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THE dust has settled on another highly successful Champions Season in KwaZulu-Natal and the 2016 National Championships of South African racing again produced many memorable and exciting finishes as well performances out of the top drawer by both horse and rider.

From the time Bela Bela and Black Arthur opened the Season back in early May with scintillating victories in their respective Guineas all the way through to Marinaresco’s brilliant season-ending emotional and nail-biting success in the Mike and Carol Bass Champions Cup, the Season thrilled racing fans around the country and indeed the world. Piere Strydom, who celebrated his 50th birthday during the year, was seen at his brilliant best from the worst of the draw when winning on The Conglomerate in the Vodacom Durban July. Another highlight was certainly Enaad’s Gold Vase/Gold Cup double, the first time ever that this staying double has been achieved.

Not to be outdone Anton Marcus rode the race of his life to get Rabada home in the Daily News, despite dropping his stick at the top of the straight, and Coenie de Beer’s Talktothestars took our breath away when carrying top weight to an effortless victory in the Tsogo Sun Sprint.

But while all this glorious action was taking place, Gold Circle came under fire for the condition of its turf tracks at both Greyville and Scottsville. While remaining silent at the time, so as not to further shift focus from the quality of racing, Gold Circle now wishes to set the record straight. The Company is satisfied that the condition of the tracks at no stage proved a threat to horse and rider. “Naturally in winter the tracks do not look as green as the summer tracks but the underfoot surface was good throughout the season, notwithstanding the torrential downpours in May and July, each of which delivered more than 200mm of rain within a 24-hour period,” said Marketing Executive Graeme Hawkins.

“At Greyville in winter the Cynoden grass takes over from the Kikuyu which results in a mixture of green and brown turf – not aesthetically pleasing but the underlying surface was good and certainly fit for racing. This is borne out by the evidence and feedback we have had from NHA and private veterinarians as well as many of the leading trainers, locally and from around the country, who raced horses throughout the Season at both Greyville and Scottsville. The statistics appear to suggest that fewer injuries occurred during this past Season and KZN Champion trainer, Dennis Drier, was one of the leading trainers who reported that his runners all came through the Season largely unscathed,” added Hawkins.

“Scottsville, like the tracks on the Highveld, is subject to frost in winter and the colour of the turf quickly changes during the course of Champions Season. Unfortunately, the perception of draw bias down the straight persisted but by adding a false rail to the inside of the course we were able to counter this and ensure safe and fair racing for all at our big Sprint race meeting,” concluded Hawkins.

The Equus Awards take place Tuesday evening at Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg and the KZN Racing Awards are scheduled for Friday night 26 August at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban.