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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.

RICHARD MAPONYA : Spirit of African Entrepreneurship

richard maponya and shemaghRichard Maponya and Shemagh
(Realtime/Maponya Mall/Summerhill)

AFRICA’S GREATEST ENTREPRENEURS :
SIR RICHARD BRANSON’S ENDORSEMENT

A new book on remarkable achievement has just been released, and interestingly, Richard Branson wrote the foreword. In it, he says “that across Africa, the spirit of entrepreneurship is very much alive, leaving me constantly amazed by the incredible energy and determination and innovation coming from entrepreneurs across the continent”.

Acknowledging Pliny The Elder’s Latin statement : ex Africa semper aliquid novi, (out of Africa there is always something new), the Nigerian born author, Moki Miqura identifies sixteen dynamic and outstandingly daring African men, who’ve built sustainable enterprises which can be benchmarked alongside the best in the world. The author tells us that these men have worked ingeniously within the context of the historical, economic and political climates of their respective countries; manoeuvred their way through hostile business environments, antagonistic governments, repressive systems, personal poverty and even a lack of education, to be counted among some of the world’s most formidable giants of business.

One of these sixteen achievers is South Africa’s Richard Maponya, who against all odds and obstacles presented by the apartheid government, is today one of the most celebrated and respected entrepreneurs in South Africa. Maponya succeeded in achieving many firsts in South Africa. He was the first person to open a dairy shop and milk delivery service in Soweto. He also brought the township its first grocery store which grew into a lucrative chain of eight Soweto-based discount supermarkets, making him (at one time) the single largest employer in Soweto.

In 2007 Richard’s long-lived dream finally came true when he opened Maponya Mall, the country’s first mega-mall to be built in a township. His simple statement on his latest achievement is “Sowetans deserve the best”, and in his recent acquisition of Shemagh (by Malhub out of the Northern Guest mare Dress Code) at November’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale, we’d like to think that Richard Maponya, in his own right, deserves the best. Well done, Michael Azzie, for bringing this struggle icon back into the game.

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEIKH

sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoumHis Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Matoum
(Photo : Summerhill Sires Brochure 2008/2009)

It’s a strange marvel of human behaviour that racing induces such incredible emotions in us. When all is said and done, true racing people are made of the same stuff, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifah Al Maktoum is no different. Speaking to his right-hand man, Mohammed Khaleel, in the wake of Thursday evening’s events in Dubai, he spoke of the Sheikh’s ecstasy at Asiatic Boy’s grand run, but he was no less complimentary about the efforts of Art Of War and Imbongi.

You’d think their thoughts were riveted solely on racing’s big night at the end of March, yet it’s a measure of Sheikh Mohammed and his team that, at times like this, they have the grace to think of the origins of these horses. Sheikh Mohammed was quick to recall that all of Imbongi and Art of War, Galant Gagnant and Umngazi were graduates of the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale, and he wished us long life with the sale henceforward. In his view, this is a prime source of top thoroughbreds, and he was quick to add the hope that this year’s crop would be comparable with the class of 2007. No doubt, music to the ears of Bob Yearham and his merry team at Emperors Palace.

It seems Imbongi is not the only one who might’ve booked his ticket for World Cup night. It’s possible little Art Of War gets his moment in the sunshine (or should we say the moonshine, too) in the Dubai World Cup itself.

No doubt, the likes of Barry Clements, Rodney Thorpe and Roger Zeeman had little inkling that the matings of their respective mares to Russian Revival and Kahal that year, would yield results which would one day have their names in lights at the richest racing spectacle on earth.

DUBAI: NO MORE REHEARSALS

imbongi and kevin sheaImbongi
(DRC/PPC)

Last night brought down the curtain on the last of the big trials for racing’s richest meeting, the Dubai World Cup. There were many South African-connected steeds on display, and Mike de Kock will count it as a good day at the office.

From a Summerhill perspective, we had to be happy with the proceedings, though Imbongi must’ve been among the unlucky ones on the night. In what looked to be the “deep end” for Art Of War, in a race in which the famous likes of Dubai Millennium, Street Cry, and Electrocutionist have honed their claws for the big day, this little chap was asked to do it the hard way, out in front, while his illustrious stable companion, Asiatic Boy, bided his time three wide, out of the kick-back. Let’s not forget, Asiatic Boy was second in the World Cup itself a year ago to no less a horse than the world champion, Curlin, so having your name mentioned on the same card was something in itself of an honour for this unusually small son of Kahal. Yet he gutsed it out from the start, led through the bend, and kicked on courageously in the strait, hanging on grimly for third in the dying stages, while Asiatic Boy will be spot on for another crack at $6 million loot at the end of March.

