(Photo : Leigh Willson)
“Friendships Mean Everything”
Summerhill is one of those places where friendships mean everything. The world is a big place, and the only way to make it smaller is to make friends. It is true that transactions build turnovers, and none of us can do without them, but in our case, relationships build value. Today we have the pleasure of greeting some of our oldest friends, and by that we speak in generational terms. Just recently, Igugu became the fourth horse known to these pastures, to take Africa’s most famous prize, the Vodacom Durban July, and she did so from an erstwhile paddock-mate, Pierre Jourdan. Our connection with this enormous event goes back 65 years however, to the victory of Pat Goss Snr’s diminutive St Pauls, still the smallest horse ever to wear the blue sash. He did so from draw 20 and came home in record time, some achievement for a horse who started out in pony and galloway handicaps (races reserved for horses under 15 hands), and went on to stardom.
In 1952, Raymond Ellis’ Mowgli got up in the dying strides to deny Irradiate, in one of the races greatest displays of courage, and his feats that year guaranteed his place among the immortals.
The 1993 renewal fell to Dancing Duel, who added the great race to a resume which included that year’s South African Guineas and the Daily News 2000, guaranteeing him the Champion Three-Year-Old title. He carried the silks of our old mate Luke Bales, of Singita fame. Then of course, there was Igugu, in the colours of one of our first customers, Andre Macdonald and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, whose family association stretches more than two decades.
You might ask what this has to do with relationships, and all of them have their own story, none more so than little St Pauls. Pat Goss was the eternal optimist, and after his horse had completed a spell on his farm The Springs, in the remote reaches of East Griquland, he told all who would listen that he had just loaded the July winner onto the Durban-bound train.
His optimism extended to booking out Durban’s most famous hospitality landmark, The Kew Hotel on the city’s Berea, almost three months before the starter would call them into line. The manager of the hotel was a young “deb” by the name of June Macguire, and she made the reservation. In the aftermath of the race, every Durbanite, whether he knew Pat Goss or not, who share the winning owner’s reverence for the Durbn July, was invited to the party, and its reputed to have raged for two days. Shortly afterwards the Kew burnt down, but its said it had nothing to do with the July party.
The point of this story is that June Maguire’s daughter, Robin Coller, married an American by name of Robert Muir, today one of South Africa’s landmark racehorse owners, and Robin and the boss go back as mates to their schooldays. They are visiting today, and Robert will tell you that when his first foal arrived here he was told his four day old foal, “Hot Guard would win the Smirnoff (Gr1)”. Just like Luke Bales was told the day Dancing Duel was born, that he win the July. Of course, we’ve made other prophecies here before, and they haven’t all been right, but we got these two right.
Robert and Robin have kept their mares at Summerhill for many years, and whilst their band has been relatively small, they’ve bred stand-outs Rambo’s Jewel, (Horse of the Year in KZN), Sleek Braashee etc, as well as standing the celebrated racehorses, Cataloochee and Ravishing at the Midlands nursery. Few things are more worthy than good friends, and these are among the best.