Racing produces an endless supply of dramatic and stirring stories and the 2024 Cape Town Met was no exception. There was no more heart-warming tale than that of two “wounded soldiers” teaming up to win the main event at Kenilworth, one of the most prestigious races in the world.
Horse Double Superlative and jockey Danny Muscutt might have vexed hardcore punters with their 33-1 upset, but as their twin tales of overcoming adversity unfolded in the aftermath of victory it would have been a granite heart that didn’t soften.
Daniel Muscutt, 28, is a Zimbabwe-born son of Peter Muscutt, former jockey and now a trainer in Durban.
He has established himself as a rider in Britain, battling his way through the ranks to become last season’s All-Weather National Champion Jockey, with 73 winners.
But that was only after he’d suffered a broken neck bone, several broken vertebrae and a broken rib when his mount came down at a night meeting at Chelmsford in 2017. Local press wrote of “horrific injuries”.
They make them tough in Zim. It took a while, but Danny clambered back into the saddle. His recovery process included road running and he is now an avid marathoner.
The all-weather circuit is a school of hard knocks, specialising in wet and freezing weather at small, out-of-the-way venues. But it honed Danny Muscutt into a jockey people started noticing.
In October 2022, he registered his first Group 1 win, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in France, aboard Dubai Mile for top Brit trainer Mark Johnson.
Then, a few months ago, a blow worse than any broken neck: he and wife Claire became parents but lost one of their newborn twins.
Danny came to Cape Town this month to visit his dad, who has been raiding from his Summerveld yard up the east coast, while Claire stayed home with daughter Florence. Danny’s voice quavered just momentarily during his eloquent winning interview.
Champion trainer Snaith revealed that Danny was the only one of his many booked jockeys on Met day to join him as he walked the Kenilworth course before a meeting at which he sent out no fewer than 38 runners.
“I thought then it was game on!” exclaimed Snaith.
It was only five-year-old Double Superlative’s third win – in his 13th start – and his first for 770 days. He got into Cape Town’s premier contest on the strength of a high merit rating that came courtesy of a 2021 Grade 1 Cape Guineas triumph and a superb run into third in the Met as a three-year-old.
A bad tendon injury in 2022 had experts tut-tutting over a promising career cut short. But owner Nic Jonsson – a horse-mad fellow if you ever saw one – was having none of it, ignoring a chorus of “never run again” and setting trainer Justin Snaith the task of nursing his colt back to the turf.
It took more than 18 months and included four months of icy Atlantic Ocean water therapy at trainer/healer Mike Stewart’s Noordhoek beach stables, but Double Superlative was well enough to race again in September 2023.
He was runner-up in a progress plate sprint at Durbanville before venturing into higher company.
Hindsight is beguiling and some pundits might now look at Met prep races and discern a cunning Snaith plan to spring a big race surprise. Truth is, it was a decent and careful prep, but not enough to lure form hounds from the main scent.