Summerhill Stallion Barn
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
“Stallions have been known to command covering fees
of as much as a million dollars…”
It’s that time of the year again, when we scour the paddocks looking for the clues which influence our mating plans for the year ahead. Our panel of experts is comprised of much the same people who plotted our successes of the past decade, and who made our eight breeders championships a reality. No stone is left unturned, and those who’ve seen what a Summerhill mating recommendation looks like, will tell you it’s as detailed and illuminating as anything in the business.
It’s a daunting responsibility though; we are in effect playing “god”, determining not only the genetic outcome, but also attempting to forecast the commercial result more than two years ahead. The thoroughbred, as we’ve said before, is the product of three centuries of meticulous selection; a melting pot of nobility, grace, intelligence, courage, speed, stamina, mental strength and physical durability, among the many traits the world’s breeders seek to instill in the end product. As a species, we’d like to believe we are the sum of all these things ourselves, yet if we’re honest with ourselves, for the past three hundred years (and for millennia before that, for that matter), homo sapiens has been more a product of lust and money than all these fine attributes. That, in the end, is what separates us from the good Lord’s finest creation.
The other thing about the mating game, is that we’ve not been as smart as thoroughbreds in developing a market for our own services. Stallions have been known to command covering fees of as much as a million dollars (in Northern Dancer’s case), where the terms were “money upfront, no guarantees”, and the queue extended from Cape Town to Cairo. On the other hand, his male counterpart in the human realm is unable to get five bob for his role in the continuity of the species, try as we might. We may need to revisit this model, if the world is to function properly going forward!
I am reminded of a story involving the inimitable playwright and poet, George Bernard Shaw, who once teased the distinguished actress, Mrs. Pat Campbell into admitting she would sleep with him for a million pounds. He then asked if she would do so for five pounds. “What do you think I am, Mr Shaw?”, she demanded in supposed outrage. “We have already established that, madam, we’re merely haggling about the price”. That’s us!