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Owner Spotlight

Oldest to Youngest – You guess which way round!

Chips Pennells, Norman Yeats, Alan Magid and Mick Goss
Chips Pennells, Norman Yeats, Alan Magid and Mick Goss

It was a case of “All Our Yesterdays” when stalwart Summerhill patrons visited the farm this last week and regaled us with tales of their youth, and their passion for the horse industry. Seen above are L to R: Chips Pennells, Norman Yeats, Alan Magid and Himself!

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Vincent O'Brien : Legends are few, but by golly they’re passing

vincent o'brien jacqueline o'brien aidan o'brienVincent O’Brien, Jacqueline O’Brien and Aidan O’Brien
2006 Ryder Cup Race Day
(Photo : The Curragh Racecourse)

Vincent O’Brien died Monday morning at his home in Straffan, Co Kildare, at the age of 92.

Widely acknowledged as Europe’s greatest ever trainer, the former master of Ballydoyle was the Champion trainer in Ireland 13 times, and also a dual Champion trainer in Britain on both the flat (1966 and 1967) and over jumps (1952-3 and 1953/4).

Born on 9th April 1917 in Churchtown, Co Cork, Vincent O’Brien started training in 1944. He soon switched his attention to the jumping game. He also trained the winners of three Grand Nationals in a row, (1953-5). Famous for his successful gambles, he had amassed sufficient earnings and winnings by 1951 to purchase the Georgian house set in 320 acres of parkland named Ballydoyle. Within a few years, he turned to the flat, winning his first Irish Derby with Chamier in 1953 and his second four years later with Ballymoss.

 

During the 1970’s Vincent O’Brien, along with owner Robert Sangster and his son in law John Magnier, established the Coolmore syndicate, just at the time when racing was changing from a popular sport to a multi-million pound industry. The process of changing yearlings – most bought from North America and many of them by Northern Dancer – into valuable Classic-winning stallions proved vital to the business, and Vincent O’Brien’s eye for a horse was invaluable.

To have trained the winner of almost every big race over jumps was achievement enough, but to have at least matched that on the flat is what made him unique. His astonishing record on the flat included 16 English Classic victories, 27 Irish Classics, three Prix de l’Arc deTriomphes and 25 wins at Royal Ascot.

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SINGAPORE'S PREMIER RACEDAY : The South African Challenge

 Mythical Flight
Kranji, Singapore, 15 May 2009
(Photo : Singapore Turf Club)

Defending Singapore Airlines International Cup Champion, Jay Peg, will jump from stall five in Sunday’s feature event at Kranji, much to the delight of trainer Herman Brown.

“It’s a good draw and gives us plenty of options to ride close to the pace, as he normally does. A lot will also depend on how quick the horses on the inside go,” said Herman Brown.

 

In 2008, Jay Peg sat quietly in second spot before sweeping into the lead for a dominant victory in the 2000m showcase race. The European Bloodstock News reports that the handsome bay has failed to win since and has run below par in three starts since undergoing knee surgery, most recently finishing down the course behind Gladiatorus and Presvis in the Dubai Duty Free.

 

Mike de Kock’s charge, Bankable, will jump from stall three and is considered a possible danger to Audemars Piguet QE II Cup winner and race favourite, Presvis.


“That’s great,” said Mike de Kock’s assistant trainer Trevor Brown following the draw. “He (Bankable) is versatile with a good turn of foot and he’s had a good preparation.”

 

Sean Tarry, was left shaking his head in utter disbelief when his speed merchant, Mythical Flight, came away with barrier 11 for the 1200m KrisFlyer Sprint, where defending champion Takeover Target, well drawn on the inside, is the likely favourite.

 

“It’s a shocker. I’ve said all along we’ll be in trouble if he draws double digits,” said Sean Tarry, who was hoping to draw as close to the rail as possible but added, “We’re here to race. We wanted an inside draw, which can be vital here, but he has very good gate speed, he’s looking well and moving well.”

 

Former South African trainer Patrick Shaw, now based in Singapore, was also left deflated after drawing stall nine for local hero, the undefeated three-year-old, Rocket Man, owned by old friend of Summerhill, Fred Crabbia.

