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.
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.