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Diadem Stakes



What A Winter (SAF) - Diadem Stakes (WFA) (Grade 2)

(Photos : Gold Circle)


Kenilworth, Turf, 1600m

12 January 2012

michael clower
michael clower

Michael ClowerMike Bass is determined to take on Horse of the Year Variety Club in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate on Saturday week after What A Winter blitzed the opposition in the Diadem Stakes for the second successive year at Kenilworth on Saturday.

“Now he is back to his brilliant best” said Bass, referring to his last few starts where he had been affected by an infection which he took a long time to recover from. “He is also still a colt so he is challenging, and at times a frustrating horse to train especially him as I know how good he is and what he is capable of achieving. I have trained a few good sprinters in my time; Sweet Chestnut and TobeorNottobe come to mind, and while both were champions I think he is the best I have trained, he is special and when he is on song I don’t suspect there would be too many sprinters in the world that would keep up with him. I have eyed out the Queen’s Plate for some time now and always thought to myself if I could get him to his very best, his talent would see him through as a miler at the highest level. He settles well in his running and he is bred to go a mile so we will drop him in and be running at them at the finish. It’s certainly worth a crack.”

Bass was thinking of having a crack at last year’s Queen’s Plate too but the horse was drawn wide and he decided not to risk leaving the Betting World Flying Championship behind. There is again a fortnight between the two Grade 1’s. Bass said: “I don’t care if there was only five days. He smashed his field on Saturday, making good horses look ordinary, and he will again smash the opposition in the Cape Flying. There is no reason why he shouldn’t get the mile of the Queen’s Plate. I just need things to go his way. When he ran in the Cape Guineas he was drawn wide and raced wide, and it turned into a disaster. He tried again in the Gold Challenge at Clairwood in June but nothing happened for him.”

But it certainly did happen for him on Saturday when the 9-20 shot swept past the pace-setting Cap Alright nearing the 200m mark and came home nearly three lengths clear without being shown the whip in a time only a fifth of a second outside the course record. Stable companion Castlethorpe (Aus) came from the clouds to take second and is also Queen’s Plate-bound.

Bernard Fayd’Herbe said: “What A Winter is back to his best. I bounced him out and I was quite prepared to go on if I had to. This just shows what he can do when he is at his peak.”

This win took What A Winter’s career record to 11 wins and 5 places from 20 starts with earnings exeeding the R2million mark.

Owners Marsh Shirtliff, Bryn Ressell, Guy Shirtliff and Mike Bass will be sending What A Winter to stud at the end of the season and this impressive performance will certainly have added to his breeder appeal.

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(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)


(National Emblem (SAF) - Valley Mist (SAF)

The frenetics surrounding the Cape Premier Yearling Sale and the J&B Met, and the speed at which the social goings-on were taking place, made us oblivious to the fact that the World Economic Forum was in full swing in Davos. Sadly, and significantly for us, we even missed the death in relative infancy, of our ageless champion, Nhlavini. If you’re chalking up the great names of those that grew up here, he’d be up there with the best : we speak of St Pauls, Mowgli, Sentinel, Magic Mirror, Panjandrum, Dancing Duel, Imperial Despatch, Spook and Diesel, Pick Six, Igugu, Pierre Jourdan, Rebel King and Imbongi.

For that matter, the Markus and Ingrid Jooste’s colour bearer would’ve ranked with best anywhere. Apart from Pocket Power, he must be the only horse to have lined up six times for an Equus Award, where he walked away with the championship on three occasions as the nation’s leading sprinter, the last time at eight years of age. The Brits will tell you that the Zulus are feared for their exploits in battle, and Nhlavini (Zulu for “playboy”), would stand right alongside the warrior kings, Shaka and Cetewayo, as a racehorse.

A championship class campaigner by any standards, he got more than he would’ve anywhere else in the hands of Charles Sydney Laird. We use his name to emphasise his ancestory, as a clue to the expertise that made Nhlavini what he was. There was a sentimental attachment to the progeny of National Emblem in general in the Laird family, but nowhere was it stronger than it was with Nhlavini. Religiously, at the end of his winter campaigns in KwaZulu Natal, his trainer sent him home to his birthplace, where he occupied the sacred paddock which in the 60s, housed the multiple champion sire, Masham, in the shadow of the great eucalypts of Hartford House.

Rested, the brave soldier always returned to the fray, always faithful, always true. This was especially so in his latter years, when it seemed his heart was willing but his limbs could take no more. His master was always masterful, and it was a measure of his great respect for the great horse that in his latter years, there were only two races on the official calendar. The Diadem Stakes and the Cape Flying Championship, at six, seven and eight. His three consecutive Diadems and two Flying Championships (some still say three) tell us the respect was mutual. His harvest was three million and more.

His father’s tally at Summerhill alone included some fifteen Stakes winners, among a litany of Black type scorers, the best of them (Nhlavini, Rebel King, Carnadore, all champions, Decorated Hero, Princely Heir and Lotti), trained by Charles Laird, while top-liners, Fez (Gr1), Royal Emblem (Gr1) and Thekkady, were also inmates of our paddocks carrying the National Emblem hip- sticker on their backsides.

summerhill stud, south africa
summerhill stud, south africa

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