Bankable Racehorse
Bankable Racehorse

Bankable - The X Factor

(Photo : Herman Brown Racing)



We continue with our second installment from the Summerhill Sires Brochure 2011/2012. This one is particularly appropriate, with the staging of the Investec Stallion Day on 3 July.

Hot stallions are the prime currency of the horse trade. They triumph over Wall Street crashes and lift rough mares. Their very names tempt buyers into abandoning price limits arrived at so carefully, so clinically in the calm of the hotel room the night before. So how do you pick them before the rest of the world? There are some who gave up long ago, who believe that Lord Byron had “hot stallions” in mind when he penned “Luck’s All”.

The breeding theorists of course, will tell you instantly, plying you with reams of computer paper. They are a little like those who play with economic statistics. They dip into a mountain of genetic indicators, push them and pull them into a shape that proves, with a certainty which seems mathematical, that what happened, should’ve happened. They bring form to the formless, logic to chaos. They “prove” that what happened on the racecourse was not chance, but destiny. Until you ask them what became of the unplaced full brother. Sometimes you feel, perhaps uncharitably, that all they are proving is Billy Wilder’s one-liner: hindsight is 20/20.

There is a common thread though, which courses through the veins of the “godfathers” of the breed. The thoroughbred has been fashioned for going on four centuries, by the test of one compelling object: the piece of wood that marks the end of the best horseraces in the world. It’s a matter of who gets there first, because that’s all that matters, and every effort breeders have made in shaping the outcomes of their endeavours, has been aimed at beating the next best man to the post. Racing is about running, the survival of the fastest, and most times, the best runners beget the best.

Truth is they come in every shape and size. The greatest of them all, Northern Dancer, was a short little fellow of sculpted body and great character. At the height of his powers, his stud fee touched a million dollars, at which point his Canadian origins were forgiven. Sir Tristram was mean, with unsightly hocks. Jet Master, who is in the South African pantheon with Nelson Mandela and milk tart, is somewhat coarse and of plebeian parentage. You’d never accuse him of having too much blood, and not enough mongrel.

The Summerhill Stallion Barn is a community of nations, a melting pot of strains from the four corners of the globe. Kahal was born in England, made his name in America, and sired Group One winners in South Africa. Brave Tin Soldier and Ravishing are patricians by birth, record-breakers by price, and racehorses by trade.

As good as he was, A.P. Arrow had occasionally to play bit parts to the World Champions, Invasor and Curlin, but from what we’ve seen of his foals, he may yet get to play Hamlet. His unusual beginnings in the Land of the Rising Sun, are the foil we sought in Admire Main, the hybrid vigour in that magical beast that “outbreeds” his own pedigree and performances, as rich as they were.

In common though, they carry that singular ingredient you find in most of the great ones. To a man, they were fine talents at the races, the equivalent of a Timeform rating of 120 and beyond, or put another way, they are members of that elite club of the top half percent of racehorses worldwide. That is the bottom line, if you’re wanting to cross the threshold of Greig Muir’s Stallion Barn.

Which brings us to Visionaire and Bankable, our newest interns, who have exchanged their celebrity lives at the racecourse for a more seductive existence at Summerhill. You go back six generations, looking at 126 ancestors. No neon lights flash; there is no grand clue, other than a “good pedigree belongs to a good horse”, as Terrance Millard once famously told us.

That’s alright. Racing would be as dull as quantum physics, if it were burdened with mathematical certainty. Until you look at these fellows. Instantly, you see it. These men have something, besides blood and conformation. They have the great tick of the heart, the X-factor.

In sport, that is enough. Rare talents are rarely fathomable.

summerhill stud, south africa
summerhill stud, south africa

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