 

“Yes, I’m disappointed with the draw but we have to move on now. It’s not the end of the world but it makes his (Rocket Man) job a bit harder,” said Patrick Shaw.

 

The Australian-bred Rocket Man is the highest rated galloper in Singapore and his wins include both the Kranji and Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprints this season. Rocket Man is a half-brother to the Charles Laird-trained Gr1 winner Our Giant.

 

Summerhill Stud wishes all the South African connections “Voorspoed” and the greatest success on Singapore’s premier raceday.

THE BATTLE OF THE YOSHIDA FAMILY

yoshida fammily battle

Waging battles on two fronts that took them down to the proverbial finish line last year, brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida continued to dominate racing in Japan unlike any other familial dynasty in the world.

Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder reports that for the fifth consecutive year, Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm scooped the title of leading breeder with 617 runners garnering 310 wins and earning the equivalent of a mind-boggling £54,088,324. Northern-bred runners included three champions: juvenile filly Buena Vista, sprintermiler Sleepless Night and dirt horse Kane Hekili.

Of Charl Pretorius, Cocoa Rose and Jacuzzi's

 

 

“NOW THIS IS A STORY WORTH TELLING”

When Cocoa Rose steamed home in the Juvenile event at Scottsville on Sunday, the fact she was Kahal’s second highlighted youngster winning on the weekend, was not the only remarkable thing about the race.

Cocoa Rose has run just three times following her purchase for R70,000 just a few months ago at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale. This victory and her close-up second to the Graded Stakes performer, Ashjaan, has already virtually repaid the outlay of her 10 owners.

The real fable here though, is that five of her owners are “first-timers”, converted to “victimhood” by none other than one of the great scribes of the game, Charl Pretorius (of Racingweb fame www.racingweb.co.za), seen here celebrating at an address we daren’t disclose, judging by his company in the Jacuzzi!

DEVON AIR’S Group 1 winning relative comes to Stud

She’s On Fire arrives at Summerhill Stud
(Photo : Leigh Wilson)

 “MEMORIES OF THE 1983 DURBAN JULY”

Durban July watchers will remember with great affection the escapades of the fine mare, Devon Air, who took Africa’s greatest horse race end-to-end, and then proceeded to pulverize a quality field in the Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) over the marathon two mile trip at the Greyville circuit a month later. Toiling behind Devon Air on the first Saturday in July was a Summerhill-bred, Versailles, so for us, there was added significance in this grand dame’s victory.

This week, a Group One winning granddaughter (by Jet Master out of Cream Of The Crop, by Concertino out of Devon Air) arrived back for her new career at stud. 6:30pm Sunday evening, to be precise.

We need to be precise about these things, because these are momentous events on stud farms. There are precious few horses in the world that carry the title of “Group One winner”, and She’s On Fire is one of those, having distinguished herself not only at that level among her own sex, but having put up Grade One performances against the colts as well, notably in last year’s renewal of Africa’s richest race, the Gomma Gomma Challenge (Gr.1).

We’ve written about Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and his “picking” talents before and anyone looking at the photograph of She’s On Fire on arrival, will know what we ‘re talking about. And when they come from Ormond Ferraris you can see the hand of a maestro.

A BOYS CONSPIRACY : The Value of Mates

highland cow and calf postcard

So one old customer at Summerhill, whose time goes back almost to the opening of the gates, reminds us periodically of the value of good friends. We had a mutual pal pass away two weeks ago in the form of Sir Clement Freud, and Alec Foster, remembered for his association with Summerhill with his horses Steamy Window (Natal Oaks Gr.1), Cereus (Canon Gold Cup Gr.1) and Red Carpet Style (countless Grades Stakes races), has never been too far from his laptop when things of interest pop up, and he was quick to pounce on the reporting in England’s racingpost.com.

We shall charm you with a couple of extracts over the next few weeks starting with “Ruin stared me in the face. £10,000 was 15 years’ salary, a 200 acre farm in Suffolk, 20 times the average reason for jumping off Beachy Head”.

Quoting from Alec’s postcard to us (the face of which is depicted in this Highland Cow and calf) “I remember when he came to Summerhill to interview you for the Sporting Life. He was not easy either, but he was known for that. I do recall you asking him where he was staying, and he gave the name of a non descript hotel in Pietermaritzburg, to which you, rather mystified, asked why he should be there, rather than at Hartford House. He replied “It’s the nearest hotel to the betting office”. That was Sir Clement Freud.

