Hall of Fame | Politician
Back in the day – from 1976 to 1980 – the most famous Politician in South Africa was a racehorse by that name. And he was more popular than any real politician at the time as well, with racing drawing big crowds to courses around the country.
A chestnut son of Oligarchy out of the Ribot mare Ofa, he was bred by the Scott Bros and born in 1973. Politician was a breeding stroke of luck. Said Robin Scott: “(The mare) Ofa was purchased from a sale in Kentucky and was the most expensive broodmare to be brought to South Africa at the time. Our great friend Eppie Nelson used to help with our pedigrees and matings and he suggested the mating to Oligarchy. (Brother) Neville had a fit, because Oligarchy was defunct at the time. He asked why he had to put a mare of Ofa’s calibre to one of the worst stallions in the country! But we did it and got Politician!”
He went on to win 18 of his 31 starts, picking up R370 780 at the time.
Using the exchange rate, let’s illustrate how much money that would be worth today. Back in 1980, one SA rand bought you 81 US cents. Don’t rub your eyes, the ZAR was really stronger than the US dollar. So, a simple calculation would tell you that the stake money that Politician earned in rands then would be the equivalent to him winning R7.4-million in today’s terms.
Politician was three times named SA Horse of the Year (1976-1978) at the age of three, four and five, and he won 11 Grade One races, most of which were when carrying top weight. Those wins included two Mets and two Queen’s Plates.
He was brilliant throughout his career, trained by the great Syd Laird and ridden by Bertie Hayden, while being a R5 250 purchase by Michael Javett. As a three-year-old he won the Dingaans and the Cape Guineas (Johannesburg and Cape Town) and then trotted up in the Cape Derby by nearly six lengths.
Arguably his finest performance came in the 1979 Met. As the field turned for home, Politician was tucked away off the pace as usual, but midway down the straight his famed finishing kick didn’t come. Then when he found top gear he was hopelessly boxed in on the rail. Festive Season, a filly carrying 50kg, and Beau Art were fighting out the finish, but inside the final 50m, Politician saw daylight and went from fifth to first in a matter of strides.
The Politician Stakes is a Grade 3 event held at Kenilworth every year over 1800m in honour of the great champion. Recent winners have been Universal (2022), Kommetdieding (2021), Silver Host (2020), Twist Of Fate (2019) and Doublemint (2018). The 2023 race is run on 21 January.
– Gary Lemke