(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
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“LITTLE NOTICE FOR A BIG ACHIEVEMENT”
The least heralded of last week’s National Championships was that of theleading Broodmare Sire for the past season, yet in Northern Guest’s eighth consecutive title, he went where no other South African Broodmare Sire has been, and he needs only one more championship to equal the world record held by Mr. Prospector in the United States.
Many chapters have been written about his influence on this farm and its affairs, not the least of which that his daughters have been major contributors to everything we’ve achieved here, including our fifth championship. That no other person or entity has ever won five consecutive Equus Awards in a single category says enough about that achievement, but it wouldn’t have happened were it not for the contributions of Northern Guest’s daughters.
That said, we should remember at times like this that he altered the commercial landscape in the stallion services trade, almost single-handedly redefining the territory and reshaping the terms of business, as well as the number of mares a stallion could handle in a season, forever.
Long before he became a national treasure, the news broke that his two world class Champion brothers, Try My Best and El Gran Senor, were both seriously low on fertility, and we still recall the day that Michael Watt, the then chairman of Britain’s greatest auction house, Tattersalls, wired us with the news and reminded us of the value of the asset we were sitting on.
By then, Northern Guest’s first foals were on the ground, and while we hardly needed the reminder, this was a welcome reinforcement of the belief that perhaps, very early in our lives at Summerhill, we’d gotten “lucky”. For all his influence as a pre-eminent sire of champion juveniles in his later life, his first crop were slow to register their merit, and by the time he’d come to his fourth season, he was all but written off. And then they came, Senor Santa, Northern Princess, Rip Curl, Gun Drift, Mystery Guest, Gentleman Jones, Royal Thunder, Picture Search, Another Minstrel, _ _ bang, bang,one after another. And he’d hardly begun to register the Classic horses that were to follow.
It was to be his distinction in the end that he should sire no fewer than six Grade One or Classic winning fillies (a portent of what was to become of them in the broodmare department, we guess,) and besides the later likes of Dance Every Dance, Golden Apple and Imperious Sue, who together with Angus made up (a pair ofJ&B Met winners, the one enduring memory which stands out, was the last great match race in South African history.
One New Years Day, 1989, his November Handicap (Gr.1) winning daughter, Northern Princess got up in the dying strides to deny the perennial Champion Sprinter, Senor Santa for the biggest match prize in history. The “grudge” behind the race was the elimination of “The Senor” from South Africa’s richest mile event on the grounds of his brilliance as a sprinter and the unlikely fact he would stay the mile, yet all the race did was to prove once and for all, that the mile was well within his compass, a point he made so emphatically in the First National Bank Stakes (Gr.1) a year later over the gruelling 1600m at Turffontein.
Not only did Northern Guest provide this farm with the profile all emerging operations would dream of, but such was the demand to visit his court, they came from every corner of the Southern African continent, and around us sprang up any number of new boarding farms, several of which are part of the enduring fabric of KwaZulu-Natal today. It’s arguable that Northern Guest did more for the creation of employment in this part of the thoroughbred world in his era than any collection of human beings did, and it’s a fact that there’s little on this farm today that was erected in his time, that he didn’t contribute to in one way or another.
The fact is, for as long as there are races to be run and victories to be won, in our lifetime at least, his name will live on in the best pedigrees of the day.
As it was in those days when he passed the Farm office on his way to his paddock at the end of the driveway, with his characteristic limp garnered in his younger days on Vincent O’Brien’s Ballydoyle gallops, the farm management are standing in salute. Our hats are off!