Nothing gets the "juices" going quite as much as a couple of good winners, and when they're coupled with a big Springbok victory, that's the ultimate. Yet this morning, there won't be much time to salivate over these things, as the Summerhill programme is jam-packed with big events. This morning the governors of the School Of Management Excellence, Judge Alan Magid, former Jockey Club chairman Ronnie Napier, Dr.May Mkhize and former Group Business Manager at Summerhill, Heather Morkel, descend upon the farm for the final selection of our international scholarship recipients, the award of internships and tomorrow's graduation ceremony. The occasion will be attended by family, friends, sponsors, employers and close business affiliates, familiar among whom is Her Worship, the Mpofana mayor, Maureen Magubane; John Stuart, head of Phumelela's international division; Jessica Slack and Guy and Wilma Murdoch of Mauritzfontein Stud; Con Roux of sponsor N3TC, and former champion trainer of Zimbabwe, Sharon Patterson.
As evidenced by their predecessors who excelled not only in their time at the school, but at the best international institutions abroad, the graduation ceremony is a signal moment in the lives of the students, as the course has positioned them at the beginning of a trajectory to wherever their aspirations will take them. While they are by no means restricted to these guys, the names of former graduates Thabani Nzimande, John Motaung and Ashlee Hammond, all of whom topped their respective classes at the English National Stud, and Hazel Kayiya who enjoyed an extended scholarship stint under Andrew Harding's mentorship at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and has a seat at the boardroom table of Gold Circle for their monthly meetings these days, all spring to mind. Pencil in Thabiso Nako, barn foreman at Sean Tarry's; Vengi Masawi an assistant trainer to Mike de Kock; and Jason May, who heads up the training division at Drakenstein, and you begin to get the "drift".
One of the redeeming features of country life is the privilege of retreating to the peace and solitude of our neighbourhood, the big skies and the space for reflection. And then we have days like these, when the cherry blossoms have burst forth and the characters of our sport are in profusion. As we've said before, racing doesn't always build character, but it sure as hell has its characters.
Many of our readers will have been bombarded with the "propaganda" around our annual Emperors Palace Ready To Run gallops, which are scheduled for 9:30 on Wednesday. To provide our followers with a sense of the occasion, there are more than 170 lots, and there'll be well over 400 people from various parts of the world in attendance, including jockeys, trainers, budding owners, grooms, the works. I had occasion this morning to glance at CTS' guest list for what has become one of the highlights of the racing year, the pre-gallops dinner at Hartford House. It's an inspiring gathering of some of the industry's biggest hitters, including of course, our panel of judges which this year numbers Dean Kannemeyer, Joey Ramsden, Sean Tarry, Michael Roberts, Craig Peters, Graeme Hawkins, Matthew de Kock, Nico Kritsiotis, Garth Puller and international guest, Miguel Clements. More than eighty have accepted for the big feast on Tuesday evening, and they will be applauding the ceremony beforehand at which the jockeys are introduced and the judges are handed their outfits.
It always helps, going into a sale for an event like the gallops, to have a load of winners ahead of the time. Last week there were eight of them, every one graduates of the Ready To Run, and this week was hardly different, with ten former Summerhill sales entries trotting up since Monday. Not too many establishments can speak of eight and ten winners in successive weeks, but for what it's worth, here's this week's list:
1st unbeaten Perfumed Lady beat the colts in the Sophomore Sprint for Mike de Kock; 1st Chili Chocolate in the Walmer Handicap for Grant Paddock; 1st Blackmore beat the "top division" for Dean Kannemeyer; 1st Flyfirstclass beat the "top division" for Craig Eudey; 1st Mamasita for Weiho Marwing; 1st Celine for Louis Goosen; 1st Kapellmeister for Clinton Binda; 1st Dazzling Dancer for Glen Kotzen; 1st Lebeoana for M.N. Prinsloo; Heavenly Express for LJ Human; 2nd Uncle Tommy in the Supreme Cup (Gr.2) for Weiho Marwing; 3rd Walking On Air in the Supreme Stakes for Alec Laird; 3rd Greasepaint in the Hampton Handicap for Roy Magner.
What's clear from this lot is that they represent the three qualities South Africans respect most: outstanding quality, great dependability, and excellent value. Toss in "durability", because that's exactly what Uncle Tommy represents. He was making his 57th start as an 8 year old, and took his earnings beyond the R1.7 miliion mark with his grandstanding finale from the back of the field under 60kgs against the best sand specialists in the country. To boot, at the human equivalent of Victor Matfield's age, he's still going strong.
Which by Saturday's count, applies to all of the "old timers" in the Bok team. What a show! If the bodies can handle it, they're looking like contenders now, even without the leadership of their captain, who's been cruelly denied a slot at the World Cup for the third consecutive time. Just as well, with that "glass" jaw, that he didn't take to boxing.
Emperors Palace Ready To Run Gallops / Xpressions (p)