Imbongi was in a tough one here, including grand Japanese filly, Vodka, who’s just been voted Horse Of The Year in her homeland. Also in the field were last year’s Duty Free hero, Jay Peg, (subsequent winner of the Singapore Airlines Cup Gr.1 as well); the Cape Derby and Daily News 2000 ace, Russian Sage, Summer Cup winner, Strategic News, and any number of international Group One and Two competitors.

The big worry for those of us who know Imbongi, was whether or not he would see out the 1770 m of the race, as this was relatively new territory for him, so it was to his great credit that in the last 150 metres of the race, there was nothing travelling better than he was. Pocketed in (like Vodka was), Imbongi saw daylight for the first time when the race was all but over, but once Kevin Shea had extracted him, he flew to get up for the minor money, while another stride or two might’ve put him in second.

Mike de Kock was more than frustrated after the event, proclaiming to Mick Goss that he thought the horse should’ve won with something to spare, if he’d got a run. It’s all the better news that he came out of the race well, and according to Mike, he’s hopeful he’ll qualify for a crack at the $5 million Dubai Duty Free over the course and distance, on the big night.

SUPER THURSDAY IS HERE AT LAST!

watching super thursday on tv“Go Boys!”

megan romeynMegan RomeynThe boss is back from his Australian travels today, just in time to witness the performances of two Summerhill-breds at Nad Al Sheba tonight.

Summerhill Ready To Run graduate, Art Of War, lines up for the feature race of the evening, the $300,000 Al Maktoum Challenge (Gr.2) third round over 2000m on dirt. This race is seen as a stepping stone for the $6million Dubai World Cup which is run over the same 10 furlong distance. Mike de Kock is cautiously optimistic about the son of Kahal who ran an impressive second in last Thursday’s Meydan Hotel Trophy over 1800m, behind the classy Gloria de Campeao. Art Of War has had a super Carnival and although well drawn (1) is perhaps an optimistic entry for us here, although he continues in good form at home,” said Mike de Kock. Art Of War will face some stiff competition in the form of 2008 Dubai World Cup runner-up, Asiatic Boy, who missed out behind Curlin in last year’s race, although Asiatic Boy does have a tough draw (15) to overcome.

The second Summerhill contender on Super Thursday is 2008 KZN Horse Of The Year, Imbongi, who lines up in the 1777m Jebel Hatta (Gr.2) on turf, a Dubai Duty Free trial. Imbongi will face a barrage of tough competition in the form of Russian Sage, Biarritz, Strategic News, Jay Peg and Japanese hope Vodka. According to Mike de Kock, Imbongi is better over a shorter distance, but is a horse that is in peak physical condition. Herman Brown Jnr, trainer of 2008 Dubai Duty Free victor, Jay Peg, says that his charge is coming along well and that he is confident of a solid performance.

Honour Devil, winner of the 2008 UAE Derby, will get his chance again tonight when he faces a host of Group winners in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (Gr.3) over 1600m on dirt. Honour Devil steps up against the likes of Jalil, Summer Doldrums and Racecar Rhapsody in this prep race for the 1600m Godolphin Mile (Gr.2). Mike de Kock says, Honour Devil is well drawn (1) and ran as we expected first time, as he would have badly needed that run (when third in a conditions race).”

Although he wouldn’t be drawn into predictions, Mike de Kock is cautiously optimistic about the chances of Diana’s Choice and Hunting Tower who both line up in the Mahab Al Shimaal, a 1200m sprint on dirt that features Breeders’ Cup runner-up, Diabolical.

With so many South African runners and so many thrilling races on the Super Thursday card tonight, you can just imagine where the entire Summerhill team will be – cemented in front of the TV!

Archipenko, JJ The Jet Plane and Art Of War

mike de kock dubaiMike de Kock
(John Lewis/Dubai City)

Well, what a night of racing in the Dubai desert for Team Mike de Kock, as well as for South African horseracing.

With runners in only three races in Thursday night’s Dubai Racing Carnival spectacle, Mike de Kock and team made each race count!

