Horse Capital of South Africa
Horse Capital of South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal - Horse Capital of South Africa

(Photo : Ethekwini)

The KZN Breeders Premium scheme stands alone in South Africa as a inducement to horse lovers to put their money into the production of quality racehorses in the Zulu kingdom.

If the capital status of a region was measured by the skills and passion of its people, the perfection of its environment and the quality of its product, KwaZulu-Natal could justifiably lay claim to the title “Horse Capital of South Africa”, just as it does the name “Africa’s Racing Capital”. Certainly, in the world of racehorse breeding , horsemen in our part of the world are seen as the “little giants”, with a centuries-long history of boxing above their weight.

In broad terms, there’ve been two epochal eras in which racehorse production in the Garden Province might be said to have been at its zenith. These periods were marked by the early 50s through the 60s, and then the late 80s into the early 2000s. It’s probably fair to say, that the region is on the verge of its third epoch, as those who ply their trade in the lee of Africa’s most famous mountain range, the Drakensberg, rack up new markers of excellence.

Who can forget the famous Durban July victories of St Pauls, Gay Jane, Mowgli and Ce’st Si Bon in the early 50s, and the legions of celebrities that stepped out from the Elllis’ Hartford (now part of the Summerhill estate), Joyce Tatham’s Springfield, Harry Barnett’s Springvale and the Labistours’ Dagbreek Stud. The achievements of the Ellises were such that one of the sport’s great scribes, Sir Mordaunt Milner, once counted them in the same breath as England’s Lord Derby, the Aga Khan and Lord Roseberry, France’s Marcel Boussac and Italy’s Federico Tesio, rare company by any standards.

And then local horsemen like to recall the ages of Northern Guest, Foveros, Secret Prospector and Rakeen, who dominated the top five in the national sire’s log for the best part of a decade, and shortly before that, Jungle Cove, as a golden era in the tradition of fine thoroughbreds emanating from the region. Doordrecht’s Birch Bros remained the dominant and largest producers of racehorses in South Africa through this time, the only serious challengers to their hegemony being the KZN studs, Hartford (never populated by more than 25 resident mares) and the Scott Bros, who earned their fame with the supreme racehorse Politician, among others.

In the newer scheme of things, Jet Master, who was bred by a former Hartford resident, Hugh Jonsson, down the valley from us, not only put up his hand among history’s racing greats, but he became the stallion phenomenon of the first decade of the century. In the same era, commencing with the 2004/2005 season, the national Breeders’ Premiership found its way east of the Drakensberg for the first time, when Summerhill kicked-off its own modern record of nine consecutive titles, a reign which continues in the face of the stiffest competition in the annals of the sport. They’re not alone though: no year passes without another stream of top horses from local farms, and any man of fair mind would have to concede that the “little giants” are on the move again.

What’s in it for investors?

Ask any farmer worth his salt, and he will tell you that the valleys of KwaZulu-Natal carry the continent’s most generous soils. Reliable rains and an abundance of water, a congenial climate, and some of creation’s most gifted horsemen, the Zulus, make for one of the world’s greatest stock-rearing grounds. That, a location in close proximity to Africa’s racing capital, and convenience to the principal sales venues, and you have the ingredients for the perfect storm. Besides its natural attractions, on the initiative of Summerhill, the KwaZulu-Natal breeding community had the foresight some 25 years ago to engage with racing’s upper guardians, instituting a far-sighted programme aimed at the betterment of the breed and the encouragement of investment in the province, in the form of the KZN Breeder’’ Premium scheme.

This programme rewards breeders and stallion owners for their efforts in producing quality stock, and was one of the principal attractions behind the arrival in its earliest years, of the stallion “greats” Northern Guest, Foveros, Secret Prospector and Rakeen in the 80s and 90s. In much the same era, the Midlands became a magnet for broodmare owners, and Summerhill established itself as home to the biggest concentration of foreign-owned racehorses on any one property on earth. Its customers today span 22 time zones, including some of the leading personalities and stud farms of the world, from Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai, to England, Ireland, France, Germany and the United States, and they include members of the Ruling families of three different countries; if ever an endorsement was needed for the riches of a region, this is as emphatic as any.

The KZN Breeders Premium scheme stands alone in South Africa as a inducement to horse lovers to put their money into the production of quality racehorses in the Zulu kingdom. There’s little doubt, looking at the numbers, that the accruals from this scheme are a powerful attraction to anyone with ambitions of investing either in stock or in the prime real estate of the province, given its lucrative rewards and the exceptional natural potential of the Midlands.