In a fashion not far removed from the aftermath of his Guineas victory, Imbongi’s “fireworks” in the Drill Hall Stakes on Friday evening elicited any number of congratulatory responses from all over the world. Not to demean any of those who where generous enough to share their praises and congratulations with us, one source which really touched us in the light of his commitments to his state duties, was His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho.
His Majesty’s call came early Monday whilst we were away at the Indaba International Travel Show, and so our contact came later on, but being the avid racing fan that he is, Lesotho’s current monarch had not only watched the race, but expressed his awe at Imbongi’s performance.
The Ruling family’s connectivity with racing goes back several generations to the original King Moshoeshoe l, who is credited with galvanizing the Basotho nation into what it is today. The abaSotho, as they were otherwise known, from what started out as a collection of refugees drawn from the broader spectrum of Southern African clans, all fleeing from what was known as the ‘Mfecene’, a series of tribal wars whose origins lay principally in the disturbances which commenced in modern day Kwa Zulu Natal, under King Shaka. The BaSotho today are as influential and respected among African nations as any, and among their curiosities are a centuries old involvement with horses. The Basotho pony is a breed of its own, and it is as adept in its agility, honed on the game and animal paths of the Mountain Kingdom, as any horse anywhere. Many a Springbok polo player has sat astride such a pony!
His Majesty has a National Emblem two year old filly in training with Dennis Drier at present, and when we last knew her on our own tracks, she looked a capable sort. While the last known runner in the Royal colours, Zagie, winner of the Van Riebeck Day Handicap at Bloemfontein, was owned and trained by King Letsie’s father, King Moshoeshoe II himself, Jockey Club records reveal that His Majesty had six winners in the 1963-64 season, including Prince Fox, a horse of some talent.
Unsurprisingly, there is considerable anticipation at the palace in Maseru at the racecourse debut of the two year old, Uzimi (National Emblem ex Beauty Queen by Jallad).
Uzimi (National Emblem ex Beauty Queen by Jallad)