Tapit Stallion
Tapit Stallion

Tapit… lick your chops!

(Image : Gainesway / Nova)



The purchase last week of the Uruguayan champion racehorse, Brujo de Olleros, by our friends at Team Valor, reminded us of two things. In similar circumstances five or six seasons ago, Sheikh Hamdan laid his hands on what turned out to be a world champion racehorse in Invasor, while raiding the Uruguayan larder: the other is the regular flow of quality racehorses dished up by South American breeders, the best of which for decades found their way to South Africa. Tecla Bluff, Taima Bluff, Potomac, El Pica, Illustrador, Prontissimo, Velvet Green, Sandunguera, Dandy Sun, Emerald Beauty, Solera, Ecurie, Epoque, Empress Club and Eventuail.

With the odd exception, the bulk of those were trained by Terrance Millard, one-time legend of our sport. The other thing the “Argies” rival us for, is their love of a braai or a “barbie”, as the Aussies call it. South Africans and Australians share a common fetish for meat, but as carnivores, we’re just apprentices next to the South Americans. It is reliably reported that the average consumption of beef in Argentina is around 60kgs annually (132 pounds,) so if you’re a visitor, when you’ve run out of clean clothes and Lipitor, it’s time to go home!

Just recently at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale, we met for the first time two grand ambassadors for Argentinian breeding, Alberto Stein and Ricardo Correas, courtesy of a decades old relationship with the greatest stallion and sales analyst the world has known, Bill Oppenheim. Ricardo has a deep and passionate pedigree in the breeding of thoroughbreds, his grandfather having established the famous Haras La Leyenda (pronounced Legenda, or “Legends”). In the name at least, they have something in common with us at the Land Of Legends. These days, Ricardo is the general manager of the farm which was originally famed for the importation of the first of a line of English Derby winners in Diamond Jubilee, the dual Classic winning own brother to Persimmon, and who carried the Royal colours for King Edward VII. To put all of this into perspective, and to give you an idea of old man Correas’ sense of enterprise, these two classic winning brothers were sons of the second most successful European stallion of all-time, St. Simon (yes, he took more championships (nine) than Hyperion, and only gave best to Sadler’s Wells in modern times). Diamond Jubilee’s importation to Argentina triggered a succession of similar imports through the 1920s and 30s, when Argentina’s agricultural economy made it one of the richest countries in the world.

The modern day owner of Haras La Leyenda is the new man they are tipping as the John Messara or John Magnier of Argentinian breeding. Alberto Stein made his fortune in the family steel business, and whilst still a relatively young man, he’s opted to go out and follow his heart, most of which he’s invested in Leyenda (his heart that is, not his cash!). It is something of a compliment to the news we carry on our blog, that this man, one of the stars in the Argentinian breeding firmament, gets his daily fix from a visit to this site.

Old Traditions, New Frontiers

In 2001, the Argentine economy crashed, when their peso, which had been at par with the US dollar, was devalued by over four to one. This was, however, great news for exporters, as it made their products cheaper to the outside world. The Argentine businessman, Alberto Stein, was at that time running his family’s second generation steel company. In 2002 he opened an office for the company in Chicago, and in 2003 he went to Poland, set up one factory, and ended up buying another from a competitor. Not only were the Polish factories supplying steel to the regions biggest manufacturers in Germany, but Stein also knew that in 2005 Poland was due to join the EU common market.

In 2006, he sold the steel company to an American firm. His wife Renata, an architect, said to him, “All right Alberto, what do you really want to do?. What is your dream?”.

Alberto had been a racehorse owner since 1986. Then a young man of 26 who was working in what is called the feralloys part of the family steel business and doing well enough, he went to an auction and bought a filly named Fiadora. She won three races and was placed in graded races (in fact, only last week, Fiadora had to be put down due the infirmities of old age, at 26).

Alberto was hooked, his answer to Renata was  to “breed horses”, which reminds us of the advice Hartford’s Raymond Ellis received from the ex head groom of the spectacular Italian breeder Federico Tesio; “Breed like you mean it”. Alberto is doing just that. First they found a farm, La Leyenda in 2007 with good soil and water. This is it, it’s this farm or nowhere”, recalls Alberto. “Within a diameter of 50kms live most of the top 3000 mares in Argentina,” he adds, displaying the businessman’s dimension to his retinue of skills.

For many years now, South Americans have been leasing Northern Hemisphere-owned stallions for the Southern season, and it didn’t take Alberto long to reason that it was an expensive exercise with limits to what their marketing could accomplish, and that they may as well invest instead in the Southern Hemisphere breeding rights of shuttle stallions. Giant’s Causeway’s full brother, the well-proven Freud (whose Northern Hemisphere connection is Becky Thomas, host to our Ready To Run scholarship awardees in America) is the first to join the roster on this basis, though the enterprise of the Leyenda team is not limited to direct investment. Through a connection with the renowned stallion manager (ex Three Chimneys) Dan Rosenberg, they’ve secured the Southern Hemisphere breeding rights to one of the best young stallions in America, Tapit, who stands at the Beck family’s Gainsway Farm. And you can bet your life, the resultant Tapits will find their way beyond the boundaries of Argentina. Following our get-together in Cape Town, you may even see a few on a forthcoming Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale: lick your chops!

We’ve little doubt these titbits will have prickled our reader’s imaginations. There is much more though, to South American breeding and racing in general and to Argentina in particular, than what we’ve said here, and we’ll be continuing this series over the next couple of days.

For the record :

  1. St. Simon : Ascot Gold Cup (1884), Goodwood Cup (1884) and Epsom Gold Cup (1884). Champion sire in Great Britain and Ireland nine times.
  2. Diamond Jubilee : 2000 Guineas, Newmarket Stakes, Epsom Derby, St Leger and Eclipse Stakes - all 1900. Champion sire in Argentina (1915, 1916, 1917 and 1921).
  3. Persimmon : Coventry Stakes (1895), Richmond Stakes (1985), Epsom Derby (1896), St Leger (1896), Jockey Club Stakes (1896), Eclipse (1897) and Ascot Gold Cup (1897). Champion sire in Britain (1902, 1906, 1908 and 1912).