At a time when some thought we might be entering the “twilight zone”, a flurry of fresh acquisitions has put that theory firmly to bed. Like their Australian counterparts, South Africa’s horsemen have at last come to believe that the best of our local racing stars, bred and performed in our own conditions, have as much of a role to play in the stallion affairs of the land as imports do, prompted no doubt by the lofty exploits of Jet Master, Dynasty and Captain Al.
Our own convictions reach back two decades to the arrival at Summerhill of National Emblem, to whose memory we owe our investment in the “X-factor” racehorse, Capetown Noir. Last season’s reception of the triple Group One ace was as much a statement about his talents on the turf as it was of the notion that this was a warrior with whom we could all win a war.
As the only man in our time to breed the first three past the post in the Durban July, John Slade’s endorsement of the two “new kids on the block”, Act Of War and Willow Magic is a tribute to the ongoing value of the same strategy. In their collective presence, it’s arguable that in our thirty-seven summers here, we’ve never been better endowed in young stallion material than we are now. This quartet of elite sprinter-milers is completed by Ato, internationally celebrated at Gr.1 level from 1200 to 1600m, but “all-South African” like the others.
A multiple Stakes-winning juvenile and the hero of the country’s number one “stallion-maker”, the Cape Guineas, few freshmen go to stud as decorated as Act Of War; like Capetown Noir, he’s the son of a Champion Sire from a Broodmare of the Year, and rated with the best of the Dynastys.
As Africa’s only Group One-winning son of Dubawi, who just set a new world mark in the production of Gr.1 virtuosos, Willow Magic is similarly credentialed. Champion trainer Sean Tarry counts him “as good a two-year old as [I’ve] known, blindingly fast, and in a golden era in the yard, no older horse could go with him”. Ranked with the cream of his juvenile vintage, his exploits in The Dingaans and the Gold Challenge (Gr.1) against Horse of the Year Legislate, were those of the masterclass miler, “the perfect prototype for sire success”.
Up at the stallion barn, the established pair of Linngari and Brave Tin Soldier have both seen stand-out performances from their progeny which have thrust them into the upper echelons among the leading sires in France and South African Three-Year-Olds respectively, while Golden Sword and Traffic Guard, who stayed a mile-and-a-half in the planet’s best company, could not have made a more encouraging start with their first runners. Smart breeders already know where their bread is buttered. They also know that the country’s richest races are at 2000m and beyond.
History has been kind to Summerhill. Over the decades, it has blessed us with a regular spread of champion stallions and a broodmare band which has delivered up nine consecutive Breeders’ titles and as recently as 2015, a Champion Freshman Sire. None of this would have happened were it not for our stallions, so our faith is as resolute as ever. With your patronage and these stallions, we could be looking at a “royal flush”.