In response to an appeal about five seasons ago from the Kenyan breeding community, Summerhill used its influence with Dubai’s rulers, Sheikhs Maktoum and Hamdan, in asking them to assist with some highly bred, well performed stallions. The show kicked off with Blushing Groom’s, Group Two winner, Desert Team, and he was followed soon after by Danzig’s beautifully bred son, Makaarem. This season they have been joined by the highly performed Russian Revival, currently experiencing his best season ever in this country.
Not long thereafter, senior divisional managers, Linda Norval and Heather Morkel represented Summerhill at the Kenyan Jockey Clubs Centenary celebrations during the winter of 2004, when they were gloriously entertained at the famous (or was it notorious?) but either way, historic Norfolk Hotel, scene of much of what came to be known as the “White Mischief” days. Though the centenary was celebrated in the inimitable style and with all the trappings of colonial Kenya, it was apparent then that all was not entirely well with Kenyan racing’s finances, and the plaintive cry for help in restructuring their business went out early in 2005. Mick Goss responded to these calls by inviting Gold Circle’s CEO Michel Nairac, to accompany him on a fact-finding mission on behalf of Gold Circle and Phumelela to Nairobi in June 2005, a visit which saw the beginning of an entirely new approach to the management of their business.
Happily today, Kenyan racing is back on its feet, their racing signal is beamed through Tellytrack not only to South Africa, but to various other parts of the world, the tote machines and on-course cameras which were donated by our racing operators to the Kenyan Jockey Club are now installed, their bankers are back on side and their business is largely following the blue print developed by this visit. It follows that the breeding industry is also enjoying the first fruits of the relatively new (though still fairly modest) prosperity which has accrued to Kenyan racing, and all seems to be well in this marvelously romantic country.
Several of our readers have been wondering what had become of the “boss” in the last ten days or so, and the answer is that he and Cheryl had yearned to revisit Kenya’s East Coast.
For those that’ve never visited Lamu, (with a history dating back as far as the 10th or 11th century when Arab merchants traded up and down the East African coast,) it is one of the last preserves of pre-colonial Africa. Of course, in those days, anything went, including large scale slaving and trade in gold and ivory, while Lamu itself remains trapped in a time-warp dating back some three or four hundred years. There are no motor vehicles on the island at all, the streets are as narrow as those in Zanzibar’s “Stone Town”, or in some of the oldest parts of Morocco, and the only means of transport is the humble donkey.
Mick reports that these donkeys have a unique genetic heritage, being much smaller than the usual, and bred from an entirely closed genetic source. Very few are much taller than the average man’s hip, there wasn’t a single one offset in the knees, though he tells us the odd one turned out at the ankles in the manner of a “Mr. Prospector”. They’re as tough as old boots, and as sound as bells, and it’s not uncommon at all to see them carrying two men on their backs at a time. The environs of Lamu, and the multitude of islands that make up the archipelago surrounding it, are a “must see” for any traveler with any sense of history and adventure in them, and Mick and Cheryl recommend taking in the celebrated Peponi’s (in Shela village, a few hundred metres south of Lamu town) as well as the relatively new but exceptionally well run Manda Bay, as some of the best operations of their kind, not only in Kenya, but anywhere on the planet.
Bearing in mind the proximity of the Ready To Run gallops and the sale itself, this was a quick “in-and-out” for the Gosses, who were more than delighted to get home to the news that more than 100mm of rain had fallen in the midlands during their absence, the countryside having sprouted a blanket of emerald green in the few days since the rain began.