CAPE TOWN'S BIGGEST RACE!
History: Cape Town is not only renowned for tourist attractions like Table Mountain. For more than 200 years the imposing Cape Drakensburg mountain range has sheltered and nurtured one of the major thoroughbred horseracing centres in the country.
It is hardly surprising then that the Mother City is home to the oldest of the “Big Four” feature races on the South African racing calendar, the J&B Met (the country’s other premier horseracing events are the SANSUI Summer Cup, the President’s Champions Challenge and the Vodacom Durban July).
The Met was first run in 1883, almost a century after the first locally bred thoroughbred foal wobbled to its feet and grew to elegant and imposing maturity in the shadows of the craggy mountain range. In that first Met, run as the Metropolitan Mile, Sir Hercules proved the fleetest in a small field of seven.
In the next eight decades the race grew in stature, sometimes being run as many as five times a year. But the handicap conditions and large fields often resulted in the best equines in the land staying at home, rather than competing in a race that had become notoriously rough and prone to upset results.
In 1973 the Western Cape racing authorities decided to change the conditions in order to attract the best horses.
The new race conditions yielded the desired result with horses travelling from all over the country to compete. The honour roll in the next five years included famous equines like Yataghan, Sledgehammer (the mighty Elevation finished second) and Gatecrasher.
Although the race meeting attracted racing purists, it had far to go to become as popular as Durban’s July Handicap, which had long caught the imagination of the non-racing public and become a national sporting and betting event.
It was only when Justerini and Brooks, producers of J&B Rare Scotch Whisky, stepped in to sponsor the Met in 1978 that the race’s public profile ballooned.
Unsurprisingly, the brewers knew how to throw a party and soon the raceday, held early each year, became one of the grandest and most important events on the Cape’s social and cultural calendar.
Nowadays some 30,000 people swing through the turnstiles at the beautiful Kenilworth Racecourse and the winners in the last 26 years reads like a Who’s Who of the South African turf.
The mighty Politician set the tone by winning the first J&B-sponsored Met and he repeated the feat under a big weight the following year, picking his way through the pack before putting on a breathtaking display of acceleration to snatch the laurels from champion filly Festive Season. He remains the only horse to have twice won the Met under the J&B banner.
Politician was trained by icon Syd Laird, who had previously won the race with Yataghan in 1974 and had also sent the brilliant Sea Cottage into the Met fray to finish fourth in 1966.
Laird’s grandson, Alec, added another Met trophy to the family trophies when his imposing chestnut London News won the 1997 renewal for businessman Laurie Jaffee and his wife Jean.
The Millard family has also excelled in the race. “Maestro” Terrance Millard opened his Met scorecard in 1963 when Polar Bear beat Speciality. He subsequently collected another four Met trophies with Arctic Cove winning in 1983 followed by Mark Anthony (1988), Jungle Warrior (1990) and Olympic Duel (1991).
He later retired and handed over his string to his son Tony, who trained “Galloping Goldmine” Empress Club to win the Met in 1993 and then triumphed again with Surfing Home in 1995.
Other memorable winners of the race include Foveros and Wolf Power, while impressive and popular Horse Chestnut carried the bright yellow-and-red sash after winning by a street. The mighty Pocket Power won the race three years running, from 2007 to 2009.
In 2016 the Investec Cape Derby and the Klawervlei Majorca Stakes were brought forward a week as the supporting features to the first CTS Million Dollar and the Grade 1 sprint formerly run a week before the Met replaced them on the Met Day programme.
The following year J&B pulled out as a sponsor and Sun International stepped into the void, raising the stake to R5 million, which made it the richest race in South Africa. The CTS Million was split into two races worth $500,000 each and the Investec Cape Derby and Klawervlei Majorca Stakes were returned to Met Day.
Event details: Cape Town’s biggest race on Africa's richest raceday.
R5,000,000 The Sun Met celebrated with G.H. MUMM 2000m Grade 1
R1,000,000 Betting World Cape Flying Championship 1000m Grade 1
R1,000,000 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes 1600m Grade 1
R1,000,000 Investec Cape Derby 2000m Grade 1
R400,000 Western Cape Stayers 2800m Grade 2
R150,000 Summer Juvenile Stakes 1000m Listed
$500,000 CTS 1200 (Non-Black Type)
$500,000 CTS 1600 (Non-Black Type)
R1-million Kuda Sprint (Non-Black Type)