ANTHONY DELPECH : A Star in Racing's Firmament

There are not many of us who understand what it takes to be a world-class race jockey. One man who’s had an almost uncanny association with the best horses from Summerhill, is Anthony Delpech.

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A few National Sales comments...

pen and handwriting

BARRY IRWIN : TEAM VALOR INTERNATIONAL

barry irwinBarry IrwinTeam Valor’s Barry Irwin is famous for having proclaimed South Africa “the best kept secret in the racing game. “You’ve raised world-class horses in a world-class environment, and you have some of the world’s best horsemen”. About this year’s sale, Barry fingered the draft in general as the best by some stretch he had encountered. Some statement from one of the world’s greatest “pickers”. We often wonder whether the partners in Team Valor appreciate the talents of this man, who has separated himself from virtually every yearling selector we know, in achieving the hit rates for which Team Valor has become renowned. He’s not only a good picker though, he’s a supreme strategist, places his horses in the right places at the right time, and he seldom misses an opportunity.

 

 

Peter DoylePETER DOYLE : ARGUABLY IRELAND’S TOP BLOODSTOCK AGENT

Summerhill’s draft was outstanding, in what was the most outstanding collection of horses I’ve seen in nine visits to South Africa’s National Yearling showpiece”.

 

 

 

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LINDSAY PARK STUD : The Extension of a Legend

sam hayes national yearling sale (heather morkel)Sam Hayes
(Photo : Heather Morkel)

One of the associations in which we take great delight, is with the legendary Lindsay Park Stud in the vicinity of the famed Barossa wine growing region of South Australia. Lindsay Park was founded by one of Australia’s training icons, the late Colin Hayes, father of Australia’s leading trainer of the present era, David Hayes and grandfather to Sam Hayes, who has taken over the stud breeding operations at the property.

Lindsay Park has many things in common with Summerhill, not the least of which is its isolation from the mainstream of Australian breeding, the Hunter Valley. Like us in KwaZulu Natal, South Australia is off the beaten track in breeding terms, yet it continues to produce a stream of top quality horses, despite its removal from the location of the nations top stallions. Only recently, it has produced the likes of the celebrated Grade One winners, Niconero and Nicconi (winner of last weekend’s Galaxy Stakes Gr1). From all accounts, Sam enjoyed his trip to us last week. With his permission we quote from his note penned on the way home.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear Mick and Cheryl,

I am currently flying from Johannesburg to Sydney and reflecting on the last ten days.

I would like to sincerely thank you both for your wonderful hospitality in Johannesburg, at Hartford House and at Summerhill Stud.

The South African experience in general was everything that I had hoped it would be (and more!). The results of the National Sale were encouragingly strong in the face of a decline in world confidence. I was most impressed by the sale ground facilities and permanent hospitality areas within each barn (not to mention Linda’s chicken rolls… one of many highlights!)

The trip from Johannesburg to Natal with the stopover at Clarens provided for a great opportunity to view the South African landscape. Thanks for letting me travel with you.

Hartford House is a very special place. It is a credit to your imagination and sense of style Cheryl. The decor, delicious food, excellent service, warm hospitality and Zulu dancing will not be forgotten. It is a world class venue. Congratulations!

Summerhill Stud was quite inspirational. Seeing the Summerhill Stud graduates winning Group races at Turffontien on Saturday and then witnessing the top filly and colt being sold from your draft was only the beginning! Being able to observe your farm and your team at the top of its game was a real treat.

It was motivational to see first hand what can be achieved with hard work, optimism and persistence. The vision that your team has for Summerhill has largely been realized and to see a business modeled so meticulously on the template of one’s vision was most inspiring.

The things that stand out in my mind are the proactive initiatives to train and educate your staff (not only with work skills but general life skills as well). The genuine focus on clients. The effective diversification of your business through insurance and feed divisions and the development of organic pasture management practices.

But what I loved most was the burning desire you all had to become South Africa’s leading breeders, backed by a steadfast belief that you would one day get there despite not having the monetary backing or the perceived geographical advantage of your rivals. You are reaping the benefits of doing what you love. That really does inspire me.

