Dick Whitford, who as mentioned in an earlier article today, was known as the father of modern handicapping.
After parting company with Phil Bull in 1949, he turned down an offer to work for William Hill and instead became racing manager and private handicapper to racehorse owner Jack Gerber, an ex-pat South African, until the latter returned to South Africa in 1971.
One of the many horses Gerber owned was the Italian-bred Utrillo (Toulouse Lautrec), who won the Cesarewitch, was second in the Chester Cup and third in both the Ebor Handicap and the Italian 2000 Guineas.
Gerber’s links to SA must have been the reason Utrillo was imported here as a stallion.
He stood in the Karoo at Archie Dell’s Platberg Stud and of course became the sire of the great South African-bred Hawaii.
Hawaii was purchased by the great trainer George Azzie for R9030 at the yearling sales.
He had been awarded the blue riband before the sale by the judges, one of whom was Azzie.
It was quite strange he then went so cheaply.
Mike Azzie, George’s grandson, revealed that George used to be a fan of another stallion who stood at Platberg Stud called Joy II and used to buy a lot of his progeny. George apparently always claimed Hawaii looked more like a Joy II than a Utrillo and that was one of the reasons he bought him.
Hawaii had 18 runs in SA for 15 wins including four Grade 1s.
He won all three of the Grade 1 Guineas on offer in the 1967/1968 season, the Benoni Guineas at Gosforth Park, the Cape Guineas at Milnerton and the SA Guineas at Greyville.
He was champion two-year-old and three-year-old colt and went on to become Champion Grass Horse In America.
He was syndicated for US$1.12 million and stood at the famous Claiborne farm from where he sired Epsom Derby winner Henbit.
His influence lives on and he is found in the pedigree of Justify (Scat Daddy), who was the last horse to achieve the US Triple Crown (in 2018).
Hawaii was the damsire of Storm Cat stallion Hennessy, who was the sire of Johannesburg, the sire of Scat Daddy.
Hawaii is also in the pedigree of last year’s Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide (Ghostzapper). He is the sire of Ghostzapper’s third dam Sailaway.
Regressing to Whitford, he was dubbed a genius during his time with Gerber.
He used to place Gerber’s horses based on his long handicap and was uncannily successful.He was a down to earth man and responded to the praise by saying, “I’ve got a reputation: people think I’m good, but all I’m doing is sums. Sometimes I have horses top-rated which I’m convinced have no possible chance, but I cannot alter their figures for my own satisfaction. I’m stuck with them. They’re no guesses. It’s not skill or cleverness on my part when they win at 10/1 or 20/1. I’m driven to it by the sums I do. The thoroughbred is absolutely unique in the animal kingdom. Nothing ever has had the attention, the care and the study devoted to it than the race horse and at the end of 300 years of very seriously applied biology we’ve got something that’s like a little clock and I do sums with it and the sums work out.”
When Gerber returned to South Africa in 1971, Whitford became The Sporting Life’s Flat-race handicapper until his retirement in 1984.
Picture: The great Hawaii in the USA (southaafricanhorse.wordpress.com)