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Summerhill Connections

FAMILY BUILDING : Don't ever shut the door

stallion albarahinSire of Mystic, Albarahin
(Photo : John Lewis)

The outcome of Thursday’s main event at the Vaal was a timely reminder that us breeders often appear to have a short-sighted vision, driven no doubt by the commercial imperatives of the desire to cull. All too soon, we’re often guilty of prejudging a family’s destiny, based most times on a perception of the saleability of a mare’s progeny. The result is, by the time the subject mare has had as few as three or four foals, and the commercial returns have not quite met expectations, we quickly resort to the chopping block, forgetting just as suddenly, all the good reasons for the mare’s acquisition in the first place.

Mystic’s lightening closure for victory in the 7th on Thursday; recalled the value of patience and the underlying purpose of family-building. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating; at Summerhill our mating policies are not driven by commercial outcomes alone. Truth is, they never enter our thoughts. Rather, we prefer the process of trying to breed a racehorse first, and then trusting the market to respect the result by paying a fair price for the progeny.

While there is a possibility this policy can cost you in the sales ring to a certain degree, there is little doubt of its contribution to the respect you earn when you breed a Champion.

Returning to Mystic, he’s a son of a bread-and-butter stallion (Albarahin), out of a mare (Vanish, by Coastal) who herself was the subject of some derision as a foal and as a weanling, when some of our number at the time doubted her value as a prospective runner, let alone a broodmare. But we’d ventured this far for a reason, and Vanish’s dam, the Lyphard mare Cahard, like her own sire, (a diminutive, natty little model of a horse,) had been bought out of the memorable Nelson Bunker Hunt dispersal, with the long road in mind. Here she was, producing an equally diminutive result, (notwithstanding Coastal’s 16.1 ½ h.h,) in the effort to get something with range and scope.

Vanish was spared the “knackers” and leased to an erstwhile customer of Summerhill, Brian Burgess, where she displayed the lion-heart at the races, accumulating four victories in fairly competitive company, despite her “tinyness”. The rest is of course, a matter of history.

Besides Mystic, she’s produced 100% winners from runners, including the 9 time Group One winner Disappear, who was the first to get the ball rolling in what has become a celebrated affair between Muhtafal and Coastal mares.

So where is the parable? Breeding is a long term process and it demands endless patience. The reality though, is that with few exceptions, with the benefit of judicious selection, quality stockmanship and proper husbandry, you can get a respectable response from most mares and we’re reminded at this time of a conversation we shared with Lionel Cohen a few years back on this topic. You see, we’ve a common thread with Lionel on this score, and in a discussion about flawed physical specimens in the broodmare population, he simply said “we can always breed this out, can’t we?” Applying this principle, the rare likes of Lionel have produced one good horse after another for so long now, no-one can gainsay the weight that accrues from great stockmanship.

LEADING SIRES OF 2008

sadlers wellsSadler’s Wells
(Coolchaser/b2yor)

Northern Hemisphere GRADE/GROUP 1 WINNERS

STALLION SIRE LOCATION WINNERS
Galileo Sadler’s Wells
IRE
5
Giant’s Causeway Storm Cat
KY
5
Rock of Gibraltar Danehill 
IRE
4
Danehill Danzig
DEAD
4
Tiznow Cee’s Tizzy
KY
4
Kingmambo Mr. Prospector           
KY
3
Maria’s Mon Wavering Monarch
DEAD
3
Sadler’s Wells Northern Dancer
IRE
3
Street Cry Machiavellian 
KY
3
Unbridled’s Song Unbridled
KY
3
A.P. Indy Seattle Slew
KY
2
Chester House Mr. Prospector
DEAD
2
Dalakhani Darshaan
IRE
2
Danehill Dancer Danehill
IRE
2
Doneraile Court Seattle Slew 
KY
2
Dynaformer Roberto
KY
2
Gone West Mr. Prospector
KY
2
Indian Ridge Ahonoora
IRE
2
Montjeu Sadler’s Wells 
IRE
2
Muhtathir Elmaamul
FR
2
Nayef Gulch
ENG
2
Pivotal Polar Falcon
ENG
2
Rock of Gibraltar Danehill
IRE
2
Samum Monsun
GER
2
Smart Strike Mr. Prospector
KY
2
Tapit Pulpit
KY
2


Statistics from Thoroughbred Daily News

MYSTIC KEEPS THE FLAG FLYING

hanging stirrups and helmets

During what has been a relatively quiet time for Summerhill-breds on the racetrack, Mystic kept the flag flying for us at the Vaal yesterday. Running like a horse possessed he dug deep in the Merit rated 92 Handicap over 1450m on the sand to beat Argo Bay, Infinite Spirit (a R700 000 purchase and G1 placed) and The Giant (a AUS$ 200 000 australian import).

