By Sarah Whitelaw
South Africa's reigning Horse of the Year Variety Club scored his second straight win June 8 in the group I Rising Sun Gold Challenge at Clairwood Park. The handsome chestnut made all the running to post a comfortable one-length victory in one of the country's top one-mile contests.
The 4-year-old colt, who was well-treated by the weight-for-age conditions for the 1,600-meter (about one mile) race, used his quick gate speed to get into a good position. Under regular jockey Anton Marcus, who has ridden Variety Club in his last 12 races, he never looked in danger of defeat and was a convincing winner.
Marcus gave the champion a hands-and-heels ride to record an impressive victory over a high-class field. Variety Club defeated the top-class mare Beach Beauty (a 9-2 shot), who was second; multiple group I winner Pomodoro (9-1) finished third.
The latter's stable mate, 14-1 outsider Whiteline Fever, ran a credible fourth, just 2 1/4 lengths behind Variety Club.
Variety Club, bred by Beaumont Stud, is unbeaten at 4 having won all five of his starts this season.
The colt, who is famous for his remarkable high cruising speed, recorded a time of 94.42 seconds, and placed his name alongside a handful of truly great South African milers who have won the Gold Challenge more than once. Also named last year's Equus Champion 3-year-old colt, Variety Club has now reeled off eight successive victories.
Trained by the Cape-based conditioner Joey Ramsden, the colt's victories this year include a score in the country's premier 1,600-meter, group I L'Ormarins Queen's Plate. Variety Club suffered his most recent defeat way back in 2012 when Jackson beat him in the group I Investec Cape Derby, over a trip (2,000 meters) many consider too far for the brilliant colt.
Variety Club, who is owned by Markus and Ingrid Jooste, is again leading contender for this season's Horse of the Year honours.
By top sprinter and leading local sire Var, Variety Club is out of the Secret Prospector mare La Massine. His third dam is group I South African Oaks winner Novenna, a daughter of leading sire Hobnob.
Variety Club has now won 14 of his 19 starts.