One thing you can never say about racing and its associated limbs, is that there's ever a dull day. Just as we thought Bloodstock South Africa's recent announcement that they were cancelling their Ready To Run sale on account of a lack of entries, would enable us all to get on with our lives and concentrate on what we do best, a nasty little barb poked its head up again. While we're pretty sure that the "disaffected" are a tight group driven by suspect agendas, the suggestion that certain horses being peddled through Ready To Run auctions were medicated for their assignments to hide unsoundness or that they were suffering because they were being "pushed" too soon in their careers, demands our attention. Let it be said, Summerhill has never been accused of "masking" anything in our twenty eight years of association with the Ready To Run (which was our invention, remember), yet we remind ourselves that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and only five minutes to destroy it. Nothing could be quite as short-sighted on the part of a seller than covering up an injury particularly with a "Ready To Run" horse which can be tested for its soundness the very next day. We obviously can't speak for our fellow vendors, but we have to believe that given the racecourse achievements of graduates of these sales, there is a common vision among consignors on this score.
We trust you will forgive us this claim, but it's a fact that in the history of South African racing, no stud's association with any sale has witnessed the sustained success Summerhill's has with the Ready To Run; more so in the eight years since we initiated our relationship with sponsors Emperors Palace and the Ready To Run Cup, which last year celebrated the biggest prize money on record, and in which Summerhill horses have prevailed in six of the its first eight renewals.
Prompted by the durability and billboard performances of Summerhill graduates at the sale, champion trainer Mike de Kock and the internationally renowned veterinarian, Dr. John McVeigh, undertook a study with our collaboration on the topic of bone density and its development in racehorses. By inference, it begged the question, what enables the Summerhill product to run with greater frequency than their counterparts, and thus provided them with more earning opportunities? The results were compelling, and were presented by Dr. McVeigh in a paper at the Al Maktoum School Of Management Excellence's Winter Workshop a couple of seasons ago. From memory, the principal findings were that the development of bone in the racehorse is at its most active in the young growing animal, that the layering of quality bone is enhanced by exercise, and that the sort of preparation our candidates are subjected to, on the basis of its outcomes, appears to be the optimal programme for this purpose.
Dubbed the original "racehorse sale" mainly for the Ready To Run's production line of outstanding runners sired often enough by stallions consigned either to the dustbins of failure or as having passed their sell-by-dates, it's worth recalling that the winningmost racehorse of all time, Hear The Drums, who took his owner Peter Fabricius to the winner's circle on no fewer than 35 occasions, was a son of the otherwise unheralded Gold Press. He heads up a list of remarkable athletes which confounded not only the pedigree buffs, but performed at the highest level and trained on well into their dotage.
In this category there's no by-passing Imbongi (by the otherwise lamentable stallion, Russian Revival); the best three year old miler of his generation, Imbongi wowed audiences in Dubai as well as England accumulating some R8.8million on the way; Pierre Jourdan, the R60k "ugly duckling" by the unfashionable Parade Leader, earned himself the moniker "the People's Horse", as well as earning his connections a healthy R5.6 million in stakes. Rejected by the market at R80k as a son of the discard, Desert Team, the Gold Cup (Gr.1) hero Cereus neither knew, nor had he ever laid his eyes on, his father. The list of horses which in the fashion stakes, were wearing the equivalent of "pinstripes" at a time when polka dots were "in" is endless, and their appeal was lost on everyone but the odd smart horseman who knows that racing is about "running". If you can run, other than the affection you might hold for them, it matters not who your mom and dad are.
At the other end of the fashion spectrum, since we're talking about the Ready To Run and "toughness", the great Igugu underwent the very preparation the "disaffected" complain of, yet she endured an uninterrupted 18 month campaign commencing in the August of her three year old career and culminating with her epic victory in the J&B Met at the end of January two seasons later. In the process, she became history's first filly to wear the Triple Tiara, as well as dropping the colours of her erstwhile paddock-mate and fellow Ready To Run graduate, Pierre Jourdan, in Africa's greatest race, the Vodacom Durban July.
We guess the point is made. But for those sceptics who like to see extravagant recollections like these supported by statistics, our readers are invited to revisit the breeders' logs of the past decade and do their own maths on the number of times Summerhill horses run compared to their counterparts. The exercise is particularly instructive considering two aspects about statistics viz. The more runners you have, the more statistics tend to speak against your case; secondly, and given that this is so, it makes maintaining your ascendancy at the top of the log the more noteworthy. By way of illustration, here is the 2015 seasons-end table extracted from the Sporting Post.
Average runs per runner 2014/2015 racing season
(more than 75 runners)
Of course, the conditioning of candidates for the Ready To Run is not the only factor influencing soundness. The environment, our agricultural and nutritional practices, quality husbandry and selective matings are all contributors to the durability of the Summerhill racehorse and now science tells us how much further we've been able to enhance these outcomes through a Ready To Run "prep".
Finally for those in the habit of following these columns as we approach the big sale on the 18th October, we will be posting regular "snippets" on what's up on the farm. As the "old timers" used to, owners, trainers, even jockeys are already making the pilgrimage to the property, to "fatten" their eyes. Machiavelli once told the world that if we wanted to divine the future, we should consult the past. Cape Thoroughbred Sales and Emperors Palace have just published the opening log comprising the top thirty aspirants for a place in the line-up for the R2.5million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup; that 23 of the top thirty were part of the Summerhill consignment last year, tells us if you want to make your own history, you know where to look!
EMPEROR'S PALACE READY TO RUN CUP LOG
2 SEPTEMBER 2015
|5||3||F||A Million Dreams||87|
|5||3||C||King Of Chaos||92|
|18||3||G||Dance On Air||81|
|18||3||C||Mr Wise Guy||81|
|23||3||F||Rock Of Laudium||74|
|29||3||G||In Your Dreams||72|