Naturally I found so many parallels with what we are hoping to achieve at Lindsay Park Stud. I can’t wait to get back to work. I know, with time, we can do the same.

Thanks also for giving me an insight into how you run your monthly accounts. Those templates will be very useful in helping us to re-design our financial reporting.

The whole experience was an absolute privilege that I sincerely appreciate. Not even watching the Australians loosing the one dayer in Cape Town was going to dampen my spirits!

Please pass on my thanks to all the team, especially Heather, Linda, Kerry, Annet, Tarryn and Marlene.

Long may your success continue!

Warm Regards
Sam Hayes

Summerhill Stud’s Australian Ambassador!

Karel Miedema reviews National Yearling Sale 2009

Uncle Tommy
(Photo : Jean Stanley)

karel miedemaKarel Miedema Sporting PostThe world can look in wonder at South Africa’s flagship National Sale, the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale. True, the sale’s aggregate and average price followed world-wide trends downward, but closer scrutiny tells a remarkable story, writes Karel Miedema for the Sporting Post.

 

“The sale as a whole was down on the 2008 record breaker. Last year 501 lots accumulated a total of R200million, compared to 490 lots for R152million this time round. That’s a drop of R48million. Taking the top 10% of lots by sex for 2009, we find 26 colts selling for R750k or more, totaling R29million.

 

Similarly, 24 fillies sold for R500k or more, totaling R18million. Added together this gives R47million. Last year 40 colts went for R750k or more, and 43 fillies for R500k and up. Together they made for a total of R93million. The difference between these two top 10% totals is R46million – just about the amount by which the sale went down. In other words, the drop in R47million aggregate can be entirely attributed to the pricedrop amongst the top 10% of lots sold.

 

Median prices by sex tell their story, too. The median price is the mid-point between highest and lowest price, and in the case of horse auctions tells a truer story than a straight average would, because the high (extreme) prices have a lesser effect. The median price for colts in 2009 was R250k, down only 9% from R275k in 2008. As was predicted based on what happened at previous yearling sales this year, demand for fillies fell through the floor. The 2009 median for the weaker sex was R200k, down 20% versus the R250k in 2008. The overall median was down 15%, to R220k from R260k last year.

 

Given this background, the conclusion must be that South Africa is still on a high and that pre-sale doomsayers are eating humble pie, indeed. The future looks rosy.

 

Post sale comments from visitors echoed these sentiments. “In the current economic climate the South African National Yearling Sale is without a doubt the best performing thoroughbred sale in the world,’’ said Australian buyer Paul Guy, echoing auctioneer Steve Davis’ earlier assessment that this was his “strongest sale in the last six’’ he’d conducted around the globe.

Team Valor International’s Barry Irwin, on his fifth successive visit, secured eight foals and summed up the event, saying, “The value here is superb, it is a joy to come to this sale and I’ll be booking for next year.’’

 

Barry Irwin, renowned as one of the shrewdest buyers on the planet, described his purchase of Klawervlei Stud’s Lot 587, a daughter of Captain Al from Grade 1 winner Roxanne, as “incredible, because I would have gone to well over R1million for her and paid only R600k.’’ He added: “She’s probably the nicest looking filly I’ve seen. They don’t come better looking than this.’’

 

South Africa’s Champion breeders Summerhill Stud reaped the rewards for their great achievements of the last few years, selling the top-priced colt and filly at the sale. The Kahal colt, Uncle Tommy, a half-brother to Rebel King, was knocked down to Mike Bass for R2.4 million, while Team Valor bought first-season sire Solskjaer’s daughter Matara Garden for R1.5 million.”

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ORMOND FERRARIS : Doyen of South African Trainers

ormond ferraris (heather morkel)Ormond Ferraris
(Photo : Heather Morkel)

“Millionaire’s Row”

It’s a well documented fact that Summerhill was the last of the big farms in South Africa to register it’s first million Rand deal at the sales. Whether that’s a reflection of a lack of marketing finesse, or a sense of treating the market with respect, will forever be a matter of debate. But what is so, is that all of a sudden it’s “raining” millionaires at Summerhill.

We kicked off at the Ready to Run Sale in November, with a ROCK OF GIBRALTAR colt registering R2.2million, a GALILEO filly R1.5million, and a MUHTAFAL colt at R1million, and coupled with Sunday’s R2.4million and R1.5million respectively, that’s five in the space of as many months.

