Students of history will recall the tragic death of the Prince Imperial, the last descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte, at the hands of a Zulu impi during the middle phase of the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879. Entrusted to the custodianship of Lord Chelmsford, the Prince, an adventurer extraordinaire by his own admission, was cut down in the vicinity of a remote kraal during a brief tea-break on a scouting mission. His death prompted the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, to ask in the Commons in a seldom quoted passage,“who are these people (speaking of the Zulus) that influence our women (Bishop Colenso’s daughters,) convert our Bishops, defeat our generals, and this day have put an end to the greatest dynasty in Europe”?
Sadly, and particularly from a Summerhill perspective, this weekend witnessed the closure on another dynasty. Mike de Kock phoned to tell us that our own version, EMPEROR NAPOLEON, who must’ve been the early favourite for Africa’s richest race, the Gomma Gomma Challenge, had died from a heart attack as he alighted from the treadmill. Mike tells us that he’d hardly uttered the words “it’ll take a good one to beat him in the Gomma Gomma,” and The Emperor began to wobble and down he went. Mike added that the horse apparently had a thin heart wall, which would obviously have made him vulnerable to rupture and coupled with his wind infirmity, we can only wonder how good The Emperor might’ve been, if he’d been free of these lesions. Only breeders of horses can appreciate a loss of this magnitude, and those who have been closely associated with him, recall a man of the kindest of dispositions and the bravest of hearts.
In a career in which almost half his contests were at Group One level, ‘The Emperor” was widely known as one of racing’s most courageous gladiators. Four times he went down as the runner up in Group One company, three times by a head or less, and twice more he was third in the same exalted class.
He was everything a Thoroughbred should be, majestic, spectacular at the gallop, a gentlemen to the core. In every respect, an Emperor.
The whole team joins in our condolences to Mike Destombes and his family, whose Ellinore (a daughter of perennial Champion sire and broodmare sire, NORTHERN GUEST) had developed such an enduring liaison with KAHAL, in producing not only The Emperor, but also last season’s Champion filly, BOLD ELLINORE. Mike is an old school mate and he’s part of the folklore here. The only consolation is that he has a magnificent FORT WOOD sister to come. Who knows, she could be the next “Josephine.
Posted by Mick Goss