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Clinton Binda and Muzi Yeni delivered the Hollywood Syndicate’s 500th career win last week (Picture: The Hollywood Syndicate) 

I am more excited to look forward to the sons and daughters of Charles Dickens than I would be to see him win another race.


Neil Andrews (The Citizen)

It’s been a busy week in horseracing and the Geoffrey Chaucer quote that “time and tide wait for no man” has never been more accurate.
January is flying past and we’re already a week away from the 2024 WSB Cape Met.
With so much happening I couldn’t hope to share all my observations in a single article but it would be remiss of me not to voice my opinion on a few developments that have come to pass over the last few days.
I must begin with my thoughts on the announcement that Charles Dickens has been retired to stud.
Whilst many racing fans will be disappointed that he isn’t going to have a tilt at the Met and that his outstanding career has been curtailed only five months into his four year old campaign, I have to commend the Ruperts on their decision.
I recognise that it can’t have been easy but personally once I read the press release confirming that the son of Trippi had been syndicated for stud, Gaynor Rupert’s statement that Charles was “the future of Drakenstein” really hit home and it struck me that there was now too much at stake for a champion racehorse who frankly has nothing left to prove.
On the broader landscape of thoroughbred racing and breeding I am dinkum more excited to look forward to the sons and daughters of daddy Dickens than I would be to see him win another Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge, specifically when one considers the high-class nature of the Drakenstein broodmare band.
ALSO READ: Charles Dickens heads for the stud-farm paddocks
Honestly, I will be surprised if Kevin Sommerville doesn’t set new salivating standards when considering all their mating options.
Furthermore, given the mares he will cover I would suggest the Drakenstein future to which Gaynor alluded is going to be so bright that a designer pair of UV400 Dunhill Sunglasses will be a prerequisite.
In practical terms it’s left us with a somewhat watered-down Cape Met. Not that any horse race, never mind a Grade 1 contest, can be taken for granted but some scribes are asking whether we might see a repeat of Mark Anthony’s facile seven-length victory in the Met of 1988 or even Horse Chestnut’s 8.25 length demolition of the class of 1999.
From their lips to God’s ears I say, for by now you must know my strong and unaltered opinion on See It Again and his chances of victory come Saturday 27 January.
ALSO READ: Muis brushes off a wide draw in the Met
Having applauded Team Drakenstein let me now toast another stalwart of racehorse-ownership in South Africa.
On Thursday afternoon at Turffontein racecourse the Hollywood Syndicate registered their 500th winner.
The horse who registered the milestone, Sakhala Is’cathulu, was named by their HollywoodBets PR & communications man Zandile Madondo and the name means “the game is on” or “the challenge is on”.
Five hundred victories is an astonishing feat and it’s one that has been 22 years in the making.
Fittingly their 500th was supplied by Clinton Binda who has now trained 98 winners in the famous ‘yellow with purple stars’ silks and remains the conditioner to have saddled the most wins for the Hollywood Syndicate.
I say fittingly for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Clinton Binda is without doubt the Syndicate’s Cahuenga Boulevard. Most folk recognise that the home of the film industry in the United States is the suburb of Hollywood in the city of Los Angeles, California.
The history of the district of Hollywood Hills documents that by far their oldest road is the one that connects the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, through the San Fernando Valley, with the Los Angeles Basin. This is the Cahuenga Boulevard.
ALSO READ: ‘No longer punting horses with bad odds’: New Year’s resolutions from horseracing journalists
Secondly, Clinton has been with Hollywood since day-dot and there is some deserving symmetry in the fact that he has now been responsible for giving Hollywood their 50th, 200th and 500th winner.
What I loved about Clinton’s post race interview was his humble insistence that the source of his success lay with his stable staff, his wife Sue getting the plaudits for “making sure they all got paid” every month.
Self-effacement is indeed synonymous with much of what brand-Hollywood do in South Africa and I strongly suspect that the tone is set by the family behind the business. My professional dealings with Devin Heffer, Hollywoodbets’ Brand and Communications Manager have always suggested as much.
Late last year, having finished my TV anchoring duties on one of Cape Racing’s featured race-days, I popped up to Brett Crawford’s box to say hello to old friends Craig and Amanda Carey. It was there that I ended up in delightful conversation with a most down-to-earth lady who I took an immediate liking to. After about 30 minutes of enjoying her company I apologised for not having had the manners to ask her name. She smiled and enlightened me. I’m Lesley Heffer, she said.
It would not be an over exaggeration to say that what Owen and Leslie Heffer have built is simply phenomenal and the urban-legend of them arriving from Zimbabwe in 1984 with one mattress, two deck chairs, R4 and a baby only adds to the fairytale story of their remarkable HollywoodBets success.
The toast to our Mzansi-touch of Tinseltown would not be complete with out me singling out the expertise, understanding and knowhow that Anthony Delpech has brought to the Hollywood Syndicate.
I think it no coincidence that the Hollywood Syndicate are rewriting their own records. The 2022/2023 racing calendar set a new best of 124 wins for the season and the continuing improvement in quality of racehorse is evident through the relatively recent arrival of five Grade 1 victories.
Take a bow Bonji, take a bow!