A stellar run for second by Art Of War in the Meydan Hotel Trophy over 1800m on dirt was arguably the best UAE performance to date for this fighting son of Summerhill stallion Kahal. Art of War, a graduate of the Summerhill Ready To Run, courageously chased the seasoned campaigner, Gloria De Campeao, all the way to the line under jockey Johnny Murtagh.

JJ The Jet Plane, South African Champion Sprinter, exploded out the gates in the Al Quoz Sprint over 1200m on turf. Kevin Shea settled him just off the pace before igniting the afterburners from two furlongs out to win convincingly from Hatta Fort.

Then it was the turn of Archipenko, a son of Kingmambo, to test his class in the Zabeel Mile over 1600m on Turf, his first run since August 2008. Kevin Shea settled Archipenko two wide in second before upping the pace with 400m to go, driving across the line unthreatened.

Congratulation to Mike de Kock and team as well as to all the successful connections… class does tell.

BACK AT THE RANCH

summerhill yearlingsPreparations for the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales
(Photo : Grant Norval)


“Extract from the Summerhill Stud Client Newsletter”

Raging bushfires in Australia, icy conditions in Europe and the financial melt-down all add up to a lot of tough stuff, yet if you were sitting here and weren’t reading the papers or watching TV, you’d be wondering what all the fuss was about.

We’ve just completed a record Ready To Run Sale, the local economy is still growing, albeit it slowly, our cricketers are on fire, and the Cape Yearling Sale was up almost 10% on average, very much against the international trend. While the chill wind is obviously still going to blow, it seems as if South Africa is sitting a little prettier than most. There are those who might lament the Rand’s 30% depreciation in October, but for exporters and our foreign customers, its music to the ears.

Besides, Imbongi and Art Of War have both ran crackers, the latter victorious by 8,5 lengths on Thursday in Dubai. You never know, but we’re always cogniscent that the Dubai Duty Free (& others) are worth US$5 million each!

So what’s up at the ranch? We’re in the process of weaning one of the best crops of foals we’ve seen, at the same time attending to their micro-chipping (for id purposes). It’s business plan and budget time too, and with our broad management structure, we have every divisional head beavering away at their plans for the year and their departmental sums.

Land preparation for the autumn and winter pastures has just started, and we’re a month into the preparation of a terrific bunch of yearlings for the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales.

(Click here for the low down)

Interestingly, we’ve sold a number of horses in training and mares off the farm in recent weeks, and there’s been good international interest from Hong Kong, Pakistan (of all places) and Mauritius, alongside solid domestic demand. It seems people are still buying racehorses (either for the revenue or the “fun” dividend) in preference to motor cars, because that segment of the economy has really gone quiet. I should add, the horses are making their money, so there’ve been no giveaways.

(Click here to view what we have left to offer)

Hartford House is “pumping” at the moment, and there’s hardly place at the inn on a weekend well into May, so this is the “early warning” system reminding our friends that the July weekend, our Stallion Day and the KZN Broodmare sale (Thursday 2-8 July) are likely to be swallowed up very soon. I would recommend, if you’re keen to attend the races, Stallion Day, or the Broodmare and Yearling sale that you book soon.

This note comes, as always, with our best wishes from everyone at Summerhill.

ART OF WAR : The Vindication


Art Of War winning the Wheels 2000 at Nad Al Sheba

When Imbongi, Desert Links, Art Of War and Galant Gagnant became the targets of international offers and ambitions, we knew that our Breeder’s Championship aspirations for 2009 were likely to be imperilled. These, after all, were among Summerhill’s best performers of the last season, and while the likes of Rebel King and Outcome have since provided some local reassurance in the Grade One victories they’ve delivered in the interim, the earnings of horses of this ilk would’ve been material, no matter your perspective.

The consolation then, lies in the performances that led them to the faraway lands they now populate, and last night, in the sands of Dubai, Art Of War delivered his own compliment to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum’s wisdom in taking him out for the Carnival.

His swansong in South Africa was a seven length victory over 1600m in the Vaal sand, and it was reasonable to expect that a repeat of that margin of victory was unlikely. Yet, in the full glare of last evening’s international television audience, Art Of War didn’t only take on a decent field of horses drawn from across the globe, he pretty much annihilated them, cruising away by 8.5 lengths.

