Anyone in attendance at Argentina’s principal racecourse, San Isidro at the height of their 2016 racing season, could attest to the significance that great racing nation attaches to the Gr.1 Gran Criterium and the Gr.1 2000 Guineas, the fonts respectively of so many legends of their breeding history. The expectations in 2016 however were higher than usual following a 16 length drubbing of his debut field by Hat Puntano; that doesn’t happen too often in Buenos Aires, where juveniles are generally taking on the cream of the crop.
That this was no fluke was clear within a fortnight. On 25th May, the best of that generation faced the starter for the GP Gran Criterium. Biding his time in the back seat, Hat Puntano made hacks of a deep field of young acolytes in a matter of strides; within seconds he had put them to the sword.
For some reason, explained only by their Spanish propensity for doing things differently in Argentina, the Guineas is contested at the end of July, when southern hemisphere thoroughbreds have yet to celebrate their third birthdays. Hat Puntano was not about to allow this quirk of racing abnormality to interfere with a further demolition of the best of his contemporaries in the Guineas: it was over almost as soon as it was started, and those that witnessed the jubilation that greeted his return to scale will tell you it resembled the return of the Messiah.
Hushed dismay greeted our man again at Turffontein when he humbled a field of South Africa’s top milers and Group One celebrities under the welter burden of 61kgs in the Charity Mile, prompting the question, just how good could this fellow be? Mortality seldom intrudes on our pleasant sporting life as savagely as it does when a hero falls from grace, transported from sporting paradise, against all the odds, into the inferno. Yet the ravages of misfortune are the constant bedfellows of all physical activity and Hat Puntano was soon to become the victim of a debilitating sequence of the niggles and nags that even the most resilient of athletes are unable to escape.
You only have to look at the national cricket squad at the World Cup to know the travails that have recently afflicted the lives of Rabada, Steyn and Ngidi to know how true it is.
Remembering how essential renewal is among the vicissitudes of a fashion-conscious racing world, as the autumn sunshine forges gold from the green downlands of the KZN Midlands, you might expect the annual announcement of the latest stallion acquisition. A trio of Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud, the Vilela family of former Samsung connection and ten-time champion breeders, Summerhill Stud, have done just that.
Speaking from the farm, Mick Goss, speculated that any racehorse able to elevate himself so convincingly above the best of his generation, has to be a proper racehorse, especially in so competitive an environment as Argentina.
Besides, Hat Puntano comes with some priceless silverware in his genetic cabinet, a son of one of the best milers of the breed-shaping Sunday Silence in Hat Trick (already sire of a major French stallion in Dabirsim) from a daughter of the stellar “shuttle” horse, Bernstein (by Storm Cat). “It’s not too far-fetched to imagine this elite background and his performances at the highest level could reignite the fuses of brilliance that Hat Puntano displayed in a truncated career.
A glance at what the exotic strains of shuttle stallions have done for the Australian breeding industry, commends this stunningly good looking racehorse as a man to draw his own line in South African soil.