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The Nathan Kotzen-trained Betway Summer Cup winner Royal Victory was still available at 80/1 odds with the sponsor after the final field announcement for the big R5 million Gr 1 race.

However, that did not stop part-owner Peter Victor going public on his confidence.

That confidence was neither hopefulness nor misplaced bravado.

In fact listening to the facts behind the horse, the only real obstacle besides the usual factor of luck in running, was the travel to altitude.

And even then, if recalling five-times champion trainer Geoff Woodruff’s take on it, travelling from Summerveld to Turffontein is no big deal.

Woodruff pointed out in an interview about a decade or so ago that Summerveld was in actual fact about a third of the altitude of Johannesburg and the oft heard statement that KZN trainers were traveling up from “the coast” only actually applied to trainers based at the now defunct Clairwood training centre.

So the only real obstacle might have just been the travel itself.

Step in Nathan Kotzen’s loyal client Ted Hughes, who had traveled Royal Victory up to Johannesburg for his successful three-year-old campaign in his two berth horse float.

Nathan said about the float in an interview on Sunday, “Ted owned those two big horses Merlin From Berlin and Paybackthemoney, who were 17 hands so he had the float extended higher. You know what Ted is like with his vehicles, he wants everything perfect otherwise don’t do it at all. You can see by his fleet of trucks, they are immaculate. He has even got a camera so you can watch the horses when they travel. You could see they stood deadstill. That float doesn’t even move.”

The attention to detail that has won Nathan Kotzen’s former boss Mike de Kock 133 Gr 1s around the world was also evident in Nathan’s care for his charge.

They left Summerveld at two o’ clock in the morning on Friday to ensure cool conditions for the whole journey, arriving at a big Turffontein double box for the horse at quarter past nine.

They then meticulously looked after the horse’s every need.

So let’s look at the facts behind Royal Victory’s class and then wonder how he could still have been offered at odds of 80/1 by the sponsor after the final field had been announced.

In the Gr 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe over 1400m he finished 0,90 lengths behind Cousin Casey in second place and he was second again to Cousin Casey in the Gr 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes over 1600m, beaten 2,10 lengths. He was  4,5kg better off with Cousin Casey in the Summer Cup than he was in both of those clashes.

As a three-year-old he was a 1,75 length third to Anfields Rocket in the Graham Beck over 1400m and was then a 2,50 length fourth in the Gr 2 Jonsson Workwear Dingaans over 1600m. In January of his three-year-old year he won the Gr 3 Tony Ruffel over 1400m in effortless fashion by 3,75 lengths. It was a small field but he proved that was no fluke by finishing a shorthead second from a tricky draw of nine in the Gr 2 WSB Gauteng Guineas. He comfortably beat subsequent Summer Cup runners Electric Gold, Anfields Rocket, East Coast, Atticus Finch and Shoemaker in the Gauteng Guineas, some of whom carried more weight than he did in the Summer Cup and all of whom were shorter in the initial betting and in the betting after the final field announcement.

Royal Victory then ran a three length fifth in the Gr 1 WSB SA Classic.

At the weights of the Summer Cup compared to the form of that race he came out equal on paper with SA Classic winner Anfields Rocket and ahead of all of Billy Bowlegs, East Coast, Electric Gold and Shoemaker.

Now read part-owner Peter Victor’s recollections of the road to glory and it tells the story of why he had publicly stated his confidence.

He said, “Before the SA Classic Royal Victory worked on the Tuesday and S’Manga Khumalo phoned me and said, ‘Pete, he didn’t work very well.’ He knew him well and said he had come off the bit for the first time alongside his normal companion. But we went into the race and S’Manga proved to be right. He came back in the ring and said, ‘No, this horse doesn’t see the distance.’ That was our thoughts too because he moved up and he flattened out. But he only ran three lengths off them. I later sat down with Monty (S’Manga’s agent) and Nathan and spoke again to S’Manga and with hindsight we decided it had been a flat run and we started plotting. We brought him back to Summerveld and rested him for two months and started over again. We brought him back over 1400m, then a Listed mile and in the new season ran him over 1200m and then 1400m. I then said to Nathan ‘Let’s run him in the Charity Mile’ and he reminded me we had a plan to run him in the Michaelmas over 1900m to see if he stays the trip of the Summer Cup. So I said ok let’s stick with the plan. He then said ‘I don’t think he does stay’, but I reminded him he had said to me after his maiden win, ‘Peter that’s your July winner.’ Obviously it was a massive statement but having worked with Mike and being around so  many champions he could see this horse had massive ability.”
He continued, “He won the Michaelmas quite easily (despite the narrow margin). Calvin (Habib) said he had only pulled the stick at the 75m and he then took off and was only getting in to topgear when he reached them. He said for sure he would go 2200m for the July. We had all thought that with the speed he’d shown he’d not get the distance, but if you ride him properly and give him a massive chance, like Muzi did on Saturday, he will. I had actually said when we got that wide draw, “Guys, we are blessed, because we are not going to sit in that scrum, he can come out the gates like he wants and then Muzi can get him in the field at the back.”
So Peter’s confidence was based on Royal Victory’s previous form, which at the weights put him ahead of a number of leading contenders, coupled with the knowledge he stayed. Furthermore, the horse had not been himself in the SA Classic.

