For several years now, Summerhill boss Mick Goss, has made it part of his regular sermon to chide South Africans for the fact that we seem to have missed the Danehill “boat”. The top end of stallion logs in other parts of both the northern and southern hemispheres are clogged with high-achieving sons of the world’s greatest modern stallion phenomenon, and it seems they can’t get enough of Danehill.
The fires in the north are being fuelled by the lofty achievements of Dansili, the Juddmonte flagbearer, and Coolmore’s Rock Of Gibraltar, while the rollcall of breeders who’ve clamoured to the court of their new recruit, Dylan Thomas this season, reads like the “who’s who” of European breeding. In the south, Danehill and his sons occupied a staggering six of the top ten positions on the Australian premiership last season, and they’re riding the crest of the wave again in 2008.
How then do we explain that in South Africa there are no more than four Graded stakes winning sons of history’s only stallion to have won championships in both the northern and southern hemispheres? And so Goss’ sermon goes on, to the point of it sounding like a “stuck” record.
Emphasizing the point, Summerhill has just put its hands on another Danehill, taking their tally on the farm to three (remember, they also imported Requiem, who has gotten off to such a good start with his first crop, and now stands at Klawervlei Stud). This one comes in the shape of Stronghold, one of the world’s last remaining Graded stakes winning Danehills, and a horse who boasts a Timeform rating of 120 pounds. That’s not the end of Stronghold, though.
He was Timeform’s Champion Handicapper of 2006; he’s a multiple Group and Listed Stakes winner from six furlongs to a mile; he’s out of a Royal Ascot Stakes winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, and his Granddam is a Group One winner by Riverman.
Discovered by Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager, Angus Gold, as a young two year old on John Gosden’s Manton gallops three years ago, the Summerhill team has maintained a beady eye on this horse ever since, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t fulfill his trainer’s prophecy that he was a Group One winner in waiting. Victory in a Group One would almost certainly have consigned him to a place at Prince Khalid Abullah’s famous Juddmonte nursery at Newmarket, alongside the exceptional Dansili and his Arc winning son, Rail Link.
But events conspired against these plans. Stronghold was operated on after serious injury as the favourite for the 2006 renewal of the Challenge Stakes, and his sole outing in 2007 resulted in a narrow loss to triple Group One winner Red Evie, when he went down in the dying strides of the Hungerford Stakes (Gr.2) after an eleven month lay-off. This was high-class form in itself, but seen from the perspective that he had been off for so long and suffered a career-ending injury in the process, it was quite remarkable.
Angus Gold has always rated him the best looking son of Danehill known to him, and when he introduced the horse to Mick Goss as a two year old, they both resolved never to let him out of their sights.
This week Summerhill consummated the deal to acquire him, and while it did not go quite as they would have liked with full ownership, it’s a compliment to the horse that Prince Khalid insisted on maintaining a five share interest. His reasoning was that he has only two serious sons of Danehill left in his armoury, the other being Dansili’s full brother Champs Elysées, and it was his retention of five breeding rights in Danehill that has made Juddmonte one of the greatest private breeding establishments in the world in the past decade. The Prince’s reasoning is simple: if Stronghold emulates his father’s achievements at stud, he wants to be part of the action. He arrives at the Midlands nursery in mid May as the property of the farm and a partnership comprising Dubai and German investors, as well as the enterprising Peter Yip’s Hong Kong Breeders Club, which already has a slice of the Way West cake.
Together with their other new acquisition, Mullins Bay, Stronghold will be unveiled to breeders at what the popular press have dubbed “Racing’s Best Day Out”, the Summerhill Stallion Show on the first Sunday in July.
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Extract by Charl Pretorius – Freeracer.co.za