CAPE TOWN - An anomaly in the glittering career of the Eric Sands-trained Rainbow Bridge is that he has never won an Equus Award but he likely secured the Equus Champion Miler award on Saturday when winning the Grade 1 weight for age Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge and he should be considered favourite for the Horse Of The Year award.
Last year's Equus Horse Of The Year award was characterised by the lack of suitable candidates but this year's award is the opposite, there are too many candidates.
To date there are six horses who have each won two Grade 1s this season, Rainbow Bridge, Got The Greenlight, Linebacker, War Of Athena, Malmoos and Captain's Ransom.
However Rainbow Bridge won the most prestigious weight for age middle distance race in the country, the Cape Town Met, finished a narrow second in what many regard as the most prestigious weight for age race in the country, the L'Ormarins Queen's Plate, yesterday he won what was calculated to be South Africa's highest rated race of the 2019/2020 season by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) and he has also won a Grade 2 and finished a narrow second in another Grade 2.
Our greatest race and the one everybody most wants to win is the Vodacom Durban July and the anomaly here is it not only is it a handicap but most of the country's best horses run in it.
This might cause a problem for Equus Award panellists.
If, for example, Linebacker wins it by a short-head from Got The Greenlight with Rainbow Bridge a short-head further back in third, who will receive the Horse Of The Year Award?
Linebacker would in that case become the only horse to have won three Grade 1s in the season but this three-year-old is going to be receiving a whopping 7kg from Rainbow Bridge in the July, while Got The Greenlight will be running on weight for age terms with Linebacker carrying only 2kg more than him but will be receiving 5kg from Rainbow Bridge.
There is also still of course the Grade 1 Champions Cup over 1800m on Gold Cup day to come and that might end up becoming a crucial tiebreaker event for the Horse Of The Year title.
However, there will be no horse more deserving of the award than Rainbow Bridge. For the last three seasons he has competed against the best in both Cape Town and Durban and in 23 career starts he has won eleven, including five Grade 1s, he has been outside the top 3 only twice and was fourth in one of those two races. His only unplaced run was in last year's Vodacom Durban July but he still achieved an accolade there as he went so fast, despite carrying topweight, that he completed the first 2000m of the race in a faster time than the Hollywoodbets Greyville course record set by London News in the 1996 Daily News 2000.
Sands will be wondering how he will ever replace Ferraris when the latter leaves for his contract riding position in Hong Kong at the end of this season as the six-year-old Rainbow Bridge has found the form of this career under the 19-year-old.
Ferraris quickly decided, upon being given free rein by Sands, to revert to the hold up tactics that had made this horse so exhilarating to watch in the early part of this career. As Ferraris said in the post race interview yesterday, "He has a lot more than five gears!"
He also said in that interview, "He was nowhere near his max."
Sands said Rainbow Bridge tended to run a bit flat in his second runs after a layoff so he had left a bit of meat on the bone and he will be at this peak for the July.
He can secure the richly deserved Equus Horse Of The Year award there if carrying topweight to victory and in doing so will provide owner Mike Rattray the July win he has dreamed of his whole life.