the_sheikThe Sheik
(John Lewis)

The South African season draws to a close on Thursday following the final major meeting last Saturday at Clairwood Park, in Durban, writes Nicola Hayward for Thoroughbred Internet.

It was a bumper day of racing that saw Buy And Sell gate-crash the much-anticipated Pocket Power vs Dancer’s Daughter showdown in the G1 Champions’ Cup over 1800m. Pocket Power ran a game second, half a length behind the winner with the outsider Surfin’ USA third. Dancer’s Daughter who lost three lengths at the start, did not disgrace in fourth.

Warm White Night was well and truly beaten in the G1 Premier’s Champion Stakes where Rocks Off a son of Orpen ran out the winner on only his third outing. Cerise Cherry added yet another runner-up finish to his resume with Bush Pirate, a son of Russian Revival, third.

The G1 Thekwini Fillies Stakes was won by Gypsy’s Warning. This bay filly is a daughter of Mogok out of the Royal Chalice mare Gypsy Queen who is also the dam of G2 winner Surabi (Wolfhound). Gypsy’s Warning was bred by Rathmor Stud and sold at the National Yearling Sale in 2007 for R170,000.

After winning a Maiden Juvenile Plate first time out, she was third in a close finish in the G3 Strelitzia Stakes, unplaced in the G2 Debutante, she was then third to Consensual in the G1 Golden Slipper before finding her best form on Saturday over a mile. Zirconeum (Jallad) was second with Mother Russia (Windrush) third.

Mogok stands at the Scott Brothers’ Highdown Stud. He is an unraced bay son of Storm Cat out of the Halo mare Coup de Folie, making him a half-brother to Machiavellian and Coup De Genie. He stood his first season in 2003 and he has already produced a number of very useful individuals, including the Listed winner Island Retreat (out of the Rakeen mare Mayreau), Sahara who was second in the G2 KZN Fillies Guineas and Coverley, second to Island Retreat in the Listed Dahlia Plate. Gypsy’s Warning is his first G1 winner.

Highdown Stud is no stranger to successful sires. Some four decades ago, three brothers Desmond, Robin and Neville Scott acquired a dairy farm of about 530 acres just outside Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. Initially the dairy was retained to help fund the development needed to convert the property into a stud farm and the first stallion to stand on the farm was a son of Wilwyn, called Kimberley Kid, who was out of the Hyperion mare Staward.

In the early 1970s, he was joined by Jungle Cove who went on to become champion sire five times and sired a champion, Bush Telegraph, among his 36 Stakes winners, which included Arctic Cove, Jungle Rock and Jungle Class. Jungle Cove ended his career at Highlands Stud in the Western Cape but he was followed at Highdown by another great champion Foveros.

Having raced in France and England from two to four, it was as a six-year-old in South Africa that Foveros really showed his class, winning five of ten starts, including the three Group Ones: the Queen’s Plate, Hawaii Stakes and J&B Met. At stud he produced 82 Stakes winners and was champion sire nine times. In the mould of a really top stallion, his influence is still felt through his daughters and he is broodmare sire of Imbongi, Warm White Night and Floatyourboat.

Highdown bred the great Politician and it was in the colours of Des and Robin Scott that the mare Devon Air won the G1 Durban July in 1984. The early 1990s saw a change of fortune for the stud (and indeed for many of the farms of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands). Devon Air was sold for a then record sum for a broodmare at dispersal and the farm was quiet for more than a decade.

The acquisition of Mogok thus represents a rejuvenation of the formerly successful operation and mirrors the general upswing in the region. Just down the road in Mooi River, Summerhill Stud stole the mantle of Champion breeder from the farms of the Western Cape and this has had a knock-on effect on the whole area. The revival at Highdown includes the appearance of some other exciting stallions. Last year heralded the arrival of Miesque’s Approval (the first time that a Breeders’ Cup Champion had retired to stud in South Africa) and his first foals are due within the next weeks. He was joined by the Australian-bred son of Danehill, Overlord, whose dam Prawn Cocktail is a daughter of Crimson Saint. The unraced Atso (Kingmambo) has arrived on the farm for the new season while The Sheik continues to provide his services.