Like Imbongi, Desert Links and Galant Gagnant, Art Of War was yet another graduate of Summerhill’s Ready To Run programme, Sheikh Mohammed splashing out R360 000 to acquire the son of Kahal. In another repeat, Art Of War is a product of the now famous cross of Kahal on Northern Guest mares, his dam being the once raced Cariad, whose only performance at the races yielded an excellent second in the colours of Rodney Thorpe and Roger Zeeman at Greyville. Cariad has a Malhub colt on the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales in April.

VANGELIS : Patience Pays

robert and robin muirRobert and Robin Muir at the annual Summerhill Stallion Day
(Summerhill Stud)

Vangelis’ run away win in the East Cape’s top liner on Friday was a salute to perseverance. The day this man was born, our Foal Care Manager at the time, T.K.Nkabinde, proclaimed him a Derby prospect; that, unfortunately, was not to be. Within two months of his arrival, the horse that would become Vangelis revealed a distinct lameness in his shoulder, and he carried this right through his yearling year. A lovely big colt bred on the same lines as and reminiscent of Emperor Napoleon (the deadly cross of Kahal on a Northern Guest mare) would undoubtedly have been one of our top commercial prospects of his year at the sales, but he was scratched from all his engagements, including the later Ready To Run, while we were tearing our hair out trying to decide what to do with the colt.

As with Humpty Dumpty, “all the Kings men and all the King’s horses” were called upon to express their opinions and find a remedy, but it all came to nought. In the end, Michael Booysens, a Zulu gent who was abandoned at Summerhill at six or seven years of age and has since become a folklore character of the place, suggested that we treat Vangelis’ condition as a “mechanical” lameness, and that we “ride” him through it. In the end, his advice was prophetic, and within two months of us starting with the horse, he began to move with only a hint of lameness.

That he still carries this condition to a small degree, is as much a testimony to his courage and will to race, as it is to Michael’s instincts as a horseman. Last weekend, Vangelis racked up his sixth victory from eleven starts, and from the manner of his achieving it, he’s not done yet.

Going back a little, our old mate, Robert Muir, happened to be staying at Hartford House on one of his frequent visits from the United States. He turned up at the early morning exercise session, took one look at Vangelis and bought a half from the estate of the late Colly Fram. Robert has owned many great horses in his time, Argonaut, Cataloochee and Candidato Roy among them, yet he’s never had a braver one look through a bridle.

SEA COTTAGE STAKES : Tribute to a Grand Old Man

sea cottageSea Cottage
(Summerhill Stud Library)

When the handicappers of South Africa met in 2000, to pick the best horse of the previous century, they settled on the names of Sea Cottage, Mowgli, Colorado King, Hawaii and Horse Chestnut. While Hartford-born Mowgli was the only one to garner two votes (and might, for obvious reasons, be our sentimental favourite) there’s no denying, that for us at any rate, the best we’ve known was Sea Cottage.

That he’s been demeaned in having a race of only Listed status bestowed upon him, doesn’t detract from the merit of Fenerbahce’s sterling victory in Sunday’s renewal of the race that takes its name from the legend. A creditable second for this R425,000 graduate of the Emperors Palace Ready to Run Sale in November’s Ready to Run Cup, Fenerbahce showed admirable improvement in getting up to beat the Dingaans Gr2 second, Captain’s Table, while the fourth horse home in that event, Broadsword, finished third. The result franked the best form of Gauteng’s top three-year-olds of this season, and with Fenerbahce looking like a horse with improvement to come, and still racing a little green, Andrew Fortune may well be right in his post race interview, in proclaiming this a Derby horse.

Fenerbahce is among five smart purchases for our Turkish friends Fedai Kahraman and Berdan Yerlikaya, and he is the second decent Summerhill winner this week for the Gary Alexander stables, following Bhekinkhosi’s win in the top-liner at Turffontein mid-week.

MYSTIC KEEPS THE FLAG FLYING

hanging stirrups and helmets

During what has been a relatively quiet time for Summerhill-breds on the racetrack, Mystic kept the flag flying for us at the Vaal yesterday. Running like a horse possessed he dug deep in the Merit rated 92 Handicap over 1450m on the sand to beat Argo Bay, Infinite Spirit (a R700 000 purchase and G1 placed) and The Giant (a AUS$ 200 000 australian import).