Whether he read our adverts, proclaiming the Summerhill racehorse the Toyota of the South African industry, is difficult to say, but it seems the doyen of our trainers, Ormond Ferraris, must have at least cast his eyes over the ad. A man who, in common with the best of his countrymen, respects excellent quality, unparalleled dependability and outstanding value, as much as any, the attributes for which Toyota has become famous, are exactly what Ormond must have seen in this draft. Signing as he did on Sunday for no fewer than four (25%) of the horses put through the ring. So for us the consolation lies not only in the value he got, but also in where they’re going.

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National Yearling Sales : What a Sunday!

“BIG SALE DIARIES - Part 1”

As big days go, it doesn’t get much better, especially if you’re in the Summerhill corner. Two Group winners, three Group seconds, and an impressive juvenile in the second all added up to something approaching R600,000 accumulative earnings for the day. It could’ve been better though, as one wag commented, “If only the wind had been blowing our way, and the three seconds had made it home!”

On a day in which fortunes might have been made, if our Australian, French and English friends had kept the faith (but typically deserted us for those raised in “greener” pastures) there were a number of notable performances:

o LABEEB finally came home, notching up a consecutive treble including a double in the Derby and Oaks Trials for the one man who put his hand up very early on, Ormonde Ferraris.

o Charles Laird and Markus Jooste achieved an historic trifecta with a one-two-three in the R1million Horse Chestnut Stakes, only to notch up another graded stakes victory in the next event with Rebel King.

o If your business is selling horses, having a graded stakes winner related to one of your entries on the eve of its appearance in the ring hopefully contributes a little extra to the bottom line, so Rebel King’s swoop in the dying stages of the Senor Santa not only took him another step closer to Champion Sprinter honours, but also added value to his yearling brother Uncle Tommy, who became the sales-topper (first and second sessions) yesterday afternoon – more on that later.

o That’s not the lot though, as Lot 305, Imbongi’s half sister by Solskjaer saw her page significantly lifted this weekend with juvenile Mahubo’s Grade 3 third on debut, and Spring Garland’s magnificent defeat of the nation’s second-rated female runner, She’s On Fire in the time-honoured Gerald Rosenberg Stakes G2.

o Not to be outdone, the evening meeting at Greyville kicked off with a trifecta straightliner for KAHAL, who notched up three in rapid succession.

Another great day at the office….

National Yearling Sale '09 Update

charles laird (heather morkel)Charles Laird at the TBA Sales Complex, Gosforth Park, Johannesburg
(Photo : Heather Morkel)

“AS THINGS STAND, THIS WAS A GOOD RESULT”

Look, let’s not forget, this is only a news flash reflecting just one night’s business, but on the face of things, a horse sale which is only 21,7% off last year’s record highs, given the state of the international economy, has to be a good result.

With international bourses down 40-50% and our own stock market in a 30% retreat, you’d have expected at least a similar outcome at the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale. But those who tuned in to Alec Hogg’s interview with Summerhill’s Mick Goss on Moneyweb’s business affairs programme last evening, would have been buoyed by the news of the number of “wannabe” buyers parading through the TBA’s sales complex at Gosforth Park, in the days leading into the sale, and his prediction that the “ponies” would outperform the market.

Like the three kings of biblical fame, they’ve come from the UK, the USA, Hong Kong, Australia, France and Singapore, to pay their respects to the cream of South African breeding, and from what we’ve heard, they’ve not been disappointed at what’s on show.

In the end, an average of R306 500 was a pleasing return, especially in the light of the fact there were only three millionaires in the evening to influence matters, and nothing approaching R2million.

Battle of the night, despite a top price of R1,5million, was the right to own the Spectrum half sister to Warm White Night and dual Gold Cup hero, Highland Night, in which the formidable combination of Markus Jooste and Charles Laird finally prevailed at R1,3million.

What is evident thus far, is that the gap between the progeny of the big three sires and those of the next tier, is no longer so glaringly apparent. Emerging sires Kahal, Muhtafal, National Emblem and Captain Al are growing in popularity with every sale, which the Summerhill team has to be delighted with the first showing of Cataloochees (2 fillies at R350k and R210k respectively), while Solskjaer is expected to kickoff in a big way Sunday.

