Exceptional Captain’s Ransom Tops Horse of The Year Table with Two Months of Season Remaining

PRESS RELEASE – as at 6 June:

Captain’s Ransom displaced Rain in Holland at the top of the Horse of the Year Table after completing her fifth consecutive win of the season when winning the Grade 1 South African Fillies Sprint on Saturday. She remains unbeaten so far this season.

Her exceptional versatility is evidenced by her position in the various category tables. Apart from topping the Horse of The Year Table, she also tops the Champion Older Female category, is fifth in the Champion Sprinter category, fourth in the Champion Miler category, and fifth in the Champion Middle Distance category.

Rain in Holland whose season has ended prematurely remains in second position, while Safe Passage climbs to fifth position after his victory in the Daily News 2000 (Grade 1).

Kommetdieding and Pomp and Power remain in contention in joint third position, while MK’s Pride and Jet Dark make up the table in sixth and seventh position.

Much change can be expected over the final two months of the season with several super Grade 1’s set to take place. The Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge, the Hollywoodbets Durban July, and the Champions Cup are likely to decide who tops the table at season end.

Captain’s Ransom heads the table on 104 points, followed by Rain in Holland (86), Kommetdieding and Pomp and Power (both 84), Safe Passage (80), MK’s Pride (77) and Jet Dark (72).

Champion Three-Year-Old Colt

The premier Three-Year-Old race of the season, The Daily News 2000, saw Safe Passage win impressively after an extended break. Pomp and Power though, second in the race, still holds a slender lead in the category, while Aragosta, third in the race, makes up ground from fifth to third position. Master Archie, not seen during the month, moves to fourth position while Double Superlative, whose season is now over following an injury, slips to fifth position.

Pomp and Power tops the table with 84 points, followed by Safe Passage (80), Aragosta (52), Master Archie (48), and Double Superlative (46).

Champion Three-Year-Old Filly

The Three-Year-Old filly category remains firmly in control of two fillies who have ended their seasons. Rain in Holland (86 points) remains on top followed by Chansonette (72). Big Burn (54) improved on the table after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 South African Fillies Sprint, while Under Your Spell (45) enters the log after her win in the Grade 2 World Sports Betting KZN Fillies Guineas. Consistent Sprinkles (42) completed her fifth points score when finishing third in the Woolavington 2000 and is in fifth position.

Champion Older Male and Female

There was no change to the Champion Older Male category with Kommetdieding still on top with 84 points, followed by MK’s Pride (77), Jet Dark (72), Astrix (68) and Bohica (40).

Captain’s Ransom took a firm grip of the Champion Older Female category after her win in the Grade 1 South African Fillies Sprint. She leads on 104 points. True To Life (26 points) enters the log for the first time in fourth position after her second to Captain’s Ransom in the same race. Sparkling Water (67), Princess Calla (52) and Bold Fortune (24) make up the table.

Distance Categories

Alesian Chief (45 points) vaulted to the top of the Champion Sprinter category after an easy win in the Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint. He displaces Master Archie and Bohica (both on 40 points) at the top of the table. Big Burn (36) and Captain’s Ransom (32) make up the table in fourth and fifth positions, respectively.

There was no change to the Champion Miler category. MK’s Pride remains in the lead on 77 points followed by Jet Dark (48), Princess Calla (48), Captain’s Ransom (40) and Seeking the Stars (40).

Likewise, there was no change to the Champion Middle Distance table, with Astrix leading on 54 points followed by Kommetdieding (48), Sparkling Water (39), Flying Carpet (38) and Captain’s Ransom (32).

While Shango won the opening stayers race of the KZN winter season this was not enough to enter the Champion Stayers table. This remains unchanged from last month with Sparkling Water and Nebraas (both 20 points) on top, followed by Black Thorn (11), Doublemint (10) and the now-exported Holy Warrior (10).

Champion 2yo Colt & 2yo Filly

With the first Grade 1 of the juvenile season Thunderstruck leads the colt’s category on 32 points after his comfortable win in the Gold Medallion. Now I Got You, Karangetang and Ocean Time (all on 16 points) are joint second, followed by Prophet on 12 points.