Turf Talk shared some of the form and facts that gave Royal Victory a lively chance and ultimately tipped him to run third.

Nathan Kotzen, Muzi Yeni and Royal Victory deserve huge accolades for their shared asset of professionalism.

Nathan said on Sunday, “Muzi rode him very well. He listened to instructions. I said they are going to jump out and they are going to fight for position and we don’t want to be like that, this horse needs to be left alone. Come out quietly and take it from there … and that’s what he did. Muzi has always been a master from that draw. Many-a-time he has ridden for me from bad draws and he gets over quick-quick.”
Muzi slotted his mount in just backward of mid pack, one out, and horses were stacked three wide in front of him.
The horse had perfect cover and was a true professional. He was able to use his big stride in relaxed fashion behind a pace set by Litigation which was not strong.
In the straight Muzi angled him inward and found a perfect gap between Aragosta and the fancied Bless My Stars on the inside.
Muzi just kept him in the hands until the 400m mark, by which stage Safe Passage was travelling ominously well.
However, when Muzi got down in the saddle and began driving it was Royal Victory who began looking the winner.
Muzi deftly changed whiphands as his mount shifted towards Safe Passage and gave Royal Victory a left-handed backhander.
He had to deftly change whiphands again when Safe Passage began fighting back.
With the first right-handed slap it was race over.
He crossed the line a convincing 2,25 length winner from Safe Passage, Bless My Stars, Zeus, Shoemaker and Son Of Raj, who is owned  by Durbanite Steven Chetty.
The four-year-old Pathfork gelding, bred by Dr Marianne Thompson’s Ambiance Stud, had given all of trainer Nathan Kotzen and owners Peter Victor, Brandon Wiese and Natasha Sturdy a first Gr 1 victory.
In his winning interview Peter Victor revealed how after the horse’s final gallop he had told all of his friends to take the 70-1 still available.
The shock scratching of all of the Tony Peter-trained horses on the day would also have influenced his eventual bookmakers starting price of 33/1.
He surprisingly paid only R18.30 on the Tote.
Peter said today about the victory, “It’s a dream come true, this is why we are in racing, not for the money but to win Group 1s.”
He revealed, “Turning for home he was moving up, moving up,  and at the 400m I said ‘Nate how far does this horse win by, they’re all off the bit and he’s still cruising!’”
The connections were standing by the rail close to the winning post.
Peter described the moment when Royal Victory surged away from the Mike de Kock-trained Safe Passage to win by 2,25 lengths.
“I don’t even know what happened. It was like a blank.”
When reality returned the connections had become scattered and Peter had to look for his wife Belinda and found her hyper-ventilating, although she had soon recovered and was a picture of serenity in the winner’s enclosure.
Peter revealed, “Mike de Kock (whom Nathan was an assistant to for many years) is a gentleman of the sport … he looked after Royal Victory when he came up for his three-year-old career (winning the Gr 3 Tony Ruffel and finishing a shorthead second in the Gr 2 WSB Gauteng Guineas) and had doubts about him staying … but after we had led him in he gave me a huge hug and and my wife a hug and said, ‘You deserve it, Peter, well done.’ It takes a lot for a big trainer to do that.”
De Kock replied to Peter’s message of thanks in the morning and said if anybody had beaten him he would have wanted it to be Nathan and the Victors.
Royal Victory is the only KZN horse to have won the Summer Cup this century and, although open to correction, might be the first to have done it since Herman Brown Snr did it in 1988 with Singing Boy.