LAST Saturday’s Gr1 SA Derby over 2450m at Turffontein saw Sean Tarry’s cracking colt Al Sahem defeat a small field; we look back 37 years today at the Derby in 1980, when 13 runners faced the starter.
Peter Atkins wrote in The Horseman: “While the class of runner for this classic was considerably better than that of the Oaks (won by Gay Mam’selle), with six of the 13 runners B Division horses, it was still quite a bit lower than many of the Derbies of the past.
“That it was viewed as an open race was shown by the fact that the bookmakers were laying 4-1 the field with no fewer than seven runners quoted in single figures.
“In the race Smuggler’s Den, on race figures with Zamiram the best horse in the race, got home by a length from Belligerence with the Natal horse Topojijio, who was last turning for home and but finished like a rocket, a neck away in third.
“In fact had he been better placed turning into the straight it is likely that Topojijio would have Given Smuggler’s Den, who was ridden with perfect judgement by the Natal champion Michael Roberts, plenty to do.
“Smuggler’s Den, owned by Henry Divine and trained by Dave Bullock, is by Sea Cottage out of the Fils D’Eve mare, Dark Eve. It is odd that Sea Cottage, now in his 18th year, seems to be producing more and better winners than in his earlier days at stud. It could be that the Birch Brothers have now found the right nicks for him.”
Photo: Smuggler’s Den (Michael Roberts, left), defeats Belligerence (Gerald Turner, middle) and Topojijio (Benny Little, right), in the 1980 SA Derby.