Guest Column: Hooves And Glamour: J&B Met

Guest Column: Hooves And Glamour: J&B Met

1 February, 2013
– Lisa Barrett

Policitican, at Scott Bros. Image: Scott Bros

Saturday 2 February sees the running of one of the country’s most high profile and glamorous racing events, the J&B Met. First thought to be run by British soldiers garrisoned in the Cape in the late 1800’s who wanted to race their horses somewhere. First run on Greenpoint Common, it quickly became the social event of the day, as the ladies of the area would turn out in all their finery to watch the soldiers racing. The race was moved to its present home, Kenilworth at the end of the last century.

First officially run in 1883, when it was known as the Metropolitan Mile, the first winner was Sir Hercules. However, the fortunes of the race took a nosedive during the 1900’s due to lack of interest and sponsorship, and it was only in the late 70’s when the famous whisky giants, Justerini & Brooks took over the race sponsorship in 1978, that new life was injected into the race. “The Met” as its fondly known, has undergone several image makeovers during the past decade, and today is as much about the social events around the race, as the racing itself.

Thanks to J&B’s sponsorship, the fortunes of the race skyrocketed, and to celebrate, the racing public were treated to a sublime performance by one of South Africa’s greatest horses, Politician. The magnificent Syd Laird trained chestnut colt, electrified the racing public when he cruised to a 3.25 lengths victory in the 1978 running. The following year was to cement Politician’s place in South African racing folklore, as he gunned for a second victory, this time under top weight of 58.5 kgs. Becoming hemmed with several horses as they headed into the home straight, no-one thought he could find a way through to victory. However, it seems nobody told Politician that, as he put on a breath-taking burst of speed to catch the champion filly, Festive Season as they headed for the line, in the end beating her by half a length to claim a rare Met double. It was a performance that still stands today as one of the finest ever witnessed in the Met.

It would be 30 more long years before Politician’s memorable victories would be emulated and bettered, when Pocket Power made it three from three with consecutive victories in 2007, 2008 & 2009.

The Met has over the years borne witness to victories by some of South Africa’s most well-known horses, and the honours rolls reads like a who’s who of winners: Yataghan (1973), Foveros (1982), Wolf Power (1984), the great mare Empress Club (1993), London News (1997), Horse Chestnut (1999), Badger’s Coast (2000), Yard Arm (2004), River Jetez (2010) and Igugu (2011).

The sole filly in this year’s race is KZN-based trainer Dennis Drier’s Beach Beauty, who is carrying a not too insignificant weight of 57.5 kgs. The multiple Group winning daughter of Dynasty, has several impressive victories under her belt, the most recent being the Paddock Stakes (Gr.1). If she manages to down the boys on Saturday, she will become the first filly since Renounce in 1966 to manage back-to-back wins in the Paddock Stakes and the Met.

KZN has a sole entry in the big race on Saturday, the Summerhill Stud-bred Black Wing. The 5YO son of Kahal has been knocking on the door for a while now, after two narrow seconds in the KZN Million Mile and the Champions Cup. Ridden by veteran champion jockey Felix Coetzee, Black Wing commands serious respect, and should never be written out of the equation.

Black Wing, bred by Summerhill Stud. Image: Gold Circle

For many pundits, the race comes down to three: Jackson, Pomodoro and Slumdogmillionaire, all of whom, baring disaster, should make up the top three places. After a disappointing second to Variety Club in the L’Ormarins Queens Plate, there have been a few question marks over whether he has the “big match” temperament come Saturday.

In the case of Pomodoro, he is in the capable and safe hands of Piere “Stryker” Strydom, one of South Africa’s most experienced jockeys. His win from a 20 draw in last year’s Vodacom July was memorable indeed, and thanks to Sean Tarry’s superb conditioning, the son of Jet Master is in the form of his life.

Making up the last of the trio is the enigmatic Slumdogmillionaire, who is coming off a 10 month injury break after his narrow, but impressive victory over Pomodoro in the SA Classic (Gr.1). Whether or not the Met comes too quickly for him after his lengthy rest is up for debate, and his ability and fitness will certainly be tested.

However “it aint over till the fat lady has sung” and if any horse in the race has an outside chance, its Bravura, who hasn’t had the best of luck, but whose gallant and desperately unlucky second to super mare Igugu was one of the highlights of last year’s Met. He clearly has the form, and with his favourite jockey Anton Marcus on board who knows?

Take away the glamour and parties, and you are left with a group of multi-talented horses who are aiming to live up the great legacy that previous winners of the Met have left in their wake, and create their own piece of history.

Lisa Barrett
– Guest Writer

“Lisa Barrett”, her psuedonym, currently works at a stud farm in the KZN Midlands. She is absolutely and totally crazy about horses and every aspect of them. She is fascinated by every aspect of the racehorse business, especially pedigrees and would like to one day write a book on her favourite sire!

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