Hall of Fame
Horseracing has an uncanny knack of tugging on the heartstrings when champions of yesteryear are spoken about. There are always those who require a little bit of thought as you try retrace their heroics. There are those who immediately jump to mind. And then there’s Horse Chestnut.
It didn’t take too long for the Chestnut colt to catch the eye after three runs as a juvenile with a win first time out, a third to another legend in Clifton King in his second start, and another victory in mid-July 1998.
His three-year-old campaign would define his career and put the son of Fort Wood into folklore as one of the best horses to ever step onto the turf in South Africa.
An easy seven length victory at Gosforth Park was followed by another comfortable margin in The Dingaans (Gr 2) at Turffontein before being pointed at a campaign in the Cape. It began with another resounding win in the Cape Argus Guineas (Gr 1) over a mile and would be the start of his Triple Crown dominance.
There was also the not so minor achievement to become the first three-year-old to win the Metropolitan in 54 years when smashing the field by eight lengths in the 1999 renewal of the race. It also handed him the distinction as the only horse to ever achieve the Triple Crown and Met in the same year.
A little more than six weeks after that effort the Mike de Kock trained superstar was back at it again in the The Classic (Gr 1) over 1800m before galloping his way into the history books as the first ever Triple Crown winner after putting daylight between himself and the field in the SA Derby.
With nothing coming close to him on the racecourse here an international campaign beckoned and he began the arduous journey to the United States which resulted in him not featuring at all as a five-year-old.
His sole start in the States, when winning the Group Three Broward Handicap at Gulfstream Park, sadly proved to be his last with injury curtailing his campaign.
It made sense then that this champion was set for a career at stud first in America, where he managed to produce Group One winner Lucifer’s Stone, and then a spell spent standing at Drakenstein Stud.
Of his local successes, the performance of his daughter Chestnuts N Pearls, when winning the Group One Golden Slipper as a juvenile on July Day in 2015, is one of the main highlights. It proved to be a fitting tribute to her sire following his untimely death in February of that year.
The contribution by Horse Chestnut to South African horseracing was immense, not only because of his exploits on the track but also the opportunity he provided the sport to step into the limelight and capture mainstream attention.
His send-off at Turffontein Racecourse proved his popularity with racegoers coming out in numbers to bid their equine hero farewell as he prepared for his overseas exploits.
We’re left with the memories of one of South Africa’s greatest ever equine superstars. The performances of Horse Chestnut will be spoken of for years to come.