St Pauls - 1946 Durban July Winner
(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)
“TICKETS TO IMMORTALITY”
In fact, when a village was first settled, as a priority the farmers chose for themselves the best piece of “dirt” they could lay their hands on, and made sure they were accompanied by a willing publican who set up the local watering hole. Only then did they turn their minds to the lesser things, like schools, clinics, roads and sanitised water.
On race days, Father Eric, local, Catholic and inevitably Irish, would bless the course in his brown habit, and then exchange his attire for something more appropriate in his role as the Gold Ring “bookie” or turf accountant, as he preferred to style himself. A bet with Father Eric had its benefits, but it also had its downside. He held the monopoly on all bets, which meant he, and he alone, called the odds, but what you lost on the swings, you made up on the roundabouts. Father Eric never knew the meaning of betting tax. Highlight of our local meeting was the Lusikisiki Club Handicap, and visitors to Hartford House will know this grand event for its fine trophy, a rose bowl which stands proudly at the entrance to South Africa’s Number One restaurant of 2009.
Goss family heroes of the Club Handicap included Dan and Giant, third and fourth in the Durban July and the Cape Metropolitan respectively. On that same track, did my grandfather’s ticket to immortality, do his final work on his way to July glory. Diminutive St Paul’s last gallop was inspirational enough to prompt the booking of the Kew Hotel on Durban’s Berea for the victory celebrations, four months before the July was ever run!
The rest, as they say, is history, but it’s worth a mention that this faith, this inspired belief in his horse, is the foundation of the “disease” that drives this farm today. Much like the odds when we started at Summerhill, St Pauls opened at 60/1, but he finished at 10/1. A significant plunge by an adoring public, that left him one of the most popular winners in history.