The Highway Man caused one of the upsets of the week yesterday at Fairview when he clinched the World Sports Betting East Cape Poly Challenge over 1600m, going off at 66-1.
It was no surprise when he hit the front early, as this Querari gelding is a frontrunner of note, having led the field at the 800m marker in each of his nine previous runs.
While he was caught in eight of those runs, yesterday jockey Stallone Naidoo judged the pace to perfection enabling his mount to maintain his lead right up to the post, beating Earth Hour by 1.50 lengths.
For trainer Alan Greeff it must have been a bit disappointing as he saddled four of the 11 runners.
His best runner was Madame Speaker, who finished fourth. It was her 24th career run and she maintained her record of having finishing in the top four on every single occasion.
While yesterday’s disappointment will probably hurt a bit, Greeff no doubt is still on cloud nine following his exceptional 2019-20 season, which ended on Friday.
Greeff is the undisputed king of Fairview, having saddled 169 winners last season.
This performance places him sixth in the trainers’ championship, behind Sean Tarry, Justin Snaith, Brett Crawford, Mike de Kock and Paul Peter.
However, had trainers been ranked according to number of wins as opposed to total stakes won, Greeff would have been the runaway victor.
He is one of only four trainers who passed the 100-winner mark last season, the others being Snaith on 122, Tarry on 120 and Peter on 114.
This race might have been a small setback for Greeff but in a conversation with Port Elizabeth-based journalist Henk Steenkamp, he reflected on the successes and challenges of another superb season.
“It was a great season from a perspective of winning races, but it has been a very difficult year with things happening around Phumelela, stakes decreasing and the virus.
“This had a big impact on us and as time goes on we will feel the aftereffects even more,” Greeff said.
“I am grateful for what happened and that we can race, but it has been a very rough and tough season.”
Greeff remains positive about the future. “We have to be positive. Racing is in everyone’s blood and I know nothing else but to race.
“The general vibe has gone from a depressed vibe to a more positive vibe.
“We just had to adapt, button down and work a little bit harder and be a little bit more sensible.
“The training of the horses stayed much the same, but you’ve got to adapt or die. As we have heard on numerous occasions, life is no longer as we knew it.
“We’ve got to make the best of it and look to the future. It is something we got to live with, otherwise it will get you down if you don’t.”
Greeff ended the season with 169 winners, very close to his East Cape record tally of 176 winners of last season.
He would no doubt have bettered his record if more than two months of the season had not been lost due to Covid-19.
Greeff is not someone who thinks about records. “No, no, I am not a record chaser.
“Those things must happen on its own. My aim is to train winners. As long as I have winners and it keeps the owners happy, I am happy. The rest will take care of itself.”
Greeff will be crowned the East Cape champion for the seventh consecutive season (14th time overall) but he makes it clear winning the title is not his main goal.
“I don’t train to win a championship, I had a very good run and am grateful for that, but it is a big wheel and it does turn.
“I have gone through weeks where I haven’t had winners and you just have to bite the bullet and hold your nerve.”
For the last two months of the season Greeff could not use the services of his regular Cape Town jockey Greg Cheyne but that did not stop the stream of winners.
“Greg was left stranded on 99 winners for the Fairview season. He was eager to ride at Fairview but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way.
“He is like a cricketer retiring on 99 runs and I think it aggravates me more than it aggravates him.
“Charles Ndlovu and Teaque Gould have done very well in the absence of Greg. They worked very hard during the lockdown as well. They deserved all the success they got.
“I tried to be fair with the spread of rides between the two guys who did the bulk of the work at the stable.
“Shadlee (Fortune), Luyolo Mxothwa and Keanen Steyn were also there and were given their chances as well.”
It was a season of many highlights for Greeff. When asked which of them stood out for him he mentioned the meeting in which he had seven winners as well as winning the World Sports Betting East Cape Derby and the PE Gold Cup.
“But I am grateful for any winner. I am ecstatic about every race that I win.
“Hopefully I will never lose that feeling.”