admirals eye and admire main
Admire Main and Admiral’s Eye
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


The most commonly repeated phrase of the past five years is “times are tough”, and while there are distinct signs that the world is in a better space than it was at the height of the recession, it’s by no means a tribal dance out there. Across the agricultural spectrum, farmers, and particularly little farmers, have been brutalized for their lack of the benefits of scale, and our colleagues in the breeding world have not been exempt. The salvation that will come when the supply and demand equation moves in favour of producers (starting next year) will be the turning point, but for much of the past several years, small breeders have been under siege.

Thank heavens then, for small mercies like Saturday’s celebration of the KZN Breeders awards, which served as a field hospital for broken souls. Occasions like these massage the wounds, they lift the spirits and they remind us that, despite life’s setbacks, there is always hope and given the chance, occasionally kids from the sticks like us, can achieve some excellence.

Saturday night was a new milestone for Summerhill, too. Yes, we’ve won the national Breeders’ title a modern record of nine consecutive times, but there is something special in the applause from your own neighbourhood, and this was the 20th consecutive year that we’ve topped the KZN Breeders’ charts. You might say it’s a matter of scale, and of course it is, but scale is not something we’ve always held a monopoly on. Our earlier successes came at a time when the Scott Brothers, George Rowles’ Ivanhoe Stud and Guy Landon’s Aldora Stud were at their zenith, and we look back upon those days with as much pride as we salute the modern era. If I may say so, twenty years of accumulated success comes only from people who have been resolute in the hours they’ve worked, in their dedication to what they do and the passion they bring with it, and let’s not forget, a good measure of skill as well.

The evening was a triumph too, for a dear old friend who like Bridget Oppenheimer, represents an era we’re not likely to see again. The great private breeders are relics of a former century, and in many respects, they epitomised the “sport of kings:” they did it for the sport and the sport alone. The Horse Of The Year accolade went to the outstanding filly, Festival Of Fire, surely as good a horse as Chris Saunders’ Invermooi Stud ever produced, and just as surely a compliment to the talents of Filli Bowles, who’s served Chris as faithfully as any man could wish.

For the record, our team got the nod from the always-excellent master of ceremonies, Graeme Hawkins, on seven occasions, and for four of these we have several partners to commend. If only because he reads these columns more avidly than anyone else (and serves as our Editor-in-Chief!), let’s begin with the Champion Two Year Old Filly, Admiral’s Eye, a Group One-performing daughter of Admire Main. We owe the fact that our name is cited at all among her breeders to our good friend Judge Alan Magid, who acquired her dam Surfer’s Eye in the first place, and invited us to join him in the venture. I give nothing away in reminding you that the judge is an octogenarian, as spritely as he was the day he entered the breeding game, and inspired no doubt by the fact that one of Europe’s most successful breeders of the past century, Lord Weinstock, who only took up the game well into his senior years, proceeded to produce at least a half dozen European Classic winners before climbing the stairs to his resting place.

The Champion Female Stayer was appropriately named Salutation, who like Rebel Queen and Uncle Tommy, was the result of a venture between the farm and our good English friends, Mike and Marty Meredith. Deservedly, the stallion prospect of the year went to a horse that’s brought a fresh dimension to South African breeding, Admire Main, who wouldn’t be here were it not for the generosity of our good friend, Katsumi Yoshida, of Japan’s Northern Farm. And then there are those who keep their horses at Summerhill, without whose support and encouragement none of this would be possible. We’re reminded every day that success is not final, failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to go on that matters.


Forgive me a little sentiment for a moment. My late mother, Erica, was a wonderful inspiration and support in the growth and development stages of Summerhill, and in our early days, she was as much a part of the “perspiration” as any of us. This weekend would have marked her 86th birthday, and she would have been bang in the middle of Saturday evening’s partying if she’d still been around. What is still here is the “Final Call Yearling Yard”, dedicated to her memory on the occasion of her 80th.

erica goss plaque