This little horse with a big heart is yet another success story from the Ready to Run sale. He was bought for R90 000, has now earned a tad over R280 000 and looks to have a few more in the tank.

Congratulations to all the connections: Sean Tarry, Scott Kenny, Devon Habib, Greg Blank, S Appanna, D Yutar, HN Yutar and AR Burke.

THE TAPESTRY OF LIFE: Always Rich in the Silly Season

richard haynes and mick gossRichard Haynes and Mick Goss

It’s one of the great pleasures of working at Summerhill that our lives are brightened by the regular visits of people from all over the world. Those that read these columns will remember that on Stallion Day this year, we were honoured by the attendance of people from 14 different nations, and while that’s probably a record of its own for any one day, it’s a fact of life here that we have people from all corners of the globe calling on us at different times of the year.

Linda Norval and her cohorts entertain people every day of the year (yes, somehow Christmas and Good Friday included) at the Summerhill Visitor’s complex, and often enough, a visit includes at least tea, if not a fine lunch.

Many of these people stay over, enjoying the wonders of Hartford House, and soaking up the atmosphere of an authentic African farm. At lunch earlier in the week, we had our long-time friend, Wayne Aldridge from Sydney (Wayne was the founder of the Equine Insurance Group when it previously traded as Delta Bloodstock), Richard Haynes from New Zealand Bloodstock, Dick and Anne Pemberton from East England, while the evening before we hosted South Africa’s favourite investor, Jim Hay’s English trainer Tom Tate and his lovely wife Hazel. Tom is a past trainer representative in the UK on the British Horseracing Board. For the record, Hazel, a talented trainer in her own right, is the sister of Michael Dickinson, the only man to saddle the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and both of them descend from one of England’s most famous dynasties.

Last Tuesday we were on duty again with Peter and Alison Brown, breeders of Outcome (crowned Champion Filly at the KZN Breeding Awards last weekend), ex CNA boss, Ian Outram and his wife Deidre, and Tony and Dale Feasey, buyers of last year’s top lot at the Ready To Run sale.

Just a few days ago, we were honoured with a visit by two legends of Australia, Antony Thompson of the spectacularly famous Widden Stud (at the top end of the Hunter Valley), and fourth generation success, John Kelly of the celebrated Newhaven Park Stud, where the likes of Wilkes, Luscan Star and Marauding made their names as the resident sires.

Students of the breeding game will tell you that there are very few farms anywhere that have survived successfully for more than three generations, yet Australia seems to be the gleaming exception, certainly in the case of these two properties.

Antony and John were here as ambassadors of Aushorse, the marketing arm of the Australian TBA, where Antony is the successor to John Messara as chairman, and John serves on the board of directors. We’re always honoured when men of this calibre visit us, and we always feel the wealthier (and indeed, smarter) for what they leave behind.

(Photo kindly supplied by Richard Haynes)

The Power of the Positive

positive

It’s been a helluva year for Summerhill. New records at the races, new benchmarks for the trade, and a brand new Breeder’s Championship, for the fourth consecutive year. You’d think we’d be quite pleased with ourselves, and we’d be kidding if we didn’t admit to feeling a bit lucky.

Yet this is the time to give credit where credit is due. As a business, we‘re more dependent on people than most. Mainly because we started with nothing, and without relationships, we’d have ended with nothing. We owe everything to the people around us. Our customers, those that keep their horses with us, and those that support our sales. Our suppliers, our advisers, our bankers. Our trainers, our jockeys, our agents. Those that promote our sport in the media, and the fellows that lay on the show. The fans in the stands, and the punters at the rail. To our colleagues, the breeders, who kept us at our game, and played it the way it should be. Thank you. We re proud to call you our friends.


And then finally, to our own team, and the horses they’ve raised. You’ve set new standards in the way things are done. Encore for your dedication, your integrity and your decency, and as much as anything, your ingenuity. You’re the reason we get up in the mornings.

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SOUTH AFRICA : Unshakeable, Untameable, Unbeatable

south_africa

“Click image above to view full screen”

As the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale approached, we repeatedly spoke of our unshakeable belief in the courage and foresight of our fellow South Africans.

There were many who might’ve felt we were overly optimistic. But overcoming adversity is not new to our countrymen. We’ve had to deal with major crises in the past, and we know what it takes.

