He didn’t know it when he phoned to congratulate us on multi-millionaire Rabada’s historic victory in the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1) on Saturday evening, but Vaughan Koster, breeder of Bela Bela, the heroine of the fillies’ equivalent, the Woolavington Stakes (Gr.1), had a connection to the families of both the glitterati.

Summerhill acquired Rabada’s great, great grandmother, Majority Blue from Vaughan’s late father Wilfred, the year after they founded their Ceres-based Cheveley Stud in 1980, and while you’d never have picked her as an individual, the old “girl” paid her respects to her ancestors in no uncertain terms. As a yearling, she was a typical old mare’s foal, long and scrawny with a big hunter’s head and long ears, as slow as a cart-horse to the point that trainer David Payne retired her before she ever set foot on the racecourse for fear of “damaging” her page.

Rabada - Daily News 2000 (Grade 1)

Bela Bela - Woolavington Stakes (Grade 1)

As a daughter of the great race filly Majorca, much was expected of Majority Blue when she was returned to the stud. Despite her appearances, in rapid succession, she rattled off a hat-trick of Stakes winners, the Computaform Derby victor Gun Drift, Silver Bowl ace Argyle Arms, the dual Ladies Mile victress, Blue Yonder and the S.A. Derby-placed July The Fourth, and it’s fair to say that as a commercial proposition, she never let us down with any of her progeny in the sales ring. It’s a measure of the thin red line we all tread in the breeding business that there is a parallel instance in the case of Mystic Spring, dam of Bela Bela and another string of luminaries, Rabiyah, Secret Of Victoria and Touch The Sky. In his congratulatory call to us, Vaughan disclosed that Mystic Spring is hardly one to catch the eye either; small, narrow and unprepossessing, so much so that she has led him to overhaul the criteria by which he judges broodmares entirely.

While No Worries came within a whisker of taking down the colours of Vercingetorix in the “Daily News and handing us our second triumph in the race, it’s some time since Imperial Despatch led home Rusty Pelican for a Summerhill “1-2”. The Daily News is the biggest three-year-old race in the land, so Rabada’s “arrival” on Saturday’s glorious evening was timely, not only from the point of view of the water that’s flowed under the bridge since Imperial Despatch’s victory, but also for giving the farm a squeak again in a Breeders’ Championship that looks set to go to the wire.

Named for the Proteas “thunderbolt”, Kagiso Rabada, when he was rattling the scalps of batsmen at the World Championships for schoolboys some years ago, Rabada is all “family”. His father, Brave Tin Soldier, is a handsome resident of our stallion barn, and his mother’s lineage traces back four generations on the property. We’re often asked by the many visitors who frequent the farm for the stud tour, whether there’s any means of identifying a champion in the foaling barn, and while there’s little scientific or even instinctive means by which you can claim any certainty, Rabada was a standout from the moment he set foot on mother earth. That said, we all like to think we’re “dab hands” at tipping the stars in each crop, and in Rabada’s case, it was little Zoe Goss, herself not much bigger than the horse at the time, who first “fingered” him in the Mandondo paddocks as a future celebrity when he was less than a fortnight old. There’ve been a few others, notably the champion juvenile of his year, Hot Guard, and the Durban July hero, Dancing Duel, whom we’ve proclaimed a “champion” within hours of their birth, but believe us, we’ve missed the boat more times than we can remember in the same quest too.

That’s the fascinating thing about the breeding of racehorses: as we’ve said before, choosing the right horse can be something of a lottery, and there’s no knowing until you pick up the bonnet, whether you have rubber bands inside or a V8 engine. In the end, it’s all about heart and the will to win, and with a record of five victories and two seconds from his eight career starts, there’s no doubting what lies beneath Rabada’s lid.


NHRA Breeders’ Log as at 29.05.2016

Summerhill Stud (Pty) Ltd R 17 490 088
Klawervlei Stud R 16 201 312
Maine Chance Farms (Pty) Ltd R 10 720 662
Lammerskraal Stud R 10 395 200
Highlands Farms Stud (Pty) Ltd R 10 355 875
Wilgerbosdrift R 9 147 850
Mauritzfontein Stud R 8 052 125
Avontuur Thoroughbred Farm R 7 651 525
Drakenstein Stud (Nom: Mrs G A Rupert) R 7 578 200
Scott Bros R 7 390 788