South African Horse of the Year Variety Club, narrowly beaten in last year’s L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (SAf-I), would not be denied this year when scoring a clear victory Jan. 12 at Kenilworth in Cape Town.
Ridden by Anton Marcus, the elite 5-year-old miler by Var overcame the widest draw in the 14-horse field and won the 1,600-meter (about one mile) turf race by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths over archrival Jackson. Variety Club extended his win streak to five races, including both starts this season.
The 9-10 favorite entered off a 2 1/2-length win over multiple group I winner Jackson in the Green Point Stakes (SAf-II) Nov. 24 after winning his season debut three weeks earlier, both at Kenilworth. He finished a close second in last year’s Queen’s Plate when Gimmethegreenlight charged late and caught him in the final strides to win by a neck. In his subsequent start, Jackson defeated him in the Investec Cape Derby (SAf-I), but in five starts since Variety Club has been unbeatable.
Pomodoro led briefly out of the gate before Marcus guided Variety Club across the course and into the lead in the matter of a few powerful strides to secure the dominating win. Variety Club was going so easily in the closing stages that Marcus had time to salute the crowd while he geared down his mount as the finish line approached. He was timed in 1:37.83 in winning his 12th race from 17 career starts for trainer Joey Ramsden.
The connections of Variety Club want race him on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard March 30 at Meydan and are seeking special permission to allow him to run.
"We have sent a special request to the Dubai Racing Carnival asking for special permission to go into quarantine so that he can run in either the Dubai Duty Free or (Godolphin) Mile (UAE-I)," said Derek Brugman, racing manager for owners Ingrid and Markus Jooste.
The Queen’s Plate, one of South Africa’s most prestigious weight-for-age events, is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series with the winner receiving an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), to be run in November at Santa Anita Park. The invitation includes $20 000 in travel assistance. Should the Variety Club connections choose to bypass the race, the offer reverts to the runner-up.
Jackson outfinished 2012 Vodacom Durban July (SAf-I) winner Pomodoro by a short head for second.
Markus Jooste is a prominent patron of South African racing and furniture retailer whom Forbes has listed among that nation’s wealthiest people.
Variety Club’s sire, prominent South African sire Var, is a Kentucky-bred son by speed influence Forest Wildcat who won the 2004 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (Fr-I). He stands at Avontuur Stud Farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He currently ranks as the country’s leading sire of 2- and 3-year-olds and was a close second to Jet Master on the general sire list prior to the Queen’s Plate.
Bred in South Africa by Beaumont Stud, Variety Club was produced by the Secret Prospector mare La Massine.