While the outcome of the Sale exceeded our expectations, it was just another great case of South Africa at work. People looking forward, knowing that next year is next year, that there’ll still be Julys, Mets and Summer Cups to be won.

People with vision, with guts and a love of our game. Like few others anywhere.

Racing people appreciating good horses, fine horsemanship and relishing the challenge. For the lion’s share of the spoils at next year’s “Emperors Cup”. For a million and a half.

So from the Number One Farm in South Africa to the Number One Nation on Earth, Thank You.

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JUDGEMENT DAY: PILATE PRONOUNCES

tobie_spies_john_kramerTobie Spies and John Kramer
(Photo : Grant Norval)

In the life of any racehorse breeding establishment, the judging of a farm’s stock by independent experts is always a signal event. Wednesday was such a day.

Every producer has a different approach to the way he raises his horses, and it’s a well-documented fact that at Summerhill, more than most, Mother Nature plays a primary role. While some have been preparing their horses for this event for several months now, our way is to leave them out in our “organic” environment for as long as possible, avoiding the stress of incarceration and human intervention, and asking the elements and the wonderful world we live in, to continue their good work in shaping the futures of our horses.

While the old saying that there are “different strokes for different folks” was never more appropriate than it is in the horse business, the reality is the way we do it works for Summerhill, manifesting itself as patently as anyone could hope for in four consecutive Breeders’ Championships. That’s not to say that we’re right and everyone else is wrong; it’s simply that, in the model we follow, it seems to be the best way to proceed.

Every new crop of youngsters brings new challenges, and whenever there are the progeny of new stallions, there is new excitement. That said, we usually deal with the first stock of a debutant stallion on the basis of entering just a few of them for the showcase National Sales, preferring to keep a good number back for the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, where we can work closely with them, and understand their individual idiosyncrasies. This way we get to know how they respond to the making- and-breaking process, how quickly they learn, how they handle the rigours of exercise and being ridden, what their temperaments are like, what sort of actions they have, how durable they are and whether the mating which has produced that particular individual, is worth pursuing in future. The Ready To Run has been a great instrument in advancing Summerhill’s cause over the years, and has been a grand educational lesson for all of us.

We’ve often proclaimed the virtues of South Africa’s horsemen, and we point to the achievements of our jockeys, trainers and breeders on the international circuit as evidence of this. In Hong Kong, where the pursuit of the jockeys’ title is something every self-respecting rider in the world will take on at some point in his career, the Jockeys’ Championship has been in South African hands for seventeen of the past eighteen seasons (think Basil Marcus, Dougie White, Felix Coetzee, Robbie Fradd and Bartie Leisher), while the likes of trainers Mike de Kock and Herman Brown in Dubai, Patrick Shaw in Singapore and David Ferraris and Tony Millard in Hong Kong have illustrated the validity of this statement time and again. Of course, often enough they’re doing it with South African-bred horses, and that says something about the establishments that produced them.

We’re no less blessed in the quality of the intellectuals that bestride our game, and in the judges that are sent to the farms to cast their eyes over our yearlings. John Kramer, who’s been around since Methusalah, is as astute as anyone we know, with a far-sighted vision which is right nine times out of ten, when it comes to his expectations of what a horse will look like down the road. His assistant is the celebrated ex trainer, Tobie Spies, who in his day as an active conditioner of racehorses, was as hard-working a man as we knew at the sales.

There wasn’t a horse in the catalogue Tobie wouldn’t look at every sale he attended, and then he’d short-list his favourites and make sure, when the hammer fell in his favour, that it represented good value. Twice in the first four runnings of the old Bloodline Million, he managed to pull the needles out of the proverbial haystack.

The judges were more than complimentary about the draft in general, and they warmed particularly to the first progeny of Solskjaer and Cataloochee, each of whom claimed two of the top horses in the draft on points. In fact, the bulk of their horses earned “8’s” and above, and you couldn’t get off to a better start with a first crop sire than that. All three of the Hobb Alwahtans entered scored well, too, and so we’ll be looking to a good sale from these “freshmen”.

Besides a liberal sprinkling from our stalwarts, Kahal and Muhtafal in the line-up, we have a quality entry from some of the world’s best young stallions in Street Cry, Johannesburg, Shamardal and the old war horse, Royal Academy. Four of these are fillies from some exceptional families, and are bound to be on the list of anyone with a “collectors” taste for a good horse and a bit of serious pedigree, especially in these risk-averse times when downside seems to count so much.

