We all have reasons for getting up in the mornings: ours, as we’ve so often said, is the privilege of living in this spectacular place, of being paid to work with the racehorse, and of doing so with a team of genuine originals, in a world which would’ve been less interesting without them. The sculpture of the breeding landscape has been dramatically overhauled in the past 30 years, driven by the technology of an alien age, and populated by the finances of the prosperous and the powerful. Horseracing is an unforgiving sport, and nobody holds a monopoly on the winner’s circle; one moment you’re cruising, the next you’re bruising. It exalts only those who are bold enough to make their own luck, and to hell with the rest.
The bedrock of our endeavours at Summerhill, is the people we work and live with. The Long Service roll in the farm boardroom counts more than a hundred who’ve done 10 years and beyond. The census tells us there are more than six hundred who call Summerhill home, that most of them grew up and were educated here; their grandfathers were on the team when old Col. Richards solemnly promised that one day, the Summerhill horses would no longer be just a part of the story; they would be the whole story.
Zap Molefe’s grandfather “did” Mowgli, his dad “did” Magic Mirror; and Zap himself did Sentinel. His grandchildren will one day “do” the next generation of Nhlavinis, Rebel Kings, Pick Sixes, and Blueridge Mountains. In his four decades on the farm, Zap Molefe may not always have passed a breathalyser test, but his handling of Sentinel was never impaired. “I was young and brave in those days,” he says in the conspiratorial rush he maintains to this day.
Zap Molefe has a hell of a heart. Poverty, ill-mannered horses, authority, none of these could grind him down or dull his spirit. He didn’t whine when he was part of racing’s army of losers, he didn’t boast when Sentinel made him famous and Mooi River hostesses wanted to buy him drinks. And by the way, his C.V. includes “cocktails” with His Majesty. Best not look for his replacement. There isn’t one.
Which goes for a whole heap of this team. Outside of an awards evening, you won’t find their equal anywhere.