You’ve heard us say so before, but it’s worth repeating in the wake of what we saw at the Ready To Run Sale on the weekend. In recessionary times, buyers are quick to retreat from their characteristic sense of enterprise, falling back on the tried-and-tested. Even then, they’re as fussy as all hell, discriminating rigidly between what’s hot and what’s not among the proven horses, with the likes of Visionaire in big demand, while old stalwarts like Kahal are stashed on the afterburner. Our old Irish friend, David Nagle*, who changed our lives with the acquisition of Northern Guest, was telling me yesterday that it’s no different in Europe: unless you have the "right" horse, you can’t even raffle him.
Just occasionally a new kid on the block claims the “sexy” high ground with his first crop, but that’s a rare commodity in times like this, which is why so many breeders have found resonance in Linngari’s arrival at Summerhill. He has the novel advantage of being “new” to South African breeders, while at the same time enjoying their admiration for what he’s already achieved in his four Black type winners and nine Black type performers. No week passes without a stream of new winners from our man, and what’s encouraging is that they seem to have found their feet in the tacky clay of autumnal France, and at the same time showing themselves capable of Group One performances in South America. It’s the best evidence that the Linngaris are, like their old man, men and woman for all seasons. I’m sure none of us would be surprised though, given the horse’s history.
Time was when weekends were “TV time” for the marquee events of our sport. Yet ever since the de Kock caravan decamped for its pioneering pillage of the riches of Dubai, Thursday evenings have become “ritual” for South African fans. For all the big names that thrilled our sitting rooms over the years, none of them exceeded the worship of Linngari, the original globe-trotter. Here was the redefinition of the international racehorse, a handsome, zestful dual-Group One hero who never ducked a fight. From 1200 to 2000 metres, he posted major race performances in eight different countries on four different continents. Linngari was a racehorse, pure and simple.
Whether in victory or the slender margins of defeat, with Linngari there were no exhibition matches. It was straight out, bayonets-fixed, trench warfare. His Aga Khan roots had vaulted him to the front of the field, but the weight of it all could just as easily have tripped him up when he retired to stud. The journey to the great racecourses of the world starts in the breeding shed, which means that if we get it right here, it’s “hello Hollywood”. Here again, Linngari has paid his homage to his Aga Khan beginnings. As 2014’s runner-up sire of three-year-olds to the rising star of French breeding, Le Havre, Linngari has already earned his stripes in the cauldron of the sternest European and South American competition.