Mick Goss
I’ve had to make some hard decisions in my life, one of which was buying Summerhill in the days when I was penniless, the other exchanging our family home in Hillcrest for Hartford at a precarious time in South Africa’s political history and giving up a rewarding life in law. There have been many others, but the most painful of all was letting Visionaire go on the weekend. He is not only our and the province’s flagship stallion, but he’s a lovable character to whom every last soul on the farm has an attachment.
— Mick Goss / Summerhill CEO

Our difficulty lay in the fact that we owned 50% of the stallion, and ever since we upped our stake to that level in October last year, Team Valor have been talking about the possibility of moving him to the Cape. There was a time in January when I was preparing to leave for India to present South Africa’s case for the normalisation of our international protocol arrangements, when we had managed to assemble enough money to buy Team Valor out, but as most people know, I fell ill before I returned, and I remain under doctor’s “house arrest” at home to this day. The deal became richer and richer, particularly after Heaps Of Fun’s fine victory in the Gauteng Fillies’ Guineas, and I was beginning to wonder whether we could afford to stand our ground. The worst time to decide whether to buy or sell in any circumstance, is when you’re not well, and so we sought the counsel of some of the people whose wisdom and judgment we respect and whose objectivity we could depend on, remembering that confidentiality had to be observed at all costs. In the end, we are not dealing with Ferraris on which you can count to go from 0 to 100km in 5 seconds; we are dealing with flesh and blood which apart from the sentimental aspect, is so difficult to predict.

Clearly, the people behind the offer must believe he could be the successor to horses like Captain Al, Var etc, which of course he might well be. On the other hand, at the price and at his current service fee, it would take at least 7 years for us to recover the capital cost in KwaZulu-Natal, by which time he would be 18. While there was a limitation on his movement in our founding agreement with Mr Irwin, he made a generous accommodation which eventually settled the deal.

That of course, does not appease anyone here as far as losing the stallion is concerned, nor anyone in the province who has been a supporter in the past. Putting my pen to the contract on the weekend felt like an act of treason, and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

There is a view that he may get a better spread of mares in the Western Cape, and while that may be true, we shouldn’t forget that those he served here have delivered nine consecutive breeders’ championships, as well as those horses that have already represented him with distinction, including delivering the title of Champion Freshman Sire last year; all of his Black-type runners to date were bred and raised at Summerhill and anyone who saw Vilakazi’s run on Saturday has to believe he is another Group horse in the making.

That said, he couldn’t be going to a better home in the Western Cape than Lammerskraal, who are obviously looking for a substitute for their grand stallion Western Winter, and are possessed of some of the nation’s finest bloodlines. I have spoken with Pieter Graaff and I have told him as much, and nothing would please us more than to see Visionaire go on to bigger and better things in the years ahead. Besides his current juveniles, he still has three crops to come from Summerhill and KZN.

If you’re not an optimist in this game, you shouldn’t be in it. Summerhill has recovered from bigger setbacks than this, including the loss of several stallions in their prime. The answer appears to lie in the selection process and the depth of your stallion band, and we have been fortunate enough to get out of jail on each occasion; only time will tell whether we can perform the “Houdini” once again. Of course, you’d not expect us to be sitting on our laurels, and we already have several other irons in the fire.