Camphoratus, a 66-1 raider from KwaZulu-Natal, was the shock winner of the HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes on Royal Day at Turffontein.
It was a first Grade 1 victory for the father and son training team of Robbie and Shannon Hill – as well as for jockey Gareth Wright and for the stallion Byword. The filly sold for just R50 000 off the 2016 KZN Yearling Sale, bred and consigned by Rob and Michele Pickering of Middlefield Stud who retained a share in the filly.
Guest of honour Princess Charlene, whose family lives in Gauteng, has often expressed sympathy for the underdog in racing – and there was no bigger underdog on the day than Camphoratus.
The princess said: “It’s wonderful to be here under the beautiful African sun. And it’s wonderful to have an outsider win! I’m so proud!”
Camphoratus and Wright travelled near the rear of the field for much of the race, with the fractions being set by Redberry Lane with Piere Strydom aboard. Running Brave and Devin Habib were always prominent and grabbed the lead with some 600m to go.
The 2-1 favourite Oh Susanna, perfectly positioned a few lengths off the pace by Richard Fourie, moved up to challenge and it looked like she would fight it out with Running Brave.
But, all the while, Wright had been moving Camphoratus up the inside rail and suddenly became a threat at the 200m mark. At the same time, Nafaayes and Warren Kennedy challenged up the middle of the track. It had turned into a four-horse charge.
Running Brave (Brave Tin Soldier) rallied magnificently and went ahead. But Camphoratus was not to be denied and grabbed the spoils on the line – by a mere 0.20 lengths.
Oh Susanna, the reigning Equus Horse of the Year, who travelled up from Durban, where she is based for the winter season, could not quicken in the final strides and finished fourth. The 2018 Sun Met champion – the marquee name at the meeting – was by no means disgraced and the long trip and a 77-day absence from the racecourse probably counted against her.
A delighted Wright said the race worked out well for him and Camphoratus had enjoyed the soft going.
Robbie Hill – who has been training his filly from Geoff Woodruff’s Randjesfontein yard for the past few months in anticipation of this contest – said he had been confident of a big run and advised patrons the four-year-old chestnut could finish in the first three.