Sweet Pepper leads the filly’s category on 32 points after her narrow win in the Allan Robertson Fillies Championship. Glittering Girl, Maharanee and Miss Cool (all on 16 points) are joint second, followed by River Queraress on 12 points.

Note: Points log will determine one-third of the final award in each category, with an expert panel and a public vote each accounting for another third of the final vote. Only horses included in the final points log will be voted on by the expert panel and public.

Equus Awards 2021

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2021 Winners

Champion 2 Year Old Colt

Good Traveller

Champion 2 Year Old Filly

Rain In Holland

Champion 3 Year Old Colt

Jet Dark

Champion 3 Year Old Filly

War Of Athena

Champion Older Male

Rainbow Bridge

Champion Older Filly/Mare

Summer Pudding

Champion Sprinter

Rio Querari

Champion Miler

Jet Dark

Champion Middle Distance Horse

Rainbow Bridge

Champion Stayer


2021 Winners

Champion Breeder

Klawervlei Stud

Champion Stallion


Champion Broodmare

Halfway To Heaven

Outstanding Breeder

Oldlands Stud

Outstanding International Achievement Award

Yulong Prince (formerly Surcharge)

Champion Apprentice Jockey

Kyle Strydom

Champion Jockey

Lyle Hewitson

Champion Owner

Suzette Viljoen

Champion Trainer

Justin Snaith

Print Media Award

David Thiselton

Broadcast Media Award

Tawanda Taruvinga

Still Photography Media Award

Candiese Lenferna

Special Achievement Award

Graeme Hawkins

Horse Of The Year

Rainbow Bridge

Special Award to Groom of Horse of the year

Dumasani Bonani

“The Equus Awards is the “Oscars” of the Horse racing industry. It is an opportunity to honour the outstanding achievements in the various equine and human categories for the respective racing season.”

Natalie Turner

Chair Of The Equus Committee

“A panel of judges decide the winners in the equine categories and the statistics from the NHRA largely determine the human awards.

The Equus Awards is all about glitz and glamour and historically it has been celebrated as a formal black-tie event, held during the month of August after the conclusion of the racing season on 31 July each year. Over the past two years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards have been broadcast as a virtual event. This however has not diminished the honour and prestige that comes with winning such an esteemed award.

The Awards include equine categories, breeders’ awards and human awards. The highlight of the event is the announcement of Champion Horse of the Year.

The Equus Awards organising committee which includes representatives of the Racing Association, The Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Cape Racing, Gold Circle and Phumelela has started preparing for this year’s Equus Awards to honour the champions of the turf.

The judges’ panel comprises Graeme Hawkins, Alistair Cohen, Jack Milner, Andrew Harrison and Stan Elley who are all seasoned campaigners in the South African horseracing Industry.

The Equus Awards Committee has also announced the reintroduction of the Equus Media Awards for the 2020/2021 racing season. The three categories that will be judged are written material (print and electronic), broadcasting (television and internet) and still photography. The judges for the Equus Media Awards are Neil Morrice, Howard Wright and Ravi Naidoo.

Final decisions on the winners will be taken after the feature raceday taking place at Hollywood Bets Greyville on Saturday 31 August.

The 2021 Equus Awards will be broadcast on Tellytrack (DSTV Channel 249) on Tuesday 17th August at 8pm.”

2021 Equus Panel

Alistair Cohen

Race commentator since 2010. Called every feature on the Highveld for the 2020/21 season.

TellyTrack presenter.

3rd appearance on the Equus Panel and always honoured to be part of the decision process.

Andrew Harrison

Andrew has a Post graduate degree in journalism from Stellenbosch University after National Service in 2nd Mounted Infantry Battalion.

He joined The Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg in 1980 as junior journalist and in 1981 made Racing Editor after sudden death of incumbent.

He spent 25 years with The Witness before moving to Gold Circle as Publishing Manager and has been with the for the past 16 years.

Andrew is a fly-fishing nutter in his spare time.

Graeme Hawkins

Graeme started his career in racing back in 1977 as a race commentator in the Western Cape. He was then signed up by the Highveld Racing Clubs in 1983 to be a part of their commentary and presenting teams, a position he held until 2007 when he moved to KZN to join Gold Circle. At the same he had been a member of Bloodstock South Africa’s auctioneering team and since 2002 he has held executive positions with both Phumelela and Gold Circle.

