In his final preparatory run before his epic effort in the Gomma Gomma Challenge Gr1, Pick Six was tested over the Vaal 1400m against older horses for the first time. In what was obviously a precursor to the tactics he eventually adopted in Africa’s richest race, Anton Marcus sent Pick Six out in front of his field on that day, and came home smoking.

In the post race interview, veteran racing commentator, Dave Mollet commented on the somewhat “light” nature of Pick Six’s pedigree, and asked whether this was the sort of page likely to deliver up a winner of the Gomma Gomma Challenge, not only for the fact that the pedigree might be lacking in depth (in Mollet’s view), but also that it might be lacking in stamina.

On the latter score, Mollet might well have had a point. Pick Six’s granddam Longfields, (a daughter of the world-renowned broodmare, Northfields) never went much beyond a 1000 m and her dam, Pheon Royal (by the great sprinter, Royal Affair) was also limited in her aptitude to 1400 m.

Pick Six’s own dam, Choice Fields, is a daughter of Rami, a quality miler in his own right, and a son of Riverman. As a result of a wind infirmity, Choice Fields was never able to fulfill the promise Gary Alexander always held for her, and was retired from racing without ever troubling the starter. She is however a sister to the unbeaten Champion Juvenile Filly of her Year, Bridal Paths, whose three race Two Year Old campaign, included among her victories the Thekweni Stakes (now Gr1) on Vodacom July day. Bridal Paths is a daughter of Braashee (Sadler’s Well’s Gr1 winner up to 2 miles), but was never asked any serious questions from a stamina perspective, as she had her racing career compromised by a viral bout which developed during the lead up to the Cape Fillies Gr 1, in which she placed third.

So where does Pick Six’s stamina come from? One the dam side, the only sign (and it’s a remote one) of stamina rests with Riverman, who whilst he himself was the Champion Three Year Old miler of Europe (including the French 2000 Guineas), was a real source of stamina in his progeny. However, that alone wouldn’t qualify Pick Six for his big day in the Gomma Gomma. It’s almost certain that his stamina (and he has plenty of it given that he led from start to finish over one of the most testing 2000 metretrips in South Africa) comes from his sire, Rambo Dancer.

This son of the legendary Northern Dancer, quite apart from being one of the top three sales yearlings of his year, was a brother to the English Oaks winner Fair Salinia, by the Kentucky Derby Gr 1 winner, Chateaugay. Rambo Dancer’s family was developed largely by Major de Burgh at what is now Sheikh Hamdan’s Derrinstown Stud in Ireland, and served the de Burghs exceptionally well over several decades. Rambo Dancer himself was a Grade Two winner in the United States, after showing a measure of class in England under the tutelage of Sir Michael Stoute. He currently ranks second on the National Sires log, and is fifth among sire’s of Stakes winners in the nation. As an aside, these are the same de Burghs as the legendary Irish singer, Chris de Burgh, which just goes to show that racing and entertainment can be very happy bedfellows!

The reality is, a Summerhill pedigree may not look like what has come to be known as a “first night” National Sales job. We breed horses to be athletes, and we don’t believe a computer alone can consistently produce a good horse. Without a horseman’s eye and the instincts that go with it, quality horses will remain as elusive as the pimpernel. While the components of a pedigree are critical in extracting the very best from a mating, they are little more than a reflection of the best attributes from the perspective of physique, mental and physical soundness, courage, speed (or stamina), movement, grace and mnbility. Yet, with all these in place, the plan can still go awry if the nutritional environmental elements are not right.

Our team and the genius in several of them is what separates them from the field, and while you can never rely on these things alone to provide perpetual glory, they have played a critical role in elevating Summerhill to its status as the nation’s leading breeder for the past several years.