SA’s best-known owner, Chris van Niekerk, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday when his son Erich revealed his father was quitting the sport, writes David Mollett in businesslive.co.za
In an interview with Business Day, Erich van Niekerk said: “My Dad has had a long and successful innings [in racing], but he has made the decision to no longer have horses racing in his colours.
“He has given all his horses that are in training with Sean Tarry Racing to Sean. He will, however, maintain his breeding interests, notably with Klawervlei Stud,” said Van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk and Tarry teamed up in 1998 and the last 23 years has resulted in one of the most successful partnerships in the history of SA racing. Tarry’s career total of wins stands at 2,346 and include 60 grade 1 successes. Many of these were owned by Van Niekerk, who has been Equus Champion Owner three times.
His famous blue-and-red colours have been carried to victory in two Durban July races — Pomodoro winning in 2012 and Heavy Metal in 2013. After his second win, Van Niekerk quipped to reporters: “I could get used to this.”
National Colour — arguably Van Niekerk’s best horse — was voted Equus horse-of-the-year in 2006 and a year later won the 1,000m Nad Al Sheba in Dubai.
Then in 2008 Tarry made the decision to take on the best of Europe in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, and National Colour finished a creditable second (this correspondent was lucky enough to be present) in the grade 1 contest run at Newmarket.
Other talented Van Niekerk horses who spring to mind include Mythical Flight (SA record holder for 1,000m with a time of 54.96sec), French Navy (Champion three year-old colt/gelding 2014/15) and Buy And Sell (Daily News 2000 in 2007).
On July day this year, Van Niekerk’s four-year-old Shango won the Hollywoodbets 2,200 while other talented horses who ran on the same day included Eden Roc, Warrior’s Rest, Cirillo and Ikigai.