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Sat Apr 19 06:52:35 SAST 2014

Contador's drug is speed

Mike Moon | 28 September, 2012 05:580 Comments

THE little black book was a thing Lotharios used to keep, with phone numbers of likely looking gals. Racing aficionados still keep little black books, full of names of likely looking horses.

The name Contador is scribbled in most of these repositories of intelligence - the newest entry, underlined, with perhaps an exclamation mark or two alongside.

Contador won a minor feature at last weekend's rain-disrupted Emerald Cup meeting at the Vaal, but in a manner that suggested a star might be born.

Previously, the three-year-old colt had run five times for just one win, but was rated highly enough by his trainer to be trucked all the way from home base in KwaZulu-Natal to the Vrystaat.

While not exceptional, the field contained well-performed youngsters. Contador left them looking a sorry lot, winning by nearly 10 lengths easing up.

A son of boom stallion Var, Contador was recently bought by billionaire owner Markus Jooste on the advice of trainer Charles Laird, who spotted potential in his early races.

Having laid down a marker, Contador will not be rushed. The connections say his target is the Grade 1 Computaform Sprint at Turffontein in April next year.

Joburg's premier sprint is a huge aspirational leap for a two-time winner, but it indicates how much ability the horse shows at home.

Contador is named after Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, who won the Tour de France three times but was later stripped of one victory when he was done for drugs.

Contador the horse is rather different to a swarthy dope-head who specialises in long, slow distance (aka LSD). He's a blondie, a bright chestnut with four white feet. And his poison is speed, not LSD.

Indeed, the flashy looks and turn of foot might see Contador become a fan favourite.

Racing needs charismatic figures to capture the imagination and grow its popularity.

People are forever scratching heads trying to come up with a formula to rediscover the magic of the 1970s and get crowds flocking back to tracks. Marketing ideas often focus on gambling and profits, or the glitz and glam of a racecourse. And these things are part of racing's allure.

Far more difficult to sell to the uninitiated outsider are the attractions of the thoroughbred itself - the spectacle of beauty, power and grace coming together in athletic excellence and gladiatorial combat. Yet these are powerful hooks for many a devotee.

The horse is one of racing's unique assets, a competitive advantage when vying for attention with rivals such as casinos, lottery, televised team sports and malls.

This has been emphasised by Brian Kantor, the professor whose financial, economic and marketing nous helped with the meteoric success of Investec and who has advised the racing industry. Emphasise the racehorse, that's Kantor's wisdom.

Most people enjoy looking at horses, but horses in peak physical nick stir excitement, and the superstars evoke adulation.

Contador might turn out to be one of the latter.

TURFFONTEIN, TOMORROW: PA - 1,2,11 x 1,5 x 1,3,11 x 4 x 2,7 x 5 x 3,4,9 (R108)

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Contador's drug is speed

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