Like anything worth savouring, it pays to sometimes keep your best for last; this applies to racehorse sales as much as it does to dessert. If it were otherwise, the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale would not have arrived at its status as one of the world’s fastest growing Thoroughbred vendues in the first dozen years of the new millennium.

Buying racehorses at the gallop gives horsemen the obvious advantage of sizing their fancies up at what they’ve been bred to do, running fast, and their grasp of the increasing popularity of the concept led ten-times Champion producers, Summerhill to keep the best of their later foaling types for their annual October date with the auctioneers.

This year is no exception; in a tightly-selective catalogue of only 60 entries, the good book is replete with big names; siblings to 23 Black type horses (that’s 36% of the catalogue), and 25 (or 42%) Black type runners and/or producers. All this and a history which tells us that like its recent forerunners, the sale is likely to be stacked with big race performers; in 2016/2017 alone, its graduates have churned out another 20 individual big race winners.

In the modern world, the Summerhill story is something of an anachronism. In all its recorded history, just 7 entities have aspired to the Breeders premiership in South Africa, while the Midlands establishment is the only one since the turn of the century to do so as a working farm solely dependent on its horses for its existence. Ever since the 1980s, the journey to the top started at Summerhill more often than anywhere else. And while you might argue that in their embrace of modern technology, the farm has been among the game’s trailblazers, the truth is that when it comes to horses, their methods belong more to those of the ancien regime than they do to the space age. When this year’s draft make its way over to the sales pavilion, it will be taking its first steps away from the traditional age into the present century, as brave and bountiful as any of its predecessors.

These young aristocrats share the common virtues of centuries of selective breeding, for speed and stamina, courage and intelligence, mental strength and physical durability, handed down from genetic giants like Northern Dancer, Galileo, Mr. Prospector etc and honed for the moment by the hands of some of the planet’s most gifted stockmen.

We all know that times are tough, that money is tight, but when you’ve “clocked” the catalogue and you’ve read its “terms”, you’ll not want to be losing sleep about reserving a seat at the ringside.

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