Image: Chase Liebenberg
Paul Peter’s MK’s Pride became the first horse this century to win the R250 000 Ilha Bela Gr2 Hawaii Stakes as a 3yo when he stormed to victory at Turffontein on Saturday to register his maiden stakes success.
First run fifty years ago when called the Keith Hepburn Champion Stakes in honour of the Turffontein chairman who died in the inception year of 1971, the race now commemorates the George Azzie-trained Hawaii, who achieved more fame on the racecourse and at stud overseas than any SA-bred horse.
Voted Champion Grass Horse in the USA in 1969, while at stud in Kentucky Hawaii enjoyed the distinction of being the first SA-bred to have sired a Northern Hemisphere Gr1 winner when his son Henbit won the 1980 Epsom Derby.
Top past winners of the race include National Emblem (1997) and Jet Master (1999 and 2000), who both went on to become champion stallions.
Other more recent Hawaii Stakes winners who went on to stud are Elusive Fort (2007) and Rafeef (2017).
So MK’S Pride, backed to 16-10 favourite on Saturday, is in illustrious company and the 3yo son of Willow Magic stamped himself as a colt of genuine serious upward potential when he overcame a tricky gate and powered home to beat the long-rested Durban July runner-up Got The Greenlight (13-2) by a half length in a time of 84,63 secs.
Got The Greenlight ran a cracker after his break and Joey Soma will be over the moon as his champion now goes into the Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein over a mile on 3 April, and then the Gr1 Premier’s Champions Challenge over 2000m on 1 May.
Stuart Pettigrew’s Expressfromtheus (7-1) maintained his consistent form in third, with Clint Binda pacemaker Whorly Whorly (18-1) enjoying the moment when staying on for a fairly well beaten fourth.
MK’S Pride’s dedicated jockey Warren Kennedy conceded that he had reservations ‘about taking on these older horses’.
“I don’t where the bottom is of this horse. Every time we ask he gives. He appears to like being ridden with a bit of restraint. He won a good race today,” said Kennedy.
Trainer Paul Peter said that the winner was a lovely horse to train.
“He doesn’t know he is a colt. He eats well and is a good doer. Thanks to the sponsors, Mr Nkale, my team and this is dedicated to my wife, who works quietly behind the scenes,” said Peter.
Charismatic owner Koos Nkale still has the season’s big luck bragging rights as MK’S Pride is his first ever horse after a lifetime of punting.
He was accompanied at the post-race interview by Jessica Motaung, pictured above, the Marketing Director of Kaizer Chiefs, as well as by his eloquent son, whose energy could be used constructively to market racing!
Mr Nkale, holding the impressive trophy aloft, dedicated the victory to Kaiser Chiefs and to the Motaung and Peter family’s – as well as pilot Warren Kennedy.
One of the fairytale stories of racing’s roughest year ever, MK’s Pride, who was not sold at the Ready To Run Sale, hails from the first crop of the Dubawi sired Gr1 SA Nursery and Dingaans winner Willow Magic (Dubawi)
The Summerhill Stud-bred colt is out of the Admire Main mare Ikimasu, a winning half-sister to Gr2 K R A Guineas third Corredor, and his fourth dam Guadaloupe is a full-sister to the July winning champion Gondolier.
MK’S Pride is a winner of 5 races with 2 places from 8 starts. His stakes earnings are R807 600.
Sire Willow Magic also had a prolific day, with a 3rd place in the Gr1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic with Magical Flight.