Jack Milner

Has been a fan of horseracing since getting a job as a clerk for late bookmaker Dave Hope in 1972. He worked for The Citizen in the sports department as a journalist, covering tennis, golf, cricket and squash. In 1996 he joined the South African Press Association (Sapa) and became sports editor in 2000. In 2006, Jack left Sapa to work for Phumelela to head up the Publishing Department and have edited, in particular, the Racing Express in The Citizen and the racing pages in other newspapers.

Stan Elley

Stan Elley was born in 1951 and was raised on the family Stud farm near Oudtshoorn. After boarding school in Cape Town and the obligatory year in the SA Defence Force, he worked at Newmarket for 6 months, and for Theo de Klerk locally for a year before taking out his trainer's license. Stan trained for 41 years and has been presenting on the racing channel for the last 24 years. He is married and has 2 adult children and 2 grandchildren who reside in the USA.

2021 Media Panel

Howard Wright

Horseracing journalist since June 1964, becoming one of the founding members of staff on the Racing Post when it was launched in April 1986.

Since retiring as the Post’s industry editor in July 2012, he has continued to write for the paper, as well as other international media, including Thoroughbred Owner Breeder and the UAE’s Al Adiyat.

Aside from media work, he has been a trustee of the UK’s stable-staff training centre, the National Horseracing College since 1990, and vice-chairman since 2004, and was a member of Britain’s Flat Pattern Committee from 1986-2009.

Neil Morrice

Forty five years in racing journalism and broadcasting, Fleet Street London Press Association 1980-1986; Racing Post 1986-1998; Neil Morrice Racing Ltd 2000-2021;
Former UK Correspondent for Phumelela 2011 - 2017; Current UK and International Correspondent for Hollywoodbets, Durban, SA.

Ravi Naidoo

Ravi is the founder and managing director of Design Indaba, its founding company Interactive Africa, and co-founder of rain, SA's mobile data-only network.

Interactive Africa, a Cape Town-based company that combines marketing, project management, logistic prowess and creative production to work on projects that promote South Africa.

He grew up in horseracing, and is now an owner of a number of horses.

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The basis for the awarding of the equine categories for the Equus Awards from the current season (1 August 2021 to 31 July 2022) has been changed to a South African version of the UK’s Cartier Racing Awards. These are awarded each year based on a combination of the following three elements:

  • Pattern Race Points System
  • Expert Panel Rating
  • Public Vote

For the new South African version each of these three elements will carry an equal weighting (33,3%) in the final award calculation. The Pattern Race points system will be based on the result of the season’s Graded races, followed by an expert panel rating and a public vote which will collaboratively determine the Equus Award in each of the equine categories.

The list of nominees for the expert panel rating and the public vote in each of the equine categories will be determined by points accumulated by each horse during the season in Graded races, with an exception made for the Champion Stayer category where Listed performances are also to be included. The points system will ensure that South Africa’s best races are awarded the most points in each category and each horse nominated to the final voting list has demonstrated potential Champion status.

Grade 1 races will carry more points than Grade 2 races, Grade 2 more than Grade 3, open-races more points than restricted-races (by age or sex), and WFA or fixed-weight races more points than conditions or handicap races of the same grading. Additionally, certain races have been designated “Super Status” in their respective Grading in acknowledgement of their enhanced importance in the pattern of Graded races through the season. These races will carry the most points in each category and Grading.

Points will accumulate for the first-four finishers in Grade 1 races, and for the first-three in Grade 2 and Grade 3 races. Listed races which carry points towards the Champion Stayer category will be awarded for the first-three finishers except in races restricted to fillies and mares where only the first-two will be awarded points. All Graded performances in the season will carry points towards the Horse-Of-The- Year, Age-Group categories and Male / Female categories. However, the four Distance-related categories (Champion Sprinter, Miler, Middle Distance and Stayer) will EXCLUDE performances in Age-Group restricted races and points for these categories will only accrue from races where all ages may participate.

