Composed Wagner wins Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup

One of life’s great levellers. That’s horseracing. The emotional scenes following Wagner’s stunning victory in Saturday’s R2 million Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup will be the lasting memory of a superb day that did not always deliver the expected outcomes, but still produced the fairytale ending.

The best movie scripts are not written, they are lived. And one just has the feeling there could be something still to come as the dust settles on the drama of the 2012 Sansui Summer Cup.

In the end, it turned into much more than a horserace. This was a victory for perserverance, prepared by life and ridden by the strength of the human spirit.

Gauteng’s big one. Twenty horses. Seven trained by the champion Mike De Kock. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But punters had one of those rocky rides to oblivion on Saturday.

Little worked out in terms of form and the exotics paid telephone numbers. But the softer issues were there to be savoured and enjoyed and the outstanding victory by the Joe Soma-trained Wagner provided more pleasure than we could possibly have anticipated.

Raindrops danced on the camera lens as the field jumped to an incident-free beginning and Anton Marcus had no hesitation in taking Vettel up to lead – even though Mike De Kock had said in the build-up that the Argentinian-bred gelding could be a better horse ‘held up.’ Such is the unpredictably of the race itself.

Vettel lead Wagner and Whiteline Fever, with Ilha Bela and Zambucca further back.

At that stage Soul Master had to check in midfield, while Ilha Bela and Empenoso Henn were at the rear.

The order remain largely unchanged until the 1200m marker when Khumalo took the initiative and sent Wagner out to lead ilha Bela and Ilsanpietro, with Vettel more settled in fourth.

Turning for home Wagner continued as Ilha Bela looked dangerous with the field spread right across the track.

But Wagner was not stopping and he powered home to win by a half- length in a time of 122,23 secs from a flying longshot Shogunnar, and the first Mike De Kock horse home in Ilsanpietro.

Recent Charity Mile second-placed Astro News earned again by running fourth.

The previously unbeaten favourite Mujaarib never sparked and ran twelfth and 7,25 lengths behind.

A visibly emotional Racing Association CEO Larry Wainstein embraced Soma and called it an ‘unbelievable day, really emotional and who actually cares if it’s raining right now?”

Leading South African owner Markus Jooste said that it was a ‘difficult but also a great time’.

“ Racing is a passion.To have Joey Soma train this winner for us. I am thrilled. He is a fantastic horseman, a good man for the game and this is a big coup for horseracing,” he said.

In a touching moment, a sombrely ecstatic 53 year old Soma blew a kiss skywards and dedicated the momentous win to his wife who had passed away earlier this year.

Struggling to fight back the tears, Soma continued :
“This one’s for you, my darling. And what a game. I am absolutely privileged to train horses for owners like Markus and Ingrid (Jooste) and if I had the choice of the July, the Met or the Summer Cup, I would want to win this race,” he said.

The win rekindled memories of the shock victory by Soma’s Happy Landing, also for Markus Jooste, in April last year. The son of Al Mufti had won the Gr1 President’s Champions Challenge under Muzi Yeni.

Soma, who has had a rollercoaster ride in recent years has changed his approach to horseracing by taking control, in what he symbolically calls a ‘return to the grandstand.’

In the early part of 2010 he made a life and career-changing decision:
“I had issues I was battling to cope with and I came to a fork in the road. I had to make a choice between training Maidens and E Division horses and battling forever, or changing my perspectives on life, racing and gambling. I quietly knew that punting horses had always been my problem, but I had to acknowledge this fact first.”

“I decided to turn up betting and I started focusing on my stable. I cut the string from 40 to 22 horses and got involved in my yard again. I’ve always done what I had to do, I’ve run my string well, but when betting becomes your master you lose focus without noticing it and everything else is affected.”

“I decided to close my private suite at Turffontein. It’s a wonderful social vehicle but lends itself to betting heavily with owners and friends and I didn’t want that. I returned to the place where I started racing 35 years ago – the grandstand at Turffontein. I picked up my old habit of going to the parade ring, watching the contenders close-up, marking my race guide and watching them run, a wonderful pleasure I’d almost forgotten.”

Soma has attributed his known ability to select good yearlings to his late father, Gabriel (“Gabby”) and his cousin, Gary Soma. He said that his father had warned him never to combine training and betting.

“I followed his advice in my first two years as a trainer, 1992-1994, and we saddled seven feature winners, including our classic champion, Special Preview. After that I started throwing money at various bets and it showed it my results. It’s taken me more than 15 years to stop, but here we are, things have changed for the good!”

Soma trained one of the best two-year-old ever to race in South Africa in Special Preview who won the Bloodline Million, the SA Nursery and the Smirnoff Plate within a period of three months.
A second feature winner on the day for Wilgerbosdrift Storm Cat stallion Tiger Ridge (Cherry On The Top won the Gr3 Fillies Mile earlier), Wagner is a R200 000 National Sale graduate.

He has now won R1 552 100 in the course of his 5 wins and 5 places from his 16 starts.

Wagner is out of the Chilean-bred Rich Man’s Gold mare Cosima Liszt.

The mare belongs to the Grooms at Wilgerbosdrift and with jockey S’Manga Khumalo riding the winner a day after his birthday, the win was a defining moment that spoke of so much more than horses and winning.

In the words of Markus Jooste, the result was indeed a ‘coup’ for horseracing. And a tangible reflection of how far this great land of opportunity has advanced in so many respects in eighteen uncertain years.