh used to race under the name Triple H Trust, whose colours were royal blue with a yellow band and red sleeves and cap.
These three colours were the company colours of a business he owned called Anchorpharm.
Later when forming a set of silks for his wife Suzanne he used the same three colours but because of her love of diamonds the body is now alternate blue and yellow diamonds, the sleeves and cap are red and there is a blue diamond on the cap.
These are now the colours of Chrigor Stud.
Hugo formed the name of the stud operation during a flight overseas by combining the names of his daughter Christil and son Gordon.
Hugo grew up on a farm in the Hartebeespoort area and hence his love of horses. His first experience of horseracing was as a jockey in bush meetings, where they raced on dirt tracks. That was in the 1960s and he said, “Very pleasant … those were the days!”
When he became too heavy he switched to gymkhana events and later took part in dressage.
He ventured into thoroughbred racehorse ownership in the late 1980s and said, “The breeding part to me has always been attractive, the bloodlines, the stallions and the broodmares and that’s also why we’ve registered Chrigor Stud now. I think we have more fillies and mares now than colts and geldings. At one stage Glen said we should call it Chrigor stallions but I don’t think that’s the drive going forward. At the end of the day it’s all about passion. We are trying to get the horseracing industry to grow and this is why I have my children very excited and involved.”
Christil is 27-years-old and Gordon 25. The enthusiasm of young racegoers like themselves has a knock on effect which will be vital for the future of the sport.
Suzanne has also become an avid horseracing fan.
Hugo and Suzanne live in Pretoria but Gordon lives in the Cape and that’s where the family keeps their horses.
He said, “I believe the Cape develops stronger horses through the South-Easter wind (the Cape Doctor), which cleans the air. The KZN season is also very close to our hearts. The pinnacle, as I see it, is the Cape and KZN seasons combined. I have the odd horse in Jo’burg with our first trainer Alec Laird, but obviously we have come a long way with Glen. Funnily enough Glen won the July ten years ago with Big City Life in 2009 and we met that year at a pre-J&B Met function. His Woodhill Racing Estate farm is a very relaxed environment and with me growing up on a farm the penny dropped.”
As an indication of the Hattingh family’s love of horses they departed the game for about five years due to the trauma they experienced when one of their best horses The Eiger Sanction broke a leg a week before the Gold Cup in 2004.
However, they have had many highs since their comeback.
He continued “To win a big race is the pinnacle but a big motivation behind our operation is to breed a Group 1 winner. I think that is even more of a challenge.”
Gold Standard, who stands at Drakenstein Stud, became the Hattingh’s first stallion. Chrigor Stud has a ten percent share in him,
He added, “Obviously we would like Eyes to go to stud, but we are going to race him another year because he’s come so well.”
Hugo was on a hunting trip when Eyes Wide Open won the WSB 1900 and watching on TV recalls saying to his colleagues, “This is the first time in a very long time I have seen him go down so well.”
Eyes Wide Open is a big horse who takes a lot of racing, so will be at his peak on Saturday having had one more run in the Cup Trial and then rounding off his preparation with a fine July gallop last Thursday.
The former Cape Derby winner will be attempting to add a third Grade 1 to his CV and a July win will obviously increase his stud value.
He has a realistic chance under top jockey Warren Kennedy and if he does pull it off there are sure to be many joyous family embraces in the winner’s enclosure.
By David Thiselton