By Sarah Whitelaw
South African racing history was made at Turffontein racecourse April 26 when Louis The King captured the South African Derby (SAf-I) by a length to become just the second horse to win the nation's SASOC Triple Crown.
Horse Chestnut, successful in 1999, is the only other to complete the treble, which also includes the Gauteng Guineas (SAf-II) and South Africa Classic (SAf-I). At the time Horse Chestnut won the Triple Crown, the Cape Guineas was included as part of the series, but is not currently a leg of the Crown.
Louis The King, a son of Black Minnaloushe who was trying the 2,450-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) trip of the Derby for the first time, was sent out an 8-5 favouite. As You Like and Bouclette Top, distantly third and fourth respectively behind Louis The King in the March 29 SA Classic, were largely seen as Louis The King's main rivals.
The field got off to a clean break, with recent Derby Trial winner Ilitshe setting the pace. The favorite was settled well back under regular rider Robbie Fradd, who had flown out from his new home in Australia to partner the colt.
Turning for home, Ilitshe still clung to the lead, but was quickly swallowed up by the field. As You Like put in a strong challenge up the inside, while Louis The King quickly made progress to hit the front with 500 meters to run.
Fradd, who admitted after the race to having gone a bit soon, had to ask for maximum effort from Louis The King, who responded gamely. As You Like challenged and, for a moment, looked like prevailing. However, Louis The King found another gear, and went on for the win.
As You Like, who ran the race of his career, was brave in defeat but comfortably held in the end. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to the third-place finisher, 33-1 outsider Earl Of Derby. Both As You Like and Earl of Derby hail from the yard of trainer Alec Laird and are owned by Chris Gerber.
The winning colt stopped the clock in 2:36.1 on going which was good.
In winning the Derby in front of a loud and appreciative crowd, Louis The King not only claimed Triple Crown glory but also received a 2 million rand ($187,440 in U.S. funds) bonus for winning the series.
He was a tremendous buy for owner Fred Van Der Vyver, who purchased the colt for just R55,000 ($5,154) at the 2012 KZN Yearling Sale.
Following Saturday's win, Louis The King has now won over R5 million ($468,600) in prize money. He was also the second leg of a grade I double on the day for the trainer/jockey combination of Geoff Woodruff and Fradd. The pair had teamed up to land the R2 million Champions Challenge with the massive Jet Master gelding Yorker in the previous race.
Louis The King also provided his sire, Storm Cat son Black Minnaloushe, with a classic double. The Black Minnaloushe filly Ash Cloud won the final leg of the Triple Tiara by lifting the Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks (SAf-I).
Black Minnaloushe, who stands at Maine Chance Farms in the Western Cape, has a superb crop of 3-year-olds, which also include last season's Equus Champion juvenile colt, the currently sidelined Kochka.
Louis The King is the only foal of deceased Rich Man's Gold mare Pamushana, who was unplaced in her only two starts.
Saturday's victory took Louis The King's record to six wins from seven outings. He suffered the sole defeat of his career when second in the listed Secretariat Stakes last December.