HORSEPLAYERS have short memories, and Joe Soma, delighted with Got The Greenlight’s excellent win in the Gr1 SA Classic over 1800m at Turffontein, said he was simultaneously annoyed that just a few experts gave his 2019 Equus Champion Two-Year-Old a chance in Saturday’s race.
“I’m surprised that our leading tipsters couldn’t find Got The Greenlight in their first four selections. How do you work that out? Tipping is a hard game, I know we all make mistakes, but why did they favour handicap winners ahead of an established Gr1 winning champion? It baffles me, because I believe that proven top horses should be followed and celebrated. I’m not saying everyone should have tipped him to win, of course not, but he deserved some recognition.”
Got The Greenlight drifted to 14-1 in the betting and paid a whopping R18,60 for a tote win, proving that the betting public also viewed him as a runner with only marginal hopes.
Soma explained his disappointment. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying our experts are mediocre, far from it. But there seems to be an all-round apathy in our industry. Years ago the scribes and the betting public followed our track stars with vigour, and the top runners were written about, revered in our publications. On Saturday I couldn’t even find an honour roll of previous Classic winners to refer to.
“I am worried that people are giving up on the pride and tradition that makes horse racing great. We need to recover elements of racing that keep the public interest alive and make them passionate again. In my view we are neglecting the basics.”
Soma’s is a racing purist’s approach, one shared by increasingly fewer enthusiasts in an era where the old-time fanatics are disappearing and being replaced by a new, young generation arguably more focused on quick fixes, basic information and instant gratification, not on who sired the winners, won the 1975 Durban July or rode the 1980 Summer Cup winner.
Soma lamented: “It is sad to see the older fans falling away, but I guess racing will survive all the same. If there are only two horses left to race, there will be two die-hard fans next to the track cheering them on and it will still be exciting.”
Aside from all that, the SA Classic was a testament to Got The Greenlight’s talent, the potency of his sire, Gimmethegreenlight and Soma’s ability to prepare runners for the big occasion.
This was an 8th career Gr1 winner for the Turffontein trainer’s small stable and he commented: “I am proud of what my team has achieved, we’ve never had a big string and even in the days we had some buying power (notably from Markus Jooste), we only got to buy one or two expensive horses in a year. Recently we’ve had to fully go back to finding the best ‘cheapies’ available.
“Luckily, I spotted Gimmethegreenlight as a potential top stallion in his early days, so we were chuffed to pick up Got The Greenlight for R120,000 as a yearling at the Cape Premier Sale. We’ve bought another 11 off his offspring since, all at decent prices.
“Got The Greenlight was a beautiful yearling, light in the middle, weak behind and he splayed a bit, but those are things one has to forgive sometimes when a yearling makes appeal. We were a bit hard on him as a two-year-old, he raced seven times and won four, and then we gave him a break into the Gauteng summer.
“I knew he’d mature in time, and when I saw him in the parade ring on Saturday I was very pleased, he’s maturing fast now and he looked fantastic, I had a few other trainers remarking on his good looks before the race.”
Soma said that the Got The Greenlight’s Cape trip and his below-par run in the CTS Mile would’ve been one of the factors that put punters off, though he only finished 3.3-lengths in fifth behind the winner, Count Jack. “We had all the travel issues, one of the toughest experiences I’ve been through as a trainer. After being stuck and having to be trained in quarantine for several weeks, Got The Greenlight became aggressive in Cape Town. He is normally laid back and while he was well for the race, he was obviously plagued by the strange experiences leading to the race, and his foreign surroundings.
“Also he raced wide and got caught in the Southeaster that day. I don’t believe the 2nd, third and fourth horses will ever beat him again. Travelling to the Cape with a horse in future is something I will have to think very hard about.
“There are some wonderful races on the Cape programme, as we know, we’d all like to compete and win them, but we’re entirely on the back foot coming from Gauteng with all the restrictive protocols. I hope to God the EU’s audit will be successful, otherwise we’ll have to reconsider this situation and come up with new measures to level the playing fields.”
Soma thanked jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe for a top ride on Got The Greenlight and said: “Gavin Lerena went for Shango so we had a choice between Richard Fourie and Bernard, but I knew that Richard had stable commitments and I believed Bernard’s style would suit our runner.
“I was impressed with Bernard’s professional approach. When he stepped into the paddock he knew all about Got The Greenlight and had studied his form, which made our pre-race planning easy. He’s a top rider.”
Got The Greenlight is owned in partnership by Soma, Dayalan Chinsammy and Hassen Adams, who bred the colt at his Nadeson Park Stud. Soma said that their charge will probably follow the Daily News-Durban July route, always popular with trainers of high quality three-year-olds.