Highlights of Summerhill’s evening were a R450k Kahal, brother to Gold Cup winner, Desert Links, (sold for the late Sheikh Maktoum’s Financial Director Stephen Gill, and Greig and Michelle Muir’s Muhtafal own sister to Alejate, at a cool R425k from the indomitable Michael Azzie.

Click here to listen to Alec Hogg’s interview with Mick Goss

Kiaran McLaughlin scoops Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil

kiaran mclaughlan (michael nefdt)

Kiaran McLaughlan
(Photos : DRC/Nafips)

 

Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil are likely heading for the tracks of the US where they will join the stable of Kiaran McLaughlin.

 

Reigning champion trainer of South Africa, Mike de Kock, saddled both of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s runners to victories in the UAE Derby, with the former taking the event in 2007 and the latter winning a year ago.


Asiatic Boy is coming off a disappointing result in the Dubai World Cup (Gr1), where he finished back in 12th, from the field of 14.

“We will assess options for Asiatic Boy when we see how he has come out of Saturday, as he had a hard race,” Mike de Kock told The Racing Post from Dubai, adding that Asiatic Boy returned from the race coughing. “However, it is quite likely he (Asiatic Boy) and Honour Devil will go to Kiaran McLaughlin for the New York summer season. Asiatic Boy will probably then retire to Argentina and Honour Devil come back, hopefully for a World Cup bid. Saturday was disappointing. Asiatic Boy had won well on Super Thursday, but a slow start and traffic problems in the World Cup soon had him in trouble. He is obviously far better than that and came back coughing and just was not able to show how good he is, which is a shame. But that’s racing, and he will have another big day, I am sure, in America.”

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“PARIS” almost PERFECT in Dubai

Paris Perfect (Muhtafal)
(Photo : Robin Bruss/Summerhill)

For all the big race action back home, the performance of the weekend, at least from a Summerhill perspective, belonged to Muhtafal’s son, Paris Perfect, in the Dubai World Cup (Gr.1) proper. In stark contrast to earlier years, his 3rd to Well Armed in the richest race on earth was a powerful tribute to his sire as well as his breeder, Gail Fabricius, not to mention the exertions of the Bruss brothers, Robin and Neil, who got him there for Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Astonishing isn’t it, that a little fellow who started out life on a farm 10kms outside the shabbiest little dorp in the Midlands, then earned his laurels in comparatively modest Port Elizabeth, should stand up when the heat of battle calls, and say “count on me”.

As we’ve so often said, “if we were going to war, Muhtafal would be our general”.

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NO PLAY WITHOUT PUNCH

chris van niekerk (summerhill stud)Chris van Niekerk
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

Anyone reckoning on counting Summerhill out of the “Big Race” picture this weekend though, was going to get his nose bloodied in emphatic style. Peter Fabricius millionaire, Hear The Drums, came home for his 21st victory in the East Cape Sprint (Listed), while a masterful ride from one of the world’s best pilots, Felix Coetzee, got seven year old Bayete coasting in the Caradoc Gold Cup (Gr.3). That Bayete gets better with age is a tribute to patience and perseverance, and this fellow’s lucky to belong to Chris van Niekerk and to be trained by Sean Tarry.

Greyville’s King’s Cup (Gr.3) very nearly witnessed a Summerhill hat trick as the luckless Thandolwami, Tap Tap and El Padrino ran up 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the race that kicks off the KZN Winter season.

FOREST PATH and GYPSY'S WARNING : The Big Stakes Weekend

gypsy's warning (michael nefdt)KwaZulu Natal-bred Gypsy’s Warning
Grade 1 SA Fillies Classic Champion 2009
(Photos : Team Valor/Summerhill)

The world’s eyes were on Dubai this weekend, but South Africans were torn in where to fix their focus. Phumelela were celebrating one of two pinnacles in their autumn season with six Graded Stakes races on the menu, while the richest meeting in the world was spewing out surprise after surprise, which had parallels only in the tipping rain which preceded the meeting by a day and a half.

