However, few racing fans are as passionate about the sport as South Africans, as it has been a sport that spectators have quickly learned to enjoy since its inception in 1795. You can bet on South African races if you visit TwinSpires.com.
Early Racing History In South Africa
Horse racing has been taking place in South Africa from as early as 1795. However, the horses that have been run have changed overtime. During the British rule in the country, it was common that the type of horses that were run were called Capers.
They were dual-purpose horses, as they could race, as well as carry out army remounts. Capers were regularly run in South Africa for sport up until the 1860s when they were replaced by Thoroughbreds and Australian Walers.
The arrival of Lord Charles Somerset in 1814 played a huge role in the progress of racing in South Africa, as he himself was a huge fan of Cape racing. As well as this, Lord Charles Somerset established a government stud and organised the importation of hundreds of stallions and mares in order to assist the local bloodstock.
The success of this was quickly seen, as eleven years later, there were as many as ten venues in the country for hosting racing action.
First Big Races
The success of the bloodstock meant that certain races quickly grew in prominent, including the July Handicap. Other big races in early racing history in South Africa included the East Cape Derby and the Algoa Cup. However, it’s the July Handicap that has truly stood the test of time, as racing fans from around the world travel to South Africa to see the race.
It has changed slightly throughout its history. The most notable difference between the first renewals of the race and the ones that have taken place in modern history is the distance that is covered. It was previously run over a distance of 1600m, but that has increased to 2200m in the modern era. However, the roll of honour of horses that have been victorious in the great race is staggering.
Of course, the July Handicap remains the most sought after race by trainers and jockeys alike, but there have been a number of other huge races added to the calendar throughout the season too. In the summer, race fans can look forward to the Cape Met, while the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plat is also one of the big Group 1s that captures the imagination.
Notable South African Racehorses
There have been a number of legendary stars that have graced the turf in South Africa, with older fans often retelling legends of old. One of the most celebrated racehorses in South Africa was Sea Cottage, who dominated between 1965 and 1967.
He was also the first horse to be handed the honour of being named in the South African Racing Hall of Fame. Sea Cottage won 20 from 24 starts, which included victories in the Queens Plat, Cape Derby, Newbury Stakes and Somerset Plate.
When it comes to the modern greats, it would be hard to see past Pocket Power, who won 20 races from 43 starts between 2007 and 2010. He made history by being named Champion Horse of the Year on three occasions, and also won the Queens Plate on four occasions.
Horse Chestnut is also one of the most celebrated champions, having won nine times from ten starts. He was named Horse of the year in 1999, and won the South African Derby, South African Classic and the J&B Metropolitan Stakes during his esteemed career.
To find further information, click here to check the South African race calendar in detail.