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(Photos : Summerhill Stud Archive)
A NEW THOROUGHBRED BREEDERS ASSOCIATION INITIATIVE
The term “Grand Slam” evokes all sorts of emotions, particularly when it’s applied to golf, tennis and northern hemisphere international rugby tours. There is another context though, in which South African racing sees it, and a new initiative by the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of South Africa, intends to bring racing’s Grand Slam back to life.
What is meant by racing’s grand slam? Well firstly, there’s never been an official identification of the events, but under the direction of its chairman, Altus Joubert and through the enterprise of Alan Roux, they’ve identified the three big “majors”, the Vodacom Durban July, the J&B Met and the Sansui Summer Cup as the jewels in the crown. How many people; owners, trainers or jockeys, how many horses and stallions have ever achieved victory in all three. For starters, no one horse has ever done so, which is almost understandable when you recall the fact that they’re up to 1000 miles apart, in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, two of them are run at sea level and one at almost 6000 ft.
Only four trainers have ever been there, Syd Garrett, Terrance Millard, Syd Laird and Mike de Kock. The mere mention of their names helps to understand why. In the post-war era, the progeny of only two stallions, both of them champions, Royal Prerogative and Foveros, have achieved the grand slam, though obviously through different horses. Just one other pre World War II stallion, the French-bred Cape Metropolitan winner, Asbestos II, did it through his sons Feltos (Met & Summer Cup) and Pat Goss’ diminutive St Pauls (the Durban July). In the modern era, all of Silvano, Fort Wood and Jet Master have two legs under their belts, and it’s a fair bet one or more of them will achieve the grand slam in the not too distant future.
The breeders are another story. Thirty four grand slam victories for the Birch Brothers is an astounding achievement, even considering there were three different farms between them, with an awful lot of mares. No wonder they dominated the Breeders Championship for so many decades. Old man Nourse, who won his first July in the early 1900’s with Nobleman, bred nine grand slam winners, while the Koster Brothers between them have seven. You might well ask how we’ve done. The old Hartford produced three Summer Handicap winners (read Summer Cup), a July winner in Mowgli, the only race of any importance on the calendar to elude them, being the Metropolitan. We put that right when we came here, with two horses off Summerhill; La Fabulous and Angus taking the J&B Met, Luke Bales’ Dancing Duel was a July winner born on the farm, and Pick Six and Emperor Napoleon “exacta-ed” the Summer Cup.
The history books tell us this is as tough as grand slams get, and it’s worth working for. Salutations to Alan Roux, Altus Joubert, Robin Bruss and everyone else behind the project.