(Photo : John Lewis / Summerhill Stud)
THE SPORTS ARE OVER;
NOW FOR THE REAL THING
While the Cricket World Cup is shaping into an all-Asian final, from a racing perspective at least, the focus shifts to a slightly geared-down programme until the Champions weekend at Turffontein on 30th April. What a weekend it will be, with Summerhill sales graduate, Igugu, the first filly ever with a chance of taking the Triple Tiara. Some chance it is too, after her pulsating 10,25 length victory last Saturday in the SA Fillies Classic. For the record, she eclipsed the colt’s time by almost a second, and she did it in her own time at the front, under a hand ride from Anthony Delpech.
If you’re a breeder though, you’re entering the most crucial fortnight of the year, with the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales looming from the 15th - 17th April. Every farm has a different offering of yearlings, but there’s something that prickles the imagination in any draft carrying the first representatives of a new sire. This year at Summerhill, we have three such reasons to lift our spirits, with the first Mullins Bays, Strongholds and Ravishings, the former two imports of a quality probably unmatched in our prior history, and in the latter, the maiden crop of the first and the best racing son at stud of the greatest South African stallion of all time.
THE MACHIAVELLIAN FACTOR
Anyone attending the Tattersalls Houghton sale in the year in which he was consigned as a yearling, will know that Mullins Bay was destined to be special. I was lucky that year to be in attendance, and knowing that the Coolmore team, given the politics of the era, were unlikely buyers of the progeny of an Arab-owned stallion, I was amazed to see them spending a half hour and more inspecting this son of Machiavellian. Within seconds of watching him parade up and down, I realised why. He had one of the most compelling pedigrees in the international stud book, he was as good looking a yearling as I’d set eyes on, and he could walk. My goodness, could he walk. A big stride from here to Jericho, and we all know that a good-eyed horseman cannot resist a walk like that. In the end, he was the second top price of his year, and if he’d been by Sadler’s Wells, he might’ve broken all records. The truth was, Machiavellian was a little “iffy” in the minds of buyers in those days, the talk being that they were temperamental, and gutless. Of course, horsemen are notoriously quick to label a stallion, and posterity now tells a different story, not only at the races, but in the breeding sheds of the world. Today, one of the best stallions on the planet is Street Cry, another son of Machiavellian, while Britain has its Medicean and South Africa has Kahal.
Folklore records that in 2007, there was no better performed runner by Machiavellian in the world than Mullins Bay, but all that counts for nothing now that he’s at stud. The only evidence we can rely on right now, is what his yearlings look like, and then in the passage of next year, the racecourse acid test will tell us the rest. For the time being, those at Summerhill will tell you he’s delivered up what is arguably the best first crop of youngsters we’ve seen. You won’t know though, till you’ve seen for yourself.