Another innovation that came with the birth of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run was our annual sortie to the Australian sales, Inglis Premier in Melbourne and the Magic Millions Weanling auction at the Gold Coast. Both take place at a splendid time of the year, and if anyone knows how to look after a customer, the Aussies do. They have timed these events to a nicety, at the peak of their best weather, which “synergizes” the selectors’ instincts, it seems. The team here is nothing if it’s not up there with the planet’s more accomplished horse people, to the point that their “picking” record Down Under is a regular feature of their sales companies’ propaganda.
For many reasons, I’ve counted myself among life’s luckier men, one of the blessings the people we’re surrounded with at Summerhill: over the years, the “touring team” to Australia has included our Sales and Ready To Run boss, Tarryn Liebenberg, Broodmare and Foal Manager, Annet Becker, and Kerry Jack, now Bloodstock South Africa’s chief yearling inspector, whose keen eyes and instincts have saved me days of backbreaking trudging through the sales grounds in getting to a short list. We have a common view of our likes and dislikes, and a shared vision of what a Summerhill type is meant to be, so by the time I arrive, it’s a matter of the “rubber stamp” in most cases.
We take home a handful every year, three or four at most, and the record stands scrutiny with the best pin-hookers anywhere. The roll call suggests a modicum of superiority in the Australian gene pool, but remember, we’re taking the “eyes” out of the catalogue, and I would venture the impish suggestion that a good eye will always trump a big chequebook. The pudding’s proof speaks of IGUGU, BLUERIDGE MOUNTAIN, HOLLYWOODBOULEVARD, KILLUA CASTLE, DYLAN’S PROMISE, RIO CARNIVAL, RICH GIRL, ILITSHE, Indaba My Children, Trafalgar Legacy, Ridethebreeze, His Affidavit and Grail Maiden, just on a third of our imported consignees who’ve earnt Black type since we dreamt up the idea of the Ready To Run Cup.
That’s a long sermon on what went before, at a time when we should be talking about the future; there’s a Ready To Run sale in just under a month and would-be fashionistas are already salivating at what’s in the larder. Readers want to know what’s in store, and while there are those who’ll say they’ve heard it before, we’re going into the 2014 version of the Ready To Run double-fisted. For the first time ever, a South African sales consignment counts the progeny of three of the four most recent champion sires of Australia, as well as one by the “man-in-waiting”. The progeny of the reigning champion sire, Redoute’s Choice (a three parts sister to that stallion’s greatest-ever filly, Miss Finland); a son of the ever-green multiple champion sire, Encosta da Lago; and a daughter of last year’s log leader, Exceed And Excel, while the rising star of the Australasian firmament, High Chaparral, has a page in the catalogue devoted to his sublimely-bred daughter. It’s fair to say, that while the mantle of the most successful dual-hemisphere stallion of the present era has rested with More Than Ready since the demise of Danehill, Aussie-watchers these days would probably point to High Chaparral as the “king in the wings”.
The history of the sale calls for an examination of the depth of the entry, because many of its celebrities have come from the ranks of Summerhill’s lesser commercial lights, the runners that coined the phrase “there’s a horse for everyone at the Ready To Run”. The 2014 vintage has already got the home team talking with Vars, Silvanos, Captain Als and Fort Woods; the first exceptional entry (22) of the hottest young sire in the land, Visionaire; the first and only crop (8) of the Dubai World Cup Carnival hero, Bankable; and the last Summerhill crops of Kahal (20) and Muhtafal (6).
Looking at this lot, you’d want to be betting that this fairytale still has some puff in it.