There are currently 114 Graded races in the season from which points will accumulate for the equine awards. Of these, 29 are Grade 1, 36 Grade 2 and 49 Grade 3. Additionally, 8 Listed races over 2400 metres and further are included for points accrual in the Stayers category. Six races at Grade 1 and two at Grade 2 level have been designated “Super Status” and will carry enhanced points. All these Super Grade 1 races are WFA races, while the two Super Grade 2 races are WFA plus penalties.

The points outlined above are summarised in the table below:

Category 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Super Grade 1 48 24 12 6
Durban July 40 20 10 5
Grade 1 Open WFA 40 20 10 5
Grade 1 Open Hcp 32 16 8 4
Grade 1 Age restricted 32 16 8 4
Grade 1 F&M 32 16 8 4
Super Grade 2 24 12 6
Grade 2 Open WFA(+P) 20 10 5
Grade 2 Open Hcp 16 8 4
Grade 2 Age restricted 16 8 4
Grade 2 F&M 16 8 4  
Grade 3 Open WFA(+P) 10 5 3
Grade 3 Open Hcp 8 4 2
Grade 3 Age restricted 8 4 2
Grade 3 F&M 8 4 2  
2400m+ only
Listed Open Conditions 6 3 1
Listed Open Handicaps 4 2 1
Listed Open F&M 3 1    

The Graded races designated Super-status are:

  • the Queen’s Plate (Gr 1), the Cape Met (Gr1) and the Green Point Stakes (Gr2) in the Western Cape 
  • the Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr1) and the Champions Challenge (Gr1) on the Highveld 
  • the Gold Challenge (Gr1), the Champions Cup (Gr1) and the Drill Hall Stakes (Gr2) in KZN

Significant work has been undertaken modelling the past three seasons Graded Races results against a combination of the new points system, the known expert panel voting outcomes and a simulation of the likely spread of a public vote. This has adequately proven the suitability of the new mechanism when compared to previous Equus Awards nominees and winners.

An updated table will be published monthly from the new year through the season indicating the points accumulation in each category. Final lists will be distributed at the end of the season for the voting by both the expert panel and the public. 

The composition of the expert panel will be announced in due course, while details of the public vote will be communicated towards the end of the season.

The human Equus Awards and equine Breeding Categories will continue to be awarded as before based on industry statistics and will not comprise a points or public voting element.

Human & Breeding Awards Criteria

Champion Breeder

For the breeder of the horses who have won the most stakes in the year – excluding restricted races.

Champion Stallion

The stallion whose progeny have won the most stakes in a year – excluding restricted races.

Champion Broodmare

Only broodmares who bred a Graded stakes winner in the past season are considered. Preference will be given to a broodmare that has produced: Very high quality stock & more than one stakes winner. Any other relevant consideration may be taken into account, including her lifetime record.

Outstanding Stallion

Only given if warranted in any year. An award for exceptional achievement as a stallion. Although conceivable that the Champion Stallion may also win this award, it will only occur in exceptional circumstances. This award contemplates to recognise: A stallion that has burst onto the scene in a very exceptional manner; or a stallion that has sired a horse or horses of exceptional ability; or a stallion that has produced an unusual array of very high class horses; or for exceptional achievement as a broodmare sire. Any other relevant consideration may be taken into account.

Outstanding Breeder

Award for the most outstanding breeder of the year having regard to the: quality of the racehorses produced (graded stakes winners in particular); average earnings per runner; and any other factor that may reflect favourably on the breeder. All breeders will be considered on an equal footing, meaning that average earnings per runner or quality of stock rather than total stakes.

Outstanding International Achievement Award

Only given if an SA-bred horse has met the criteria during the season (an international Grade 1 win). This award is for exceptional merit and will only be granted if warranted. Only a Grade 1 win will justify the granting of this award.

Champion Apprentice Jockey

Based on number of wins in SA – including restricted races.

Champion Owner

Based on stakes earned – excluding restricted races.

Champion Jockey

Based on number of wins in SA – including restricted races.

Champion Trainer

Based on stakes earned – excluding restricted races.

Media Awards

Written / Broadcast / Photographic. At the discretion of the voting panel.

Special Achievement Award

Only given if warranted. At the discretion of the voting panel.

Special Award To Groom Of The Year

Groom of the winning Horse Of The Year.

Horse Of The Year

Distance, age & gender immaterial. At the discretion of the voting panel.