Breeders Cup honour Player

2009-11-06 08:03

California - Golf great and self-described "horse nut" Gary Player was honoured by Breeders' Cup organisers on Thursday with their first Sports and Racing Excellence Award.

The ebullient South African, owner of nine major golf titles, was delighted to receive the award, and get a chance to expound on his passion for racing.

"It's a disease with me," said Player, who said he terrorises his ranch staff back home in South Africa with his constant calls from all corners of the globe.

Player built a 20 000-acre breeding farm in his homeland, and he was thrilled to learn recently that his filly Lady Windermere has garnered Filly of the Year honours at home.

He has thrown himself into the study of bloodlines and breeding.

"The conclusion you come to after all the studying is that you know a heck of a lot about nothing," he said. "Horses are a lot like golf. They will both humble you. You have to have quality and you have to work hard."

Player chided the connections of two of this year's thoroughbred superstars, Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars, for failing to run in the Breeders' Cup.

Rachel Alexandra owner Jess Jackson kept the Preakness-winning super filly out citing concerns over Santa Anita's synthetic track surface.

European superstar Sea The Stars was recently retired to stud.

"We need these champions," he said. "I've never in my life said I wouldn't play Nicklaus or Palmer because the course is too long or too wet or it doesn't suit me. If you're a champ, you get in there and you play against the whole damn lot."