where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2018-07-04 22:54:56  
July: Ten Best Winners 10. LONDON NEWS


NO: 10 LONDON NEWS (1996)

by Mark Anthony

Laurie and Jean Jaffee are household names in South African racing, having owned or co-owned so many top class performers over the years. Spearheaded by Empress Club, their entourage also includes Gr1 winners such as Mark Anthony, Prontisimo, Arctic Cove, Hawkins, Petrava, Hoeberg, Eventuail - and Bush Telegraph.

It is the last-mentioned who is central to the London News story. Bush Telegraph won his first 9 races, culminating in the Rothmans July. He was a son of champion sire Jungle Cove, one of South Africa`s most influential stallions. Jungle Cove, in turn was by the great Bold Ruler, whose influence as a stallion in modern times is exceeded only by Northern Dancer. On his dam`s side, Bush Telegraph was a grandson of another towering figure in SA breeding - 6-times champion sire Persian Wonder. These were the genes that would be passed on to Bush Telegraph`s best son, London News, who was foaled out of Soho Secret, a daughter of the good staying sire Regent Street.

London News, who raced in the Jaffees` famous white, black diamonds and red sleeves, looked promising enough when he followed up his maiden win with two more victories in the latter part of 1995 and then really shot to prominence with a 5,50-length win in the Dingaans. In third place was another son of Bush Telegraph, Ashtontown, with whom London News would forge an interesting rivalry.

London News was then heavily backed for the Cape Guineas and the Cape Derby but was beaten in both: second to Ashtontown and a disappointing third to Super Quality, respectively. Back in Johannesburg, he exacted revenge in no uncertain terms, trouncing Super Quality by 7 lengths in the SA Classic and he then renewed rivalry with Ashtontown in the SA Guineas. They were both upstaged by Harmony Forever, who beat Ashtontown into second while London News kept on for third.

By this time, London News had established himself as a top class 3-year-old, arguably the best of his generation, but he had also shown himself vulnerable on more than one big occasion. His credentials for the upcoming Rothmans July were therefore not rock solid and his supporters were looking to the Daily News 2000 to assess his chances for the big one. They were rewarded in spectacular fashion as London News responded with a truly memorable performance. Piere Strydom sent him to the front from the start and he set a scorching pace. He never saw another horse for the rest of the race. His rivals were struggling to keep up and in the home straight, he actually found a further burst of acceleration. He stormed home over 4 lengths clear of Harmony Forever in the outstanding time of 119.80 seconds - a new course record.

This was a great July trial and it was no surprise to see him installed favourite for the big race, having been allocated 52kg. The field that assembled on 6 July 1996 was not the greatest, but it was still a decent one and it was going to be a heavy task to win with front-running tactics and from draw 14. National Emblem was the class horse of the race and had undoubted ability but was inconsistent and lumbered with top weight of 58kg. Gr 1 winners Eldoriza (Schweppes Challenge) and La Fabulous (J & B Met) had the best recent form but were not certain to see out the trip. Tourisimo was a former winner of the Sharp Electronics Cup [Clairwood Winter Handicap] and looked to be coming back to form. J & B Met third Dupa Dice had consistent big race form around this distance. Teal had won the July in 1995 but his form since then had been patchy, while useful filly Mosszao was quite well supported, although this was more to do with the fact that Michael Roberts had flown in for the ride.

The July is a race that is usually marked by a bit of dithering early on and this year was no different; but once things settled down, London News strode off into a clear lead, determined to replicate his Daily News 2000 performance. The pace was once again a hot one but this time he had not established as big a lead as they turned for home. From the 400m mark, challenges started to come thick and fast, but London News, now closer to the stands side, dug down deep and shrugged them off. To everyone`s amazement, 50/1 chance Dollar Fortune, a good filly but whose form was not up to this level, was giving a bit of cheek on the inside but the real alarm bells came right at the death as another outsider, Sleek Machine, came charging up the outside. London News, however, was not to be denied and crossed the line a half-length to the good. Dollar Fortune ran the race of her life in third with Tourisimo a very good fourth. National Emblem, in fifth, also ran an admirable race: having turned for home at the tail end of the field, he flew up late to finish within 2 lengths of the winner and would have been a serious threat had he not been anchored by top weight.

The bare form of London News` victory was not that impressive as the two outsiders had finished too close to him for comfort. But he had won from the front in a very fast time (133.50 seconds) which had undoubtedly taken a lot out of him and one feels that he could have found more if really asked to. The race had shown that he had loads of courage to go with his undoubted class.

It was hoped that London News would compete in Australia after his July win, but those plans fell through because of heavy quarantine restrictions, so he stayed on to compete locally.

London News was beaten in his next three races, but when the Cape Summer season arrived, he was back to his old self. He clashed again with Ashtontown and beat him by an impressive 3 lengths in the Queens Plate. On this showing, he could not really be opposed in the J & B Met and despite having to shoulder 57kg, he won authoritatively by nearly a length, much better value than the official margin suggested.

Thereafter, his international plans were revived and he was flown, amidst great excitement and anticipation to Hong Kong to take his place in the Gr 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup. This was history being made. South African horses had triumphed abroad in the past, notably Hawaii, Colorado King and Bold Tropic, but that was after having been permanently exported. This was different: here was a locally-trained horse taking part in a raid on a specific overseas race.

In the early hours of the morning, South African time, on 14 April 1997, history was made. London News, with Dougie Whyte up, recorded a battling victory at Sha Tin racecourse, breaking the course record in the process. This was not only a superb individual performance; it was a hugely symbolic victory. Since 1970, SA racing had been isolated due to the fear of African horse sickness. Horses exported from here had to spend large amounts of time in quarantine before they could hope to race overseas (Colorado King missed his entire career as a 4-year-old due to this factor). Now, the doors of international competition had been opened.

London News now headed to England and the biggest stage of all, Royal Ascot, where he was entered for the prestigious Gr 1 Prince of Wales Stakes over 2100m. The field was small but select and it was a tough introduction to the European scene for him as he finished a distant third, 13 lengths behind super-filly Bosra Sham. He then headed for the Curragh to contest another Gr 1 event, the Budweiser International over 1600m and finished last of 5 runners, beaten just over 5 lengths.

London News did not disgrace himself in these two races, as he was racing in top class company. It merely illustrated that while our horses were now capable of winning at international level, we were still somewhat short of challenging the cream of the European runners at Gr 1 level.

His international campaign behind him, the globetrotter now returned to South Africa for his final season. It turned out to be a forgettable one, as he was repeatedly beaten by inferior opposition, horses whom he would have expected to have beaten in his prime. He did manage a creditable win over the 1400m of the Drill Hall Stakes and took his final bow in the 1998 July, finishing down the field behind Classic Flag, whereafter he was retired to stud.

One should not judge London News harshly on his disappointing 5-year-old season. As an entire, it is likely that he had lost his competitive edge and his mind was now wandering towards the breeding paddock. His fate was also common to many other top horses whose form failed them towards the end of their careers.

What is important is the fact that he was an accomplished performer at his peak who helped put local racing on the international map. We have now become accustomed to seeing SA horses winning in Hong Kong and Dubai. It was London News who paved the way for our subsequent big-race winners such as Ipi Tombe, Victory Moon and Irridescence. 

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