Gaynor Rupert, third from left, in conversation with jockey Kabelo Matsunyane before the presentations (Candiese Lenferna Photography).
Gaynor Rupert spoke of the pride she had in her stud farm Drakenstein after her miracle homebred horse Winchester Mansion, who broke his neck as a yearling, had won the Hollywoodbets Durban July, beating another Drakenstein Stud-bred, See It Again, in a thrilling finish.
Father and son training pair Brett and James Crawford also worked wonders after travelling the progressive four-year-old Trippi gelding down from Johannesburg for a third time this season, while Kabelo Matsunyane completed his progression to top echelon jockey with a fine ride.
Gaynor Rupert said, “The way Winchester mansion fought, it was such an exciting race.”
She admitted, naturally, to supporting the protagonist running in her own colours.
She continued, “Although I bred both and See It Again is owned by my good friend Nick Jonsson, so I would have been very happy with that result too. In fact I am very happy, because if you think that See It Again is a three-year-old and he carried 3,5kg more in weight, he is a phenomenal racehorse. So we were well weighted, and that is the July, it is a handicap.”
See It Again’s 0,25 length second augurs well for his WSB Met chances.
See It Again finished 4,55 lengths clear of his dual July-winning three-parts brother Do It Again, who added to his legend by completing a sixth July and finishing in the frame for a sixth time.
Gaynor recalled hearing the news that Winchester Mansion had broken a vertebra in his neck when charging into a pole as a yearling.
“I remember thinking, oh well that is just too bad and he will never race.”
However, Winchester Mansion proved to be a model patient and was happy to stand quietly in his box looking over the door for three-and-a-half months. He was also happy to feed from a container above his head, because he was not allowed to put his head down for extended periods.
Winchester Mansion recovered well, but was no longer a sales prospect.
Gaynor elaborated, “We’ve been so lucky, all of our great horses could not be sold. Charles Dickens could not be sold, because he displaced his palate and he still does it, but it just doesn’t bother him in running. Safe Passage didn’t reach his reserve. Trip Of Fortune didn’t reached his reserve. So those are our four big horses. I have just been so lucky.”
Drakenstein have likely wrapped up both the national breeders and owners championships.
The July one-two took Drakenstein-breds’ total stakes earnings to R26,512,913, which is R2,668,300 clear of reigning champions Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein.
The July win took Drakenstein, in defense of the National Owners Championship, to R15,439,288 in stakes earnings, R1,712,788 clear of the Hollywood Syndicate.
Gaynor said, “I am so proud of my stud, seriously. It’s hard to win the Breeders Championship because I have less horses than some and I’ve got wonderful opposition who really know their breeding and breed such excellent horses. So for us to have a season like this one … I never thought I could win the Breeders Championship, to be honest. I thought I could maybe win the owners. But its very important to me.”
Drakenstein Stud, remarkably, has only been in existence for about 20 years.
Gaynor recalled her early breeding years, “I had horses standing with Mick Goss for years. Then when we got L’Ormarins my husband said he was taking out vines on the lower slopes and I should bring those 12 horses to L’Ormarins. I then started learning about breeding, because that aspect of racing I never knew much about.”
From those 12 horses has burgeoned the current most successful big race stud in the country.
This season Drakenstein smashed their own record by so far having 19 individual stakes winners of 33 races (beating the 18 individual winners of 25 races last season).
Gaynor said Saturday was up with her best ever days on the racecourse, although she spoke of Charles Dickens’ Gr 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge win as having been at weight for age level, not to mention his brilliant victory in the sire producing event, the Gr 1 Hollywoodbets Cape Guineas.
However, Saturday’s win did surpass her July victory with Legislate in 2014, because she bought the latter in training whereas Winchester Mansion was a homebred. He is also by the sire who really turned Drakenstein around, Gaynor’s beloved Trippi.
It was a first July win for Trippi.
It was an equally great result for the Crawfords.
In a touching moment afterwards the tears flowed openly from James as he embraced his Dad.
Brett, who had had four July places before but never a win, said, “I really am a bit speechless, to be honest. A long term plan. A lot of doubters and ‘nay-sayers’, but we knew what we were doing with him. We stuck to our plan. Credit to James and his team, they’ve done an incredible job. You know, when you’ve got a guy like Strydom on your inside, it’s going to be a hellava job to get past him. All credit to Kabelo, he’s had a phenomenal season. He rode a great race and he set himself a future.”
It was Matsunyane’s first Gr 1 win.
He rousted his mount from the off and in a rough scramble for early position got him handy.
He had to then settle him and managed to slot him in behind stablemate Time Flies, who was one out and one back.
In the straight he had to switch inward to avoid Dave The King, who started angling for the outside.
He then joined See It Again at the 250m mark and a thrilling tussle ensued.
Kabelo said, “When he drifted towards me, I had my stick on the right and knew I had an advantage as my horse can hang in. I changed my stick back to the left, where I knew Winchester would give me more kick and that’s exactly what he did.”