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Foals 2008


sangoma and lettuceCelebrating a successful first crop

The Irish, the English, the Australians and the Argentineans are all well known for their close identity with horses in general, and with racing in particular. Yet there can be few nations anywhere whose culture is more deeply linked to the horse, and the use of the horse, than that of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The full expression of the Basotho people’s obsession with horses could be no more evident than in their Monarch, King Letsie III’s “detour” to Summerhill this morning, enroute from Maseru to Johannesburg. Anyone familiar with the route will tell you there are much quicker ways of reaching Johannesburg from the Mountain Kingdom, yet His Majesty just had to see his new SOLSKJAER foal, and his new broodmare acquisition.

In fine form, His Majesty and his entourage were guests of the team at lunch, and there’s nothing that makes the Royal heart more jovial than a discussion about horses.

Nobody is more conscious of the impact which the global financial turmoil is having on the world, than we are. Long before its onset, and against the backdrop of spiralling food costs, we embarked on a programme to encourage our people to be as self-sufficient as possible. The first fruits of the new campaign are just being harvested, and nobody’s done better than Ida Nkabinde (one of nine from this family in the service of Summerhill) who arrived with these freshly cut lettuces, all organically produced, of course.

For those who don’t know, Ida is also one of our resident “Sangomas” (traditional healers,) and it seems some of the ancestors were alongside her in this endeavour. Eat your heart out Woolworths!


A MONSTER FOAL, if ever there was one!

mare and foal

Snooty Lady with her 69kg colt foal by Kahal
(Grant Norval)

Just a month ago, we penned the story about a foal weighing in at 67kgs, expressing our amazement at the size of this youngster by Solskjaer, who’d left his mother somewhat battered and bruised (and still recovering). Last Friday evening witnessed a “topper”, with J&B Met hero, Angus sister, Snooty Lady, clocking up a 69kg monster in the form of a colt foal by current No.1 sire, Kahal.

We’ve never seen foals this size, and it’s pretty much across the board that we’re seeing greater skeletal structure in those produced here. While its not always a good thing (because of the damage it can do to the mare’s reproductive tract), 99.9% of these foalings pass without incident, and we guess it’s a tribute to the organic farming practices we instituted some years ago at Summerhill, as we’ve seen a 5-6 kg increase in the average foal weights on the property.

Last Friday evening’s addition is a three-quarter brother to Joey Ramsden’s outstanding galloper, Lostintranslation, who died sadly at the height of his powers during the KZN’s winter season this year.

Hopefully, this fellow will pick up where his illustrious older brother left off. The mare is owned in partnership with Messers Rodney Thorpe and Roger Zeeman, stalwarts of this family from day one through their celebrated broodmare, Nobely Known (by Royal Prerogrative).





If ever vindication was needed for Summerhill’s deep conviction on MACHIAVELLIAN as a Sire of Sires, then surely STREET CRY’s two Group One winners in the USA this weekend, was it. His daughter ZENYATTA, remained unbeaten in eight starts in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (Gr1), drawing away by 3.5 lengths, while his two year old son STREET HERO, became this young sire’s eighth Group One winner with just three crops at the races, as he scooted off in the Norfolk Stakes (Gr1), notching his first lifetime victory in the most illustrious company.

Back home, KAHAL continued to sow his own breeze, reaping the whirlwind at the top of the nation’s Sires’ log. KAHAL started out as a little known stallion at an R8,000 service fee, and his mates to date reflect his rather modest beginnings. However, the early achievements of EMPEROR NAPOLEON, BOLD ELLINORE, DESERT LINKS etc, quickly dispelled any notion of ordinariness about this fellow, and he now bestrides racing’s headlines like a stallion colossi in the making.

“If he’d got the mares FORT WOOD and WESTERN WINTER have had, he’d be challenging for the Championship”.

We didn’t say that; but a legend did.

It’s Mike de Kock’s considered opinion (and he should know, having trained four Group One performers by KAHAL), that this is a Champion in the making and with his much improved patronage of the last few seasons, KAHAL should be well on his way. If the foals from the new generation are anything to go by, we’d have to agree.




STRAIGHT EIGHT... eight foals in one evening!

bouncing foals at summerhill studSummerhill Foals
(Annet Becker)

Ever heard of this? Certainly not at Summerhill. Eight foals in one evening, between 5pm and 1am, eclipses our previous record of six, which we’ve known on four previous occasions.