The Dubai World Cup might well have been one of Mike de Kock’s more “ordinary” days at the office, but such is the man and his team that they still produced the winner of South Africa’s richest race for three year olds, when Bridget Oppenheimer’s Forest Path, got home in a stirring tussle for the R2million SA Classic (Gr.1). As if to emphasize the growing “internationalism” of our racing, America’s Team Valor ran off with the spoils in the Fillies’ equivalent, albeit with the KwaZulu Natal-bred Gypsy’s Warning.

Countdown to Dubai World Cup Extravaganza

Art Of War
(Photo : ERA) 

 

R250 MILLION AT STAKE:
WHO’LL GET THE LION’S SHARE?

Sheikh Mohammed’s great racing extravaganza goes to the wire on Saturday evening. The racing programmes of most countries have taken centuries to sculpt, yet the Maktoum Family have managed to put together our sport’s most spectacular showpiece in a matter of a decade. Whatever else the Dubai World Cup meeting may be, it’s the undisputed leader in prize money. Simply put, it is racing’s richest day.

South African-connected horses have developed an enviable record through the exploits mainly of Mike de Kock and his compatriot, Herman Brown Jnr, in the past six or seven seasons. In two of the past three years, Mike de Kock singlehandedly took home a third of the evening’s six prizes, and last year, between him and Herman Brown, they accounted for 50% (or three) of the night’s best entertainment. What that equated to in Rand earnings, we’re not sure, but it must’ve been close to R50 million, a number that would’ve had a number of the world’s top racing countries sneezing.

Whichever way you look at it, what it did signal was the arrival, once and for all, of South Africa’s horses and South Africa’s horsemen on the world racing stage, and we have the exploits of these fellows to thank for the fact that our stock, about to go to the Emperor’s Palace National Yearling Sales, are now firmly in the sights of anyone looking for a good horse at a fair price. South African horses have no peers when it comes to value, simple as that.

Back to Saturday evening’s events, it’s unfortunate Imbongi won’t be lining up for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, so he’ll be going to Hong Kong for the Group One mile a fresh horse, if that’s any consolation.

However, there’ll still be two graduates of the farm in action at a meeting which commences at 5pm, the first of which is Art Of War, who’ll be doing battle for the country in the $2 million Godolphin Mile. He’s been one of the revelations of the Dubai Carnival, and we’re looking for a bold showing from this nuggety little son of the emerging giant among South African sires, Kahal.

Muhtafal is represented by Gail Fabricius’ Summerhill-bred and raised Paris Perfect, erstwhile Horse Of The Year in the Eastern Cape. It will come as no small boost to that regions racing to know that a horse that started out in Port Elizabeth, has made the cut for the richest race in the world from his new base in Saudi Arabia, from whence we’re hearing good things from his trainer, Neil Bruss, about his prospects. Let’s not forget, he takes on some of the best horses in the world at a distance which is arguably further than his optimum, but you can never get a good man down, especially when his father is Muhtafal.

Whatever the outcome, you can bet on a great show, and we’ll all be rooting like hell from the Summerhill office when the games get underway.

ASIATIC BOY... The Man-Eater

asiatic boy dubai world cup (michael nefdt)Asiatic Boy
(Photos : Mike de Kock Racing/DRC)

Mike de Kock is loaded for the Dubai World Cup”, writes Marcus Hersh for America’s Turf Authority, Daily Racing Form :

“They came whizzing past the Nad Al Sheba grandstand about 6:30 Tuesday morning like this was a Los Angeles freeway. No sooner had trainer Mike de Kock turned his binoculars away from one pair of work horses than the glasses were trained on another pair breaking off down the backstretch. In all, eight Mike de Kock horses breezed in quick succession, and barring misfortune, all will run on the Dubai World Cup program here Saturday night. The filly Front House, one of the favorites in the $5 million Sheema Classic, exercised on a treadmill rather than the racetrack Tuesday. And Mike de Kock’s 10th World Cup Night horse, Asiatic Boy, was still back at the training yard.

An hour after those eight worked, Asiatic Boy had his final drill for the $6 million Dubai World Cup, breezing who knows how far over the brand spanking new training track constructed to accompany the new Meydan racetrack that opens next winter. Reaching out eagerly over the pristine Tapeta synthetic surface, Asiatic Boy did nothing to dispel the notion that this is his year. Two winters ago, he looked like a future World Cup winner, romping by almost 10 lengths in the UAE Derby. Last year, he ran into a little problem finishing second in the World Cup – a horse named Curlin. But Asiatic Boy’s preparations for the big race have gone more smoothly this time, a year when there is no standout like Curlin. Asiatic Boy’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum of Dubai, can now only hope for a decent draw and racing luck.

