Natie Kotzen and Muzi Yeni pull off a shock in Joburg’s biggest race.
Starting at odds of 30-1, outsider Royal Victory landed the Grade 1 Betway Summer Cup at Turffontein on Saturday.
A raider from the KwaZulu-Natal yard of Natie Kotzen and ridden by Muzi Yeni, the four-year-old gelding was given little chance by expert pundits and languished at 70-1 in ante-post betting for the R5-million 2000m contest, Joburg’s biggest horse race.
The presence of championship challenging Yeni in the saddle drew some late money on course and Royal Victory paid R18.50 for a Win on the tote.
In a slow-run race, Royal Victory travelled in midfield for most of the race, accelerating strongly up the straight to win comfortably by 2.25 lengths from joint favourites Safe Passage and Bless My Stars (both 11-2). In fourth place was 8-1 shot Zeus.
Owners Peter Victor, Brandon Wiese and Natasha Sturdy paid a bargain price of R90,000 for the horse after Kotzen had picked him out as a yearling.
An ecstatic Victor, only recently recovered from life-threatening throat cancer, lavished praise on the trainer from Summerveld and on the ice-cool Yeni.
The latter was delighted to beat his sometime regular partner Safe Passage, from the Mike de Kock yard. He said he was happy to stay “hush” about his chances on Royal Victory, “and let my boy do the talking; and happily he did!”
Both Kotzen and Yeni have had a long association with De Kock over the years and the master trainer was quick to heartily congratulate his former employees.
‘Stay the distance’
Litigation from the Sean Tarry stable made the early running, with well-backed Atticus Finch, Son Of Raj, Billy Bowlegs, Cousin Casey and Safe Passage in attendance.
In the straight, nothing showed anything like the Durban visitor’s turn of foot and he strolled to a memorable victory.
Sponsor Betway – who paid every one of the 20 grooms an appearance fee of R20,000 – had put up the massive prize of R5-million in hopes of attracting challengers from other centres in the country. In the end, it was only Royal Victory that picked up that gauntlet.
Kotzen said that Victor had insisted on trying Royal Victory over more ground than he’d become used to.
“Now we know he can stay this distance, we have to look at the Durban July and the Met,” added Kotzen.