South African Champion Upset in Final Start

Star What A Winter runs third behind filly All Is Secret in Mercury Sprint July 13.

By Sarah Whitelaw

South Africa’s reigning champion sprinter What A Winter was shockingly defeated in the final start of his illustrious career, finishing third in the Mercury Sprint (SAf-I) July 13 at Clairwood Park in Merewent.

Sent out a prohibitive 1-3 shot, What A Winter was comprehensively defeated by a pair female opponents, All Is Secret and Welwitschia.

What A Winter jumped out well and looked to be traveling strongly in the early stages of the six-furlong race. However, the 5-year-old, soon retiring to Drakenstein Stud, was challenged in the final furlong—first by Welwitschia and then by All Is Secret.

The latter, given a powerful ride by M.J. Byleveld, ran on well to beat Welwitschia by 1 1/4 lengths, with What A Winter a neck back in third position over a turf course rated soft.

All Is Secret, trained by leading Cape conditioner Vaughan Marshall, was last season’s Equus Champion 2-year-old filly. The flashy gray was coming into the Mercury Sprint off a fourth-place finish behind brilliant filly Via Africa, who was twice beaten by What A Winter in group I sprints.

Sent out a 14-1 shot, All Is Secret scored her first group I victory as a 3-year-old. She previously won two group I features as a juvenile, the Allan Robertson Championship and Thekwini Stakes. At 3, All is Secret had captured both the Fillies Championship (SAf-II) and Poinsettia Stakes (SAf-III) prior to Saturday’s triumph.

Bred by the BBP Syndicate, All Is Secret is owned by Markus Jooste and Garth Miller. Marshall knows the family well, having trained both All is Secret’s sire, Captain Al, and dam, Secret of Victoria.

The latter was an exceptionally speedy filly, winning six times up to 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs), including the Sceptre Stakes (SAf-II). She has done very well at stud, having produced not only champion All Is Secret, but also the latter’s very promising full brother Secret Command, eye-catching winner of his only start this year.

Now a leading contender for more Equus Award honors, All is Secret has won six of her 11 outings, having finished out of the money on just two previous occasions.

What A Winter, winner of the Mercury Sprint last season, retires to stud having won 15 races. Already fully booked, the son of champion South African sire Western Winter should be an extremely popular addition to the local stallion band.