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.