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The Piet Steyn-trained Gem King (Master Of My Fate) will be out to retain his crown in the Grade 3 WSB Variety Club Mile (Picture: Wayne Marks). 

The decision to change the Cape Winter Series from a three-year-old “Triple Crown” and “Triple Tiara” event into an event open to all ages was proposed by Cape Racing’s Head of Racing Operations, Justin Vermaak. 

It was also proposed that the third leg of the male series be changed from a 2400m race to a 2000m race, whilst the first two legs over 1600m and 1800m respectively remained the same.
Furthermore, it was proposed the series for fillies and mares be changed from 1600m, 1800m and 2400m races respectively to  1400m, 1600m and 1800m races respectively.
The proposals were discussed at a Pattern Committee meeting last August.  
They were subsequently ratified by the Pattern Commitee.
The Winter Triple Crown had gained a reputation for putting good backward horses on the map i.e. good horses who were not forward enough to take part in the Cape Summer three-year-old features and who also avoided travelling to KZN for the SA Champions Season.
The most notable example was the great Pocket Power, who was the first horse to land the Winter Series Triple Crown before going on to win the Met three times, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate four times and the Durban July once, among other races.
Power King, who like Pocket Power also went on to win the Durban July, narrowly failed to land the Triple Crown when beaten 1,25 lengths by Dynastic Power in the Winter Derby of 2014.
However, subsequent to him, both African Night Sky (2017) and Katak (2020) landed the Winter Triple Crown.
Last year the series put Gem King on the map as a serious racehorse as he won the first two legs and went in to the Derby as hot favourite, but ran below par.
In the fillies series last year Young Love won the first leg and it was unfortunate she was sidelined for the second leg, because she came back to win the last leg.  
So, some will be of the opinion the new changes have spelled the end of a valued tradition.
However, a look at the number of entries for the respective first legs of this year’s Winter Series points to it being a positive change.
The male Winter Series last season had seven runners, eight runners and seven runners in the three legs respectively, for a total of 22 runners in three races.
The female Winter Series had seven runners, six runners and seven runners respectively for a total of only 20 runners.
The first leg of the male Winter Series this year, the Grade 3 WSB Variety Club Mile, has attracted a first entry of 26 and they are good quality entries too.
Johannesburg have traditionally had autumn and winter events like the Grade 2 Colorado King Stakes, the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge and the Grade 3 Jubilee Stakes that can be used by older horses as qualifier events for the Hollywoodbets Durban July.
The Cape lacked such races, but the new winter series gives Cape horses of all ages a couple of qualifying opportunities at home.
Entries in the Variety Club Mile whose names also appear in the Hollywoodbets Durban July ante-post betting with the sponsor include Gem King, Light Speed, Marina, Pacaya, Pomp And Power, Royal Aussie, Warrior and Without Question.
Entries for the Grade 3 WSB Variety Club Mile to be run at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on 23 April are listed below:
6 Baratheon   Piet Botha 98
16 Blackberry Malt   Glen Kotzen 94
25 Cat Daddy   Glen Kotzen 101
15 Chollima   Glen Kotzen 89
23 Double Charge   Andre Nel 88
26 Gem King   Piet Steyn 106
14 Grinkov   Glen Kotzen 105
9 Hoedspruit   Justin Snaith 112
2 Itsrainingwilliam   Justin Snaith 106
13 King Regent   Glen Kotzen 105
10 Light Speed   Justin Snaith 108
19 Marina   Candice Bass-Robinson 117
17 Master Redoute   Andre Nel 99
22 Montien   Piet Botha 87
20 Narina Trogon   Candice Bass-Robinson 93
4 Native Tongue   Justin Snaith 106
8 Pacaya   Justin Snaith 104
11 Pas De Nom   Dean Kannemeyer 97
1 Pomp And Power   Justin Snaith 124
18 Port Louis   Brett Crawford 110
3 Royal Aussie   Justin Snaith 112
7 Somerset Maugham   Justin Snaith 101
12 Sugar Mountain   Candice Bass-Robinson 95
24 Tout A Fait   Justin Snaith 104
21 Warrior   Justin Snaith 115
5 Without Question   Justin Snaith 119