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New Zealand Ready To Run Sale defies odds

graeme rogersonLeading buyer Graeme Rogerson
(Athlone Thoroughbred Marketing)

New Zealand Bloodstock reports that the 2008 New Zealand Ready To Run Sale of two-year-olds which ended yesterday at Karaka, achieved solid results which largely defied the international financial crisis.

Both the sale median and average were only a shade off last year’s figures, with the median price reaching $60,366 (down just 1% from a record $61,134 in 2007) and the average $33,000 (down 8% from $36,000 in 2007).

The clearance rate climbed steadily throughout the day to finish at 67%, down from last year’s 70%, with 247 horses sold for $14,910,500, compared with $15,100,000 for the same number sold last year.

Tuesday’s top price of $400,000 for the Red Ransom colt from Lady Circles was not surpassed, with yesterday’s top lot knocked down for $360,000. The Zabeel colt from group one winner Surprize was purchased by Queensland bloodstock agent John Foote from Mark and Shelley Treweek’s Lyndhurst Farm.

“I’ve bought him for a Hong Kong client and as yet we haven’t decided whether he’ll race in Australia first or go straight to Hong Kong,” said John Foote last night.

“He’s a well-bred colt, a lovely type and breezed up with a good action. We’re hoping he’ll be as good as his mother and father.”

The Zabeel colt breezed up the 200m straight at Te Rapa racecourse on 20 October in a time of 11.72 seconds.

Of the 247 horses sold, 17 fetched $200,000 or more compared with 14 last year, showing the relative strength at the top of the market.

New Zealand Bloodstock’s sales and marketing manager Petrea Vela was very pleased with the results after uncertainty created by the financial crisis.

“In view of the challenges facing everyone in the current market conditions, the results of the past two days have really been well in excess of our expectations,” she said last night.

“Heading into this sale we were certain that results would be down on last year, but to see such strength from the market here has been a fantastic result.”

Leading the buyers was transtasman trainer Graeme Rogerson with eight horses purchased for $1,625,000. A total of 49 horses are destined for Singapore, including purchases by former Kiwi trainer Laurie Laxon, Michael Freedman, Stephen Gray and Soon Hock Lee, with another 18 bought for Hong Kong.

Fourteen headed to Malaysia and five to Macau. The Seoul Racehorse Owners Association bought a further six yesterday to bring its total to 16 horses now bound for Korea.

The leading vendor for the second year in a row was Mark and Shelley Treweek’s Lyndhurst Farm, with 11 of its 15 entries selling for $1,706,000 at an average of $155,091.

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When it comes to good men, it's hard to find one better.

sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoumHis Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
(Photo : Mike de Kock Racing)

My Wednesday diary was devoted to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and his right-hand man, Mohammed Khaleel, and my trip to what we would term the Ministry of Land and Development is characterised by a very smart car which arrives, as usual, 15 minutes ahead of time. You see, His Highness is a highly organised man, whose organisation is exceeded only by his hospitality and his open pleasure at welcoming a fellow horseman.

A meeting I expected to last just an hour was far beyond the third, and gathers breath again when it becomes apparent that we won’t be able to make dinner because of a midnight flight.

The talk is about horses, and there are many of them stretched across several time zones from Australia to the United States. And then, inevitably, because of his palpable love of a challenge, our talk settles on the Dubai Carnival which gets under way in the New Year.

It seems Sheikh Mohammed will be double fisted in 2009, with the formidable likes of ARCHIPENKO and EAGLE MOUNTAIN already proven in international competition this year; known Dubai entities ASIATIC BOY and HONOUR DEVIL and any number of new “kids”, including the Summerhill boys, IMBONGI and ART OF WAR.

Sitting in the shadow of a portrait of his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed al Maktoum, whom His Highness shares with Dubai’s current Rulers, the warmth, the humility and the sheer decency of this great friend and admirer of South Africa, is a beacon of any visit to the Emirate. In many respects, Sheikh Mohammed is a symbol of his family’s history, a man of tradition and custom, with a deep understanding of where he and his people have come from, as well as the modern businessman and administrator, whose Ministry is a facilitator of everything Dubai represents today.

Whatever the dictionary has in the way of adjectives, what’s happened in Dubai is beyond the book. It demands a new language.

