TOP TEST FOR THREE-YEAR-OLDS!
History: The SA Classic was first run as the Benoni Guineas over 1600m in 1913. In a huge stride forward for South African racing, the distance of the race was increased to 1800m in 1982 when it became the Sigma Classic and was moved to autumn from its traditional date towards the end of the year. Until the distance was increased, the three principal races for three-year-olds in South Africa had all been run at 1600m, which was illogical in light of the country's major races for older horses being decided over 2000m and 2200m. In the 1990s the race alternated between Gosforth Park and Turffontein for several years. Since the closure of Gosforth Park, the race has been run at Turffontein and forms the second leg of the Triple Crown. It is the most important test for three-year-olds in Johannesburg and past winners include champions like London News (1996), Horse Chestnut (1999), Greys Inn (2004) and more recently French Navy in 2015.
Classic Day features a mega list of supporting feature races, making it one of the major racedays on the national calendar.
SA Fillies Classic - Previously the SA Oaks Trial Handicap, which was first run in 1992 over 2000m at Newmarket. The name and distance were changed in 1999 in order to create a suitable second leg for the SA Triple Tiara. Its status was upgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 1 in 2005.
Horse Chestnut Stakes - First run in 1964 as the SA Invitation Stakes, the race was renamed after Hawaii from 1970 and later became the First National 1600. The race was renamed for the great Horse Chestnut in 2000.
Owned by Bridget and Harry Oppenheimer and trained by Mike de Kock, Horse Chestnut won two of three starts as a two-year-old and blossomed into one of the finest racehorses in this country's history the next season. He was equine dynamite as a three-year-old and scored six wins in as many races, including an 8.25-length demolition of the top older horses in the J&B Met and a 10-length win in the SA Derby to capture the SA Triple Crown.
Sent to the USA with the Dubai World Cup as his major target, he began his campaign with a 5.50-length win in the $100,000 Broward Handicap (Grade 3). Soon after that he fractured a splint bone in a workout and was retired to stud in Kentucky. He returned to South Africa in 2009 to take up stud duties at Drakenstein Stud Farm in the Western Cape and stood there until his death in 2015. His progeny include USA Group 1 winner Lucifer's Stone.
Caradoc Gold Cup - First run in 1990, it takes its name from the high-class runner owned by Peggy Mosenthal and American multi-millionaire Charles Engelhard, who died before Caradoc's racing career was over. Caradoc (by Noble Chieftain out of Rodcar) notched up many of his victories at Turffontein, including the Derby Trial Stakes and the 1966 Summer Cup (then run as the Castle Tankard). Trained by George Azzie, he went on to win the Hawaii Stakes at Turffontein and the Gold Cup at Greyville in 1968 before taking the International Jockeys Invitation Stakes at Scottsville the following year. He was retired in 1971 and was donated to Turffontein as a lead horse, a role he performed admirably until his death in 1983. He is buried on the infield at Turffontein.
Man O' War Sprint - Previously the Morris Lipschitz Memorial Plate, the race honours on the finest thoroughbreds in history in USA champion Man O' War (by Fair Play out of Mahuba), who was put down aged 30 on a November morning in Kentucky in 1947. Such was Man O’War’s fame that he lay in state for three days and his funeral service was broadcast on national radio. Those who saw the powerful chestnut race spoke of him with awe. His only defeat in 21 races came in the Sandford Memorial, in which a bad start and a bad ride saw him just fail to catch Upset. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby but won the other two legs of the 1920 USA Triple Crown, including beating his sole rival in the Belmont Stakes by 20 lengths. "Big Red" broke five course records and his winning margins were huge, once by 100 lengths. It became increasingly difficult to find rivals for him. He had vanquished them all. He retired with then record earnings of nearly $250,000 and at stud he sired 64 stakes winners including 1937 USA Triple Crown winner War Admiral.
Protea Stakes - Formerly the Gosforth Park Juvenile Colts And Geldings Stakes over 1400m, which was first run as the Gosforth Park Two-Year-Old Plate in 1913, the race was renamed in 1999 and moved from Gosforth Park to Turffontein to form part of the Champions Day meeting. It was later moved to Classic Day to form the official preparatory race for the SA Nursery, which was switched to Champions Day.
Pretty Polly Stakes - Formerly the Gosforth Park Juvenile Fillies Stakes and first run in 1980, the race was not run in 2000 but was re-introduced as part of Champions Day in 2000 before being switched to Classic Day as part of the SA Fillies Nursery build-up. It was renamed to commemorate an equine heroine from a past era. "Peerless" Pretty Polly, as journalists called her, ranks one of the greatest fillies of all time. She raced from two to five (1903-1906) and won 22 of 24 races from 1000m to 3600m. There was not a horse in England to match her and she won the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger in 1904. She would have won the Derby had she been entered because she beat the winner, St Amant, every time they met. A big, dark chestnut, she ran second in the two races she lost. One was at Longchamp after a dreadful train journey to Paris and the other the Ascot Gold Cup in her final race, when her jockey erred. Pretty Polly, by Gallinule out of Admiration, had several daughters who were outstanding broodmares.
Event details: One of the best racedays of the year, it normally runs alongside the world’s richest race meeting, Dubai World Cup, in Dubai and there’s non-stop action for horseracing fans from midday until well into the evening.
R2-million SA Classic 1800m Grade 1 – Leg 2 SA Triple Crown
R1-million Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic 1800m Grade 1 – Leg 2 Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara
R1-million HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes 1600m Grade 1
R250,000 Caradoc Gold Cup 2850m Grade 3
R250,000 Man O' War Sprint 1100m Grade 3
R250,000 Jacaranda Handicap 1800m Grade 3
R200,000 Protea Stakes 1100m Grade 3
R200,000 Pretty Polly Stakes 1100m Grade 3