It’s true, we all like to think our geese are swans, but it’s a fact that at last week’s gallops, the judges panel were pretty unanimous in their belief that this was as good a crop of Ready To Run horses as have ever left Summerhill; given the history, that’s some statement. The traffic on our website and the post gallops referendum, tells us that interest in the draft is at an all-time high. The horses arrived at Inanda Club yesterday morning, all in one piece; if it’s nothing else, it’s a tribute to their temperaments and their handlers that 101 horses, on their maiden journey, got here unscathed.
There is something of an anachronism about the Inanda Club, founded by the business colossi Harry Oppenheimer, Eric Gallo and Punch Barlow as long ago as 1934. As one of Africa’s most most recognisable social landmarks, it is a throwback to an era that harks to the colonial days of the British Empire typically celebrated in places like Bombay,Calcutta, Puné and Jaipur. Here we are in a rural setting, just a half kilometre from the dominant skyline of Africa’s most valuable real estate: Sandton City, the headquarters of Liberty Life, FNB and Momentum decorate the near horizon; surreal. Until last October's invasion, Jo’burg had never seen anything quite like this: a racehorse sale bang in the midst of the “mink” belt.
Only David Mollett, Business Day and The Citizen’s inimitable journo, could ask you to name your top three picks in the sale. He's about as smart as columnists get, yet he's never quite cottoned on to the answer (or put differently, he lives in hope, as most of his colleagues do, that one day the tongue will slip). When a draft is as deep as this one, that’s like asking a parent to choose his favourite child, though there’s always the temptation in a trendy game like racing to opt for the latest in style, where the Visionaires and Golden Swords were universally fancied, not only by the judges, but by the public as well. Among the "newbies", Golden Sword was seldom undone at the races and you might want to reckon on his second career as well; the first signs of a developing fan club came at the Nationals in the form of Alesh Naidoo, Charles Laird, Michael Azzie, Jehan Malherbe, the Magic Millions' team, Barry Bowditch, Grant Burns and Chris Norris, Ronnie Napier, Justin Vermaak and Paul Lafferty and again at the gallops where most of the judges had a Golden Sword on their slates (12 of them).
It's understandable of course; with a furlong to run, Golden Sword was on the brink of the upset of the century in England's greatest horserace, finishing within 2 lengths of the world champion Sea The Stars. Winning isn't everything, but as the horse's mother had obviously taught him, it's the only thing. He didn't just run Sea The Stars to a near thing, though, for Mike de Kock, he posted the fastest 10 furlongs in UAE history, faster even than 19 World Cup winners before him. The clue was Classic stamina, thought to be a lost art in the modern era of our sport, but re-alchemised at secret laboratories in remote places like Tipperary. It's reinforcing to know that Mike de Kock was also among those who raised their catalogues for the Golden Swords at the Nationals; if there was a racing Vatican, he would have to be odds-on for "Pope". That the white smoke from his yard is also signalling Golden Sword's pre-eminence, confirms the beatification of his flock.
Traffic Guard might sound like someone you'd expect to find at a dysfunctional intersection (we've seen a few of those this morning), but as the top-rated son in Africa of the best dual-hemisphere stallion of the current age, he symbolises all the virtues we look for in a racehorse. Like Golden Sword, his biggest moment came in a half-length defeat at the hands of another world champion, New Approach. Whatever else they may say in worship of New Approach, when the curtain came down on the Irish Champion Stakes, he knew he'd been in a fight. Our jockey's face was a study in torment, much like the look we see on the faces of our fellow Sharks supporters these days and a stark contrast to the smiles we saw on those of our judges at the gallops who nominated six of them for future glory.
It always helps to have a couple of updates on the eve of a sale, and yesterday's five-and-a-quarter length romp by the Visionaire second-timer Heaps Of Fun for Nchakha Moloi and Sean Tarry was especially gratifying. There are several who saw her victory, who believe she'll win at least three on-the-trot before she breaks a sweat, as good a start as a debutant owner like Nchakha could wish for. While it's rumoured there are other unexposed Visionaire gems in the Tarry armoury, for the moment we'll accept the gratification that comes with this filly's grand entrance and that of another exceptional sort in Witchcraft, who couldn't have been more impressive on Friday evening at Greyville. While she's bred to go a good 2000m, the ease with which she mashed her foes in this seven furlong contest suggests she might have something to say in the Fillies Guineas in December.
No less impressive last evening was Lala's lightning come-from-behind against the colts on her seasonal reappearance. She is already a Group-performer, yet it's always reassuring to see them come back after a demanding juvenile campaign, so this one looks for real. And just in the nick of time, at Turffontein as we go to print, the millionairess and former Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup victrix, Winter Star, took down her fellow Ready To Run graduate, Silver Class in a stirring comeback ahead of the big Group sprints of the summer.
We’ve always thought there was something mundane about a Formula One motor race dominated by a multiple champion like Lewis Hamilton, who hops out in front and screeches past, lap-after-lap, to the inevitable chequered flag. When the line-up is ordinary, Ready To Run gallops can be a bit of a tedium too, but Wednesday a week ago had a touch of panache to it, not only in the attendees, but especially in the Thoroughbreds it revealed: no wonder Ferrari has one on every bonnet.
We’re all on the edge of our seats for the publication of this week’s Ready To Run log, and it’s clear from the phone calls that there are many others in the same boat. What’s “catchy” about the Ready To Run, is that it’s the democracy of the turf at its best, and it’s always been that way. We horse owners can be frightfully fashion-conscious, which means there’s always a chance for the investor with a smart eye for a good galloper and a less than commercial pedigree. The Ready To Run’s history is littered with stars who were once the unwanted orphans of the sales ring, the likes of the champion 3 year old miler, Imbongi, the Highveld Horse Of The Year, Pierre Jourdan, the Group One sprinter Fanyana, Jay Peg’s Guineas nemesis, Dynamite Mike, the champion stayer Amphitheatre, and the winning-most racehorse of all time, Hear The Drums, only one of whom cost more than R60,000, and none of whom knew who their fathers or mothers were. By contrast, two of the most memorable fillies to graduate from what has become the country’s fastest growing racehorse sale, Igugu and Hollywoodboulevard, made a million rand and R950,000 respectively; the connoisseurs will tell you, they were dirt cheap at the price.
With three months interest-free credit available to buyers, it’s apparent that the old adage has come true again: there’s a horse for everyone at our Ready To Run.
Please contact Amanda at email@example.com in order to apply for a buyer’s card.
Heaps Of Fun / Gold Circle (p)