Top five South Africa’s best horse races
Horse racing is one of the most popular and lucrative sports in South Africa. Top quality horse racing has taken place on this continent for the best part of three decades and many of the world’s richest flat races are staged on South African soil.
Here are South Africa’s top five most famous horse races and the months in which they will be run in 2022.
Queen’s Plate – January
Racing fans in South Africa ring in the New Year with a trip to Kenilworth on the second Saturday in January. The main event on the card is the Queen’s Plate, one of the oldest races to be staged in South Africa, having been created to honour Queen Victoria back in 1861.
Since then, many of the continent’s most famous horses have kicked off their year with victory in the Queen’s Plate, including all-time greats like Sea Cottage and Pocket Power. Many horses who starred in 2021 will make the trip to Kenilworth this coming January and attempt to win the lion’s share of the R2,000,000 prize pot.
The Sun Met – January
Known as Africa’s Richest Race Day and popular with punters in Africa for betting on horse racing, the Sun Met takes place annually at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town Horses who impress in the Queen’s Plate often return to Kenilworth later that month to take part in another of South Africa’s most historic horse racing events, the Sun Met. First staged in 1883, the Met was initially run as a handicap, but was soon promoted to Grade One status when its popularity began to grow.
The most famous horse ever to race in this country, Horse Chestnut became the first three-year-old in over half a century to win the Met when he struck in 1999. For the 160th renewal of the Sun Met in 2022, the prize pool has been increased to a staggering R5,000,000.
South African Derby – April
This Classic is the continent’s equivalent of one of the world’s most recognisable sporting events, the Epsom Derby. Like the British Derby, the SA Derby is a crucial part of South Africa’s Triple Crown, which also features the Gauteng Guineas and the South African Classic.
The South African Derby boasts a storied history of its own, having been created in the late 1800s. Whichever three-year-old is crowned the champion of their generation at Turffontein in early April will go on to run in many more lucrative races during the second half of the season.
Champions Challenge – April
South Africa’s equivalent of the Breeders’ Cup takes place at Turffontein at the end of April. The main event on the card is the Premier’s Champions Challenge, a race once known as the Summer Handicap.
The Champions Challenge may not boast the same history as the Sun Met, Queen’s Plate or the Durban July. Yet, a massive prize pot of R4,000,000 means many of the sport’s best flat racers will target this handicap, all bidding to hand connections a most-lucrative pay day.
Vodacom Durban July – July
Last, but certainly not least, we reach the Vodacom Durban July. Arguably, this handicap is the most important race to be staged in South Africa. The VDJ allows star three-year-olds their first opportunity to take on the best older horses in the country at Grade One level and always makes for tremendous viewing.
The history of the Durban July spans three centuries, having first been run back in 1897. Preeminent figures from the world of horse racing will gather at Greyville on the first Saturday in July, as the country’s finest flat racers battle it out for R1,250,000 first prize.