And the sixteen on the weekend since Friday would constitute an entire season’s crop on some farms, so you can imagine our team will be pretty much “knackered” come December. The record came on Kerry Jack’s watch. A previous veteran of the Broodmare and Foalcare Manager’s portfolio herself, like her successor, Annet Becker, Kerry is a graduate of the Onderstepoort Veterinary School’s Vet Assistants course, so this was “all in a day’s work” for her, though she missed out on another big night at “Bellissimo’s” in the process.




alan and brenda magid with dahlia's guest and her foal

Judge Alan and Brenda Magid with Dahlia’s Guest and her Way West colt
(Grant Norval)

One of our favourite pals, Alan Magid, one-time doyen of the South African judiciary, didn’t take long to visit at the news of the arrival of his sparklingly attractive Way West colt. This fellow arrived on Saturday morning, and at a massive 60kgs, he’s one of biggest foals we’ve seen in a while, certainly as big as any thus far this season. He’s out of the Northern Guest mare, Dahlia’s Guest, and is a half-brother to the top-class Mark Dixon trained filly, Prize Flower (by Muhtafal).

There’s a twist in this tale, and it revolves around Alan’s wife Brenda, who really is the “judge” in this instance. At the 2007 version of the Summerhill Stallion Day, our generous friends were anxious to support the charity auction of stallion services, and after seeing the parade, and finding herself enamoured by the appearance of Way West, Brenda put up her hand in earnest. Bidding beyond the advertised service fee (that’s what charities are about!) and despite the desperate protest of her thrifty husband, Brenda won the day and had the service knocked down to her. The dilemma for the Judge (we speak of the judicial one now,) after that was which of his mares he should use the service for, his inclination being the sister to the winner of the inaugural Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup, Umngazi.

But knowing the success Danehill has enjoyed with Northern Dancer-line mares, (Rock Of Gibraltar, Horatio Nelson and Peeping Fawn), our mating committee urged the use of Dahlia’s Guest to Way West.

The photograph tells the rest of the story. We’re hoping this year’s choice of stallions will be left to her ladyship!



VAN NISTELROOY and SOLSKJAER - The Footballers Celebrate

Solskjaer Solskjaer (John Lewis) When the principals of Coolmore Stud acquired their controlling interest in Manchester United some years ago, they decided to name the two best Juveniles of that year after the two best footballers at the most famous club in the world. One was Van Nistelrooy, the other was Solskjaer.

This past week the stunning impact of the first crop of Van Nistelrooy ( the stallion) was once again in evidence with the victory in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr1) of his daughter Boundless, who became his eighth first crop Stakes winner.

videoClick here to watch the New Zealand Oaks 2008.

Now you can write this down . The first of the Solskjaer’s (in this case, our stallion) are still only foals, yet there’s not been a better looking maiden crop at Summerhill in the 30 years we’ve been in business. Of course, they still have to grow up and turn into quality racehorses, so there is a long road ahead and many a test to pass. At this stage at least, we’re reminded of the fact that both he and Van Nistlerooy were not named that way for nothing.



PROF ALAN GUTHRIE micro-chips Summerhill foals

Prof. Alan GuthrieProf. Alan Guthrie and Summerhill TeamFebruary of every year marks a big event in all our foal’s lives. Besides the fact that it is the time we start weaning, it is also the time that Professor Alan Guthrie and his team micro-chips each of them. Unlike most of the other countries internationally, we do not tattoo or brand our horses for identification, we use this easy and effective way of micro-chipping them at a young age. Professor Guthrie, from the Equine Research Centre at Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty, travels the whole of the country and every single registered Thoroughbred foal gets micro-chipped.

Each mare’s passport gets checked, the foal’s ID gets checked and a blood sample of the foal is taken for DNA typing, to confirm his parentage. Most of the younger mares have gone through this process as foals themselves, so a simple scan of the bar code on their passport, compared with their own micro-chip, confirms who they are. Most of the older mares which have had several foals before will be already DNA typed as well.

Each foal is then implanted with a micro-chip, which is more or less 2mm by 15mm. The implant is placed mid-crest on the left hand side, just under the skin. It is a very simple procedure, more or less an injection with a large bore needle.

The whole Summerhill staff starts at 6am, where one team is responsible for bringing in all the groups of mares and foals, as it is easier to handle them in the stables, and another team for taking them out again. The third team then assists the Prof. with restraint and holding of the mares and foals. Having in the area of 170 foals to micro-chip here on the farm, it’s surprising that the whole process only took us roughly 6 hours, thus making it only 2 minutes per foal.

The modern micro-chips they use are also so advanced that besides being able to tell you the foal’s unique ID number with a quick scan of the neck, it can also tell you the horse’s temperature. So no more nearly getting your head kicked off by having to fiddle under their tails with a silly thermometer!

Posted by Annet Becker