(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)
(National Emblem (SAF) - Valley Mist (SAF)
The frenetics surrounding the Cape Premier Yearling Sale and the J&B Met, and the speed at which the social goings-on were taking place, made us oblivious to the fact that the World Economic Forum was in full swing in Davos. Sadly, and significantly for us, we even missed the death in relative infancy, of our ageless champion, Nhlavini. If you’re chalking up the great names of those that grew up here, he’d be up there with the best : we speak of St Pauls, Mowgli, Sentinel, Magic Mirror, Panjandrum, Dancing Duel, Imperial Despatch, Spook and Diesel, Pick Six, Igugu, Pierre Jourdan, Rebel King and Imbongi.
For that matter, the Markus and Ingrid Jooste’s colour bearer would’ve ranked with best anywhere. Apart from Pocket Power, he must be the only horse to have lined up six times for an Equus Award, where he walked away with the championship on three occasions as the nation’s leading sprinter, the last time at eight years of age. The Brits will tell you that the Zulus are feared for their exploits in battle, and Nhlavini (Zulu for “playboy”), would stand right alongside the warrior kings, Shaka and Cetewayo, as a racehorse.
A championship class campaigner by any standards, he got more than he would’ve anywhere else in the hands of Charles Sydney Laird. We use his name to emphasise his ancestory, as a clue to the expertise that made Nhlavini what he was. There was a sentimental attachment to the progeny of National Emblem in general in the Laird family, but nowhere was it stronger than it was with Nhlavini. Religiously, at the end of his winter campaigns in KwaZulu Natal, his trainer sent him home to his birthplace, where he occupied the sacred paddock which in the 60s, housed the multiple champion sire, Masham, in the shadow of the great eucalypts of Hartford House.
Rested, the brave soldier always returned to the fray, always faithful, always true. This was especially so in his latter years, when it seemed his heart was willing but his limbs could take no more. His master was always masterful, and it was a measure of his great respect for the great horse that in his latter years, there were only two races on the official calendar. The Diadem Stakes and the Cape Flying Championship, at six, seven and eight. His three consecutive Diadems and two Flying Championships (some still say three) tell us the respect was mutual. His harvest was three million and more.
His father’s tally at Summerhill alone included some fifteen Stakes winners, among a litany of Black type scorers, the best of them (Nhlavini, Rebel King, Carnadore, all champions, Decorated Hero, Princely Heir and Lotti), trained by Charles Laird, while top-liners, Fez (Gr1), Royal Emblem (Gr1) and Thekkady, were also inmates of our paddocks carrying the National Emblem hip- sticker on their backsides.