South African horse racing is a well established thoroughbred industry and has been going since the early 1800s. There are eight main tracks and a rich calendar of varied and quality racing, South Africa is a major player on the International scene.
From the Summer Cup at Turffontein, to the Champions Cup at Greyville in July, there are 29 Group 1 races in South Africa, backed up by a deep schedule of Group 2, Group 3 and Listed races.
South African Racecourses - Group 1 tracks
A stiff test for the racehorse, Turffontein is a galloping right-handed track of around 2,600m, containing a 1,200m straight track. With a 500m distance from the home bend to the finish line, there are usually no excuses for runners beaten and no clear draw bias at a majority of distances.
Turffontein hosts no less than eight Group 1 contests through the season, the feature event being the 4,000,000 Rand (£170,000) Champion’s Challenge in April.
Kenilworth is a remarkably versatile racecourse, with no less than three very different tracks rolled into the one venue. A left-handed track, it also boasts a 1,200m straight track which dissects the two round tracks. A place where stamina is often the order of the day, Kenilworth presents a stern test of horse and rider and is worthy of its Group 1 status.
Kenilworth is home to Africa’s greatest and richest race, the Sun Met. Worth 5,000,000 Rand in prize-money. A jewel in the Cape Town racing scene each February, the Sun Met attracts up to 50,000 racegoers in celebration of African culture, fashion and of course, top notch horse racing.
With a 600m run-in on a steady incline, Scottsville is a demanding but very fair track located in the Durban region. Right-handed and 2,300m around, it contains the customary 1,200m straight track and stages four Group 1 contests in May.
The Tsogo Sun Sprint in April is Scottville’s biggest race and race day. It is South Africa’s only card with four Group 1 races at one meeting and the Sun Sprint itself is the main event.
Greyville is unique in that it is the only one of the G1 tracks to not have a straight course. What it does have is a 2,900m right-handed, pear-shaped course, where prominent racers and front-runners can often dominate. An inside draw can be favoured and if coming from off the pace, a horse needs to have a telling turn of foot to make up the ground.
The Durban July has been held annually - usually on the first Saturday of July - since 1897 and is a Group 1 handicap race worth 4,250,000 Rand. It is one of Africa’s most popular race days at one of the top venues on the continent.
Other South Africa Racecourses
A sweeping, right-handed track, the Vaal has the longest home straight in the country at 1,000m. Both turf and sand races are held at Vaal, where judgement of pace is all-important for jockeys.
Fairview contains a 1,200m straight course and a 2,700m round gallop, with a lengthy run of 800m from the bend to the line. The inside track also contains an all-weather Polytrack of 1,800m.
Durbanville has no straight track and is a left-handed course with a circumference of 2,200m. Low barrier draws can be helpful at this pacy track, where being close to the pace is often important.
Located in Kimberley on the Northern Cape, Flamingo Park is a right-handed track. A sand surface, Flamingo Park has a 2,000m oval course, a 1,000m straight track and a five furlong chute for sprints at the minimum distance, along with a 600m run-in from the bend.
How to bet on South African horse racing
There is a wide range of horse racing bets you can place into South African betting pools, including Win/Place, Exacta and Trifecta, much like our Tote bets in the UK.
South African also has the Jackpot, along with bets like the Pick 6 and “Quartet”, where you can pick the first four horses home in a race for a big win.
Speaking of big wins, TAB sometimes offers the “All To Come” pool at certain meetings, where you can pick Win/Place selections across a range of races at one meeting as a single accumulative bet!
You can Watch and Bet on South African racing with us at the Tote. Enjoy free live streaming and bet seamlessly on a range of markets at all of the major tracks.
Major South African Races
With 29 Grade 1 contests on the calendar, South Africa is not short on Internationally recognised Group class action across the year. The Sun Met at Kenilworth is the richest race in Africa and the biggest race in Cape Town. At Turffontein, the Champion’s Challenge is the most valuable race, but the racecourse also stages the Group 1 South African Derby. The Grade 1 Durban July at Greyville is one of the biggest races in South Africa, while in May, Scotsville hosts the region’s only card to contain four Group 1 races in one day.
Top Horses in South Africa
With a rating of 120, Justin Snaith’s DO IT AGAIN is the top ranked horse in South Africa in the Longines World Rankings, but the 2019 Group 1 Durban July winner’s form has dipped in 2020. Having been found to be fine post-race, there is no reason he can’t resume winning ways in the near future and prove his star status. At the time of writing, Invidia is the highest earner in South Africa so far this season, and - like Do It Again - is also sired by Twice Over who is a high performing stallion in the region. We can’t wait to see what talent emerges in the months to come.
From the family of Sadlers Wells, South African Triple Crown winner Chestnut is regarded as one of the best horses ever to grace SA turf and although his career was brought to a halt, the legacy will live on. Casting the mind further back through South Africa’s top horses, who can forget remarkable mare IPE TOMBE, who was the 2002 Champion 3-y-o filly and named Dubai Horse of the year in 2003 having won the Dubai Duty Free. She also won the Durban July on home soil.
Top Jockeys in South African horse racing
Kevin Shea and Mike De Kock will be familiar to UK racing fans on their globe-trotting escapades through the 2000s and indeed, Shea is renowned as one of the top SA jockeys in recent times. In 2020, Warren Kennedy is the man topping the winners table, with the likes of Greg Cheyne a major force in the current weighing room. Triple South African champion jockey Anton Marcus is still in the mix, but it’s only Kennedy and Cheyne reaching the big numbers in recent months so they are the jockeys to watch.