South African Breeders’ Championship 2012/2013
(Image : Summerhill Archives)
SOUTH AFRICAN BREEDERS’ PREMIERSHIP
Summerhill CEOWhen I was growing up, convention decreed that when under pressure, you kept it to yourself, you internalised your thoughts and you worked it out. Being stoic about your struggles was the gentlemanly thing to do well into the late decades of the last century. Then suddenly doctors of the mind began to tell us that we should share our issues, that we should unburden ourselves of the weight on our shoulders.
These days, it’s as though the world has turned a complete circle. People want to know how you feel, they want you to share your innermost thoughts, and so that’s what we’re going to do right now. In case you thought we were suffering some serious psychological disorder, be at peace. South Africa’s is about the most tightly-held Breeders’ Premiership on the planet, one which, since the beginning of recording, has been held by just six entities, and to the best of our knowledge in the pre-recording era, just one or two others have aspired to the mountaintop.
Ours though is unique for a couple of other reasons, the first of which is our locality. Since the breeding of racehorses first kicked off in the Western Cape several centuries ago, no farm on this side of the Drakensberg had ever been there until we won our first title in the 2004/2005 season. We’d been close before, agonisingly so the previous year, but winning it was a milestone not only for Summerhill, but for the fabric of racehorse production across the country. At last it put to rest the widely-held theory that you couldn’t breed a decent horse in these parts, and we have to concede, it took more than a year or two for us to believe it was true, and that is was repeatable.
The second unique feature of this championship, is that no farm has held it for eight consecutive years since the seemingly “interminable” reign of the famous Birch Brothers in the early 1980s. The title had resided with them ever since recordings began in 1947, and it was uninterrupted for 36 years. We can’t see a repeat of that in the modern era, given the depth, the power and the excellence of the opposition these days. Historically, the breeding of racehorses was the preserve of farmers, stockmen who lived on their farms, and raised horses as part of a mixed enterprise. They did so with limited means, and those that knew their stock best and applied the smartest of intuitions, climbed the mountain. These days, the world of racehorse breeding in South Africa is entirely different. It is dominated by big money and big business, people with the means to buy virtually what they want in the way of genetics, to acquire the best of land and to employ the best of management. The kind of people who used to own the farms in those days are now running them, and they have at their disposal the personnel, the equipment and all the trappings of big enterprise, at their disposal.
Summerhill stands on its own in the top half dozen studs in the land as a pure farming entity, funded through the endeavours of its people alone, and carried along by the achievements of the horses it raises. Few properties of Summerhill’s ilk finance themselves on the quality of their horsemen. These people know what they owe, and they understand the responsibility of living in the shadow of Giant’s Castle. If it does nothing else, Summerhill is a beacon for those who would want the world to be a better place, and who have hopes of one day repeating the feat.
We used the word “eight” advisedly at the beginning of this story, because it isn’t “nine” yet. Technically, it’s still possible for our pursuers to get their hands on the pot of gold, but with a lead of marginally more than R300,000 this morning, and just two days to go, we’d rather be sitting in our seat than anyone else’s. It’s been a close run thing, and it’s been a clean-run thing, and for that we must thank our competitors. It’s a compliment to them and their efforts, that we’ll have to hold our cheers until midnight on Wednesday, lest we should “lose our ventures”.
Editor’s note: Business Manager Ferdi Heinen, last evening, put together a projection of what principal rivals, Klawervlei, will need to do today and tomorrow to wrest the title from us with their engaged runners. The exercise assumes Summerhill will have no earnings in that time.