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NOTES FROM ABROAD : A DAILY RITUAL FROM THE “BOSS”

view_from_30000ftView from 30000ft
(Photo : Glen Jeffrys)

Any result that moved into positive territory within a few days of “Black Monday”, the world’s toughest day in financial markets in more than 70 years, was bound to provoke interest. But a racehorse sale posting a 48% increase over two prior years which were both more than 40% up on their predecessors, was quite something, “defying gravity” as Mala Mala’s Mike Rattray put it. That was the Emperor’s Palace Ready to Run Sale, 2nd November 2008.

In our own 30 years in the game, we’ve never known such generosity from the marketplace, with e-mails and SMS’s coming in every few minutes for a couple of days. Inevitably, as is the case with the head of any organisation, much of the credit has been laid at my personal door, yet as we’ve so often pointed out in the past, Summerhill’s is a uniquely team effort, where the space created by others doing their jobs especially well, makes it possible for the rest of us to focus intensely on the job at hand.

And of course, this was a job that did require an intensity of an unusual kind, but we were helped in our purpose by an unusually smart draft of horses; by the skills of an unusually talented team of horsemen, and by a nation whose countrymen are endowed with gifts of unusual courage and farsightedness, who know that there’s an end to this financial madness, and that next year there’ll still be big races to be won, and a World Cup to prepare for.

Yet here we were dealing in animals at the top end of the luxury goods business, and any result of this magnitude is a landmark of the trade. So it’s time again for our team at Summerhill to take another bow. It’s amazing what you can achieve when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

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Mike de Kock on Breeders' Cup Map with EAGLE MOUNTAIN

eagle mountain and kevin sheaEagle Mountain and Kevin Shea at Santa Anita
(Harry How/Getty)

South African trainer Mike de Kock will saddle his first Breeders’ Cup starter Saturday, but it won’t be any of the horses he expected earlier in the year would make it to championship weekend reports the Thoroughbred Daily News.

“I had three others that I was planning to come here with and things didn’t turn out that way, Mike de Kock said. “[G2 UAE Derby winner] Honour Devil (Arg) (Honour and Glory) was going to come out for the Dirt Mile; [G1 Dubai World Cup runner-up] Asiatic Boy (Arg) (Not For Sale {Arg}) maybe for the Classic. But they just didn’t do well in England. They had really tough campaigns in Dubai. We took them to England and their coats never got good, they never ate well, never worked well. You can’t flog a dead horse, you know. You don’t want to come here just to be a number.”

Meanwhile, while his stablemates were excelling in Dubai, G1 Turf hopeful Eagle Mountain (GB) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire}) was spending a year on the sidelines recovering from a fractured pelvis. The four-year-old, who was second in last year’s G1 Epsom Derby and G1 Champion Stakes and third in the G1 Irish Derby, seemed a longshot to make it to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup. But he proved he was back in top shape in his comeback effort, winning Newmarket’s one-mile October 3 G3 Joel Stakes in course-record time in his only start this term.

“We didn’t think we were on target for the Breeders’ Cup, but his last one showed that he was,” Mike de Kock explained. “So we were able to switch plans. We were lucky that we had a backup with this horse.” The trainer is not concerned that Eagle Mountain’s light campaign will hurt him Saturday. “He’s got a good five or six months of hard work under the belt,” Mike de Kock said. “He’s done a lot of miles. He’s ready for it.”

Catch all the Breeders’ Cup action on Tellytrack, DSTV channel 232.

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The World is Watching.

eamonn_cullen

Eamonn Cullen
(Heather Morkel/Barun Patro)

It’s always interesting (and often flattering) to know that, at the southernmost tip of what the civilized world calls the “Darkest Continent”, there’s something which may intrigue those in supposedly more civilized climes. We’ve noticed from those that visit our website, that auction companies of the eminence of Keeneland in the United States, Inglis and Magic Millions in Australia and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (obviously in Ireland), are regular visitors, curious as to how we go about marketing the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale.

One of the principal cogs in the Irish wheel, Marketing Manager Eamonn Cullen, confessed yesterday that he visits us twice a week for his “fix” on what we’re up to, and he’s been genuinely generous in his admiration.

While we think we’re making a fair job of it, there are always new depths to plumb and new lessons to be learnt, and if any of our readers have any ideas for us, we’d be more than delighted to hear from you.

Visit
www.summerhill.co.za

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