“It’s his dream to win this race,” Mike de Kock said.

Sheikh Mohammed’s dream, and maybe Mike de Kock’s destiny. The South African master horseman has settled into a position as Dubai’s most prominent trainer not named Saeed bin Suroor. On last year’s World Cup card he won two races - the UAE Derby with Honour Devil and the Sheema Classic with Sun Classique - and finished second in two others. While maintaining a strong presence in South Africa (he has three entries in the second leg of the South African Triple Crown on Saturday), Mike de Kock gears his winter around the Dubai Winter Carnival and to an even greater extent the World Cup program itself. And his horses have a way of showing their best when it counts.

If that happens, Mike de Kock could win three Saturday night. Arlington Million runner-up Archipenko, who had an easy turf work Tuesday in company with Lucky Find, was a troubled second in the 2008 Dubai Duty Free and is one of the top horses in this year’s race. Mike de Kock also pre-entered two other capable horses in the Dubai Duty Free, Russian Sage and Bankable. And even with his top 12-furlong horse Eagle Mountain injured and out of the Sheema Classic, he has Front House, King of Rome, and Macarthur for that race.

Argentine-bred Asiatic Boy will be Mike de Kock’s lone World Cup starter, with World Cup hopes for Honour Devil abandoned this week. But one might be enough. Asiatic Boy was purchased out of South America in summer 2006 and has made 9 of his 11 starts since at Nad Al Sheba. In summer 2007, he was taken to England for a turf campaign, finishing fourth and fifth in a pair of Group 1’s; Asiatic Boy was there last summer, too, but never raced.

“In England, he was never himself,” Mike de Kock said. “He had all kinds of little respiratory infections and things.”

And European turf racing also cut down Asiatic Boy’s form.

“He wants it firm and fast,” Mike de Kock said. “He wants to stay on top of the ground.”

But a one-surface pony Asiatic Boy is not, and he handles synthetic tracks at least as well as dirt. The horse’s affinity for both surfaces, and his discomfort on Euro-style turf, has led his connections to contemplate a U.S. invasion later this year.

Mike de Kock said the horse “flew over the ground” training on all-weather surfaces in England, and his all-weather work Tuesday drew high praise from Mike de Kock. The old dirt training track here, which Mike de Kock used regularly, closed this winter, and the new training track opened only three days ago. Set on high ground about a half-mile southwest of Nad Al Sheba, the nine-furlong track is mainly still a construction zone. A turf oval inside the Tapeta track has yet to be installed, the viewing building situated in the middle of the stretch is a work in progress, and there are no furlong poles up yet. Mike de Kock not only did not know how fast Asiatic Boy had worked, he did not know exactly how far.

But time meant little to Mike de Kock compared to the way Asiatic Boy stretched out over the surface. Tuesday marked Asiatic Boy’s second day on the Tapeta track, and spending the week of the World Cup on the synthetic surface could boost his chances Saturday. Training every day on dirt, Asiatic Boy has recently seemed unhappy and vaguely flat to his handlers.

“He tried to get me today,” Mike de Kock happily exclaimed, back at his office an hour later. “It was like the old Asiatic Boy. He’s a man-eater. I’ve been going out of my head, really, the last couple weeks, going back over my training books to see what we were doing before.”

While Mike de Kock has had as much success as anyone on the Nad Al Sheba dirt, he does not care for the surface.

“The dirt track here is not good for horses,” he said. The kickback in behind the pace can be intense, and trailing runners are at a major disadvantage. “You train for speed and stamina. Half the time, you’re training here just to make sure nothing’s going wrong.”

What can go wrong with Asiatic Boy are his hind feet. Mike de Kock said the horse is among the soundest he’s seen, but twice he has lost the inside part of a hind hoof. When he trains, he doesn’t wear shoes on his hind feet, which are shod only the day of the race.

And this much is likely: Asiatic Boy will have his running shoes on Saturday night.”