Summerhill CEORegular followers of these columns will know how much we value our friends. They also know that this is a business that was built on the blood, sweat and sacrifice of a team whose dedication, energy and enterprise knows few bounds. In money terms, there was neither inheritance nor big business behind Summerhill, but what we did receive from our forebears was a history of relationships that extended, in some cases, to the foundation of my grandfather, Pat’s first business, in 1916. Standard Bank, for example, have been forewarned to have the brass plaque polished for our centenary; the same applies to Engen, whose tankers at our diesel pumps go back through seven name-changes to the Atlantic Fuel & Firing Company, 98 years ago. Though we have yet to meet the current partners (and that’s an indictment,) my family affairs are still part-audited by the same firm in Port Shepstone (almost as far away from us in one direction, as Johannesburg is in the other;) for as long as they do a good job, they’ll continue to be the auditors. My grandfather’s association with the erstwhile Massey-Ferguson dealership in Kokstad, East Griqualand, kicked off with a paraffin-burning “vaaljapie” in the 1930s, and until they gave up the franchise a year ago, they’d been the sole supplier of the “red jobs” you’ve become accustomed to in our farm brochures over the years.
The status quo never changed as far as tractors are concerned, because it was based on a great product, excellent service and a fundamental trust which endured for close on 70 years. Sentimentally, the closure of E.G. Tractors by the Chapman family marked a poignant landmark in our history, though it coincided, in our view, with a new generation of tractors that didn’t quite measure up to its predecessors. Brand affiliations when you’re growing up, develop in the young mind an affection for your “own” and an aversion towards the opposition, in much the same way as you’re either a “Shark” or a “Stormer” - there’s no in-between. For a boy who grew up on a diet of “Masseys”, I have to confess to a growing envy in recent years, at the presence on my neighbours properties of their flotillas of an arch rival’s products. Besides, the makers of John Deere must’ve known something when they chose their corporate colours (green and yellow) and that sooner or later, they’d prove irresistible to those of us whose racing silks bear the same. Earlier this year, we penned a piece on this great company, which in its entire history has known just nine CEO’s, stretching back 176 years (Read Here). They’re our kind of people, it seems, and they make our kind of tractor: solid, wonderfully engineered work-horses you can bet on. This week we took delivery of a matching pair to join the “big dog” that arrived last planting season. For the average fellow out there, a new car doesn’t always amount to a big deal, but to a Zulu farmer (ask Jacob Zuma), a new tractor is almost as good as a new girlfriend: unlike a BMW, a Mercedes or an Audi, they show an economic return, and for those who keep their stock here, there’s comfort knowing that courtesy of “JD”, your horses will once again be the best-kept this winter.
A couple of other things have brightened our days this week, not the least of which the news Monday, that an old South African favourite, Linngari, remembered for his international exploits in the colours of one of Summerhill’s staunchest supporters, Rupert Plersch and Herman Brown Jnr, had his first Stakes winner in France on Sunday. The sire already of a bunch of useful performers from his first small European crop, his son, Mr Pommeroy scooted home by 4.5 lengths in the Prix Policeman (Listed), making him the second Black type performer for his Group One-winning father. Sadly for South Africa, the Aga Khan-bred is committed to a shuttle schedule between Patrick Chedeville’s Haras de Petit Tellier in France and Belair Stud in Brazil, which mitigates against the prospect of his standing at stud in this country. Uncertainties in our export protocols at the time of his retirement stood in the way, as they did in preventing Silvanofrom continuing his shuttle to and from Germany, thus denying local breeders access to the priceless lineage of Tourbillon.
Once again though, Sunday’s celebration of his first Stakes winner illustrates the value of friendships. We’ve had an inkling Linngari would make a sire, and last July we proposed to Rupert that we buy a few mares between us to breed to Southern Hemisphere time. As a result, we assembled a package of eight mares with largely French ancestories, which land at Oliver Tambo today. Historically, French mares have made rich harvests for South African breeders, and with a bit of German engineering tossed in, who knows?
My wife has always lived by the belief that you should keep the “best for last”, and she applies this maxim religiously to the rare occasions she indulges in a bit of dessert after dinner. Without in any way wishing to demean the arrival of the John Deeres or the emergence of a Stakes winner for Linngari, a week of ten more winners on the back of two consecutive weeks of seven in each, is the doctor’s medicine in the ongoing tussle for this year’s Breeder’s Premiership. Look at the connections, and you’ll recognise a few old faces whose pictures have been regular features of the annual Summerhill Sires brochure. See, the value of relationships.
1st - Ilitshe for Mike de Kock - Al Adiyaat SA
1 - Distingushed by 5 for Charles Laird - Markus Jooste
1st - Mojo G by 3 for Dennis Drier - Winston Chow
1st - Forest Fighter for Justin Snaith - Fred Crabbia
1st - Mr President for Doug Campbell - Messrs A & S Sukhraj
1st - Coby for Gary Alexander - Joanne Gardner
1st - Negev for Louis Goosen - Claude Comaroff and BK Parker
1st - Strong Blonde for Pat Lunn - Mike Destombes
1st - Ethemba for Dorrie Sham - Greg Bortz and Bryn Ressell
1st - Enchanted Silk for Sean Tarry - Chris van Niekerk
LEADING BREEDERS BY STAKES
Season 2013/2014 as at 23 February 2014