This little horse with a big heart is yet another success story from the Ready to Run sale. He was bought for R90 000, has now earned a tad over R280 000 and looks to have a few more in the tank.

Congratulations to all the connections: Sean Tarry, Scott Kenny, Devon Habib, Greg Blank, S Appanna, D Yutar, HN Yutar and AR Burke.

THE TAPESTRY OF LIFE: Always Rich in the Silly Season

richard haynes and mick gossRichard Haynes and Mick Goss

It’s one of the great pleasures of working at Summerhill that our lives are brightened by the regular visits of people from all over the world. Those that read these columns will remember that on Stallion Day this year, we were honoured by the attendance of people from 14 different nations, and while that’s probably a record of its own for any one day, it’s a fact of life here that we have people from all corners of the globe calling on us at different times of the year.

Linda Norval and her cohorts entertain people every day of the year (yes, somehow Christmas and Good Friday included) at the Summerhill Visitor’s complex, and often enough, a visit includes at least tea, if not a fine lunch.

Many of these people stay over, enjoying the wonders of Hartford House, and soaking up the atmosphere of an authentic African farm. At lunch earlier in the week, we had our long-time friend, Wayne Aldridge from Sydney (Wayne was the founder of the Equine Insurance Group when it previously traded as Delta Bloodstock), Richard Haynes from New Zealand Bloodstock, Dick and Anne Pemberton from East England, while the evening before we hosted South Africa’s favourite investor, Jim Hay’s English trainer Tom Tate and his lovely wife Hazel. Tom is a past trainer representative in the UK on the British Horseracing Board. For the record, Hazel, a talented trainer in her own right, is the sister of Michael Dickinson, the only man to saddle the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and both of them descend from one of England’s most famous dynasties.

Last Tuesday we were on duty again with Peter and Alison Brown, breeders of Outcome (crowned Champion Filly at the KZN Breeding Awards last weekend), ex CNA boss, Ian Outram and his wife Deidre, and Tony and Dale Feasey, buyers of last year’s top lot at the Ready To Run sale.

Just a few days ago, we were honoured with a visit by two legends of Australia, Antony Thompson of the spectacularly famous Widden Stud (at the top end of the Hunter Valley), and fourth generation success, John Kelly of the celebrated Newhaven Park Stud, where the likes of Wilkes, Luscan Star and Marauding made their names as the resident sires.

Students of the breeding game will tell you that there are very few farms anywhere that have survived successfully for more than three generations, yet Australia seems to be the gleaming exception, certainly in the case of these two properties.

Antony and John were here as ambassadors of Aushorse, the marketing arm of the Australian TBA, where Antony is the successor to John Messara as chairman, and John serves on the board of directors. We’re always honoured when men of this calibre visit us, and we always feel the wealthier (and indeed, smarter) for what they leave behind.

(Photo kindly supplied by Richard Haynes)

SURFIN’ USA STEPS UP

surfin usa and piere strydomSurfin’ USA and jockey Piere Strydom
(Gold Circle)

After a spate of rather disappointing results against minor fields, Surfin’ USA, the 5 year old gelding by Modern Day, finally showed his class with a hard fought victory in the R300K Midmar Premier Trophy (Grade 2) on Sunday at Kenilworth.

Jockey Piere Strydom certainly coaxed the best from his mercurial mount by patiently biding his time as the field settled. Then by leaving his charge until the very last moment, Surfin’ USA was able to just shade Vision Of Grandeur on the line for honours.

Congratulations must go to all the winning connections including Surfin’ USA’s breeder, our good friend and client of Summerhill, Fenn Tarbitt.

MIKE DE KOCK : The Legend Grows

eagle mountain and kevin sheaEagle Mountain with Kevin Shea aboard
(AP Photo)

The legend surrounding South African trainer Mike de Kock continues to grow and a brilliant gallop by Eagle Mountain to land yesterday’s HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup is just the latest chapter in a story that is far from over. Mike de Kock has won two editions of the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Irridescence and Archipenko and has now claimed his first December international with a horse rated by the man himself as better than any of his recent stars.

Eagle Mountain, ran out a comfortable winner of Hong Kong’s richest race under the guidance of Kevin Shea, scoring by 1-1/4 lengths from French raider Balius. Linngari, trained at Newmarket by Sir Michael Stoute and on his third sortie to Sha Tin, ran third and odds-on favourite Viva Pataca a luckless fourth.

Mike de Kock had been bullish about Eagle Mountain all week, “I thought coming into this race that he was as good as Archipenko and as good as Sun Classique, or better, so that gave us a very good pointer to where he was,” said Mike de Kock. “But the way he’s improving, he’s probably better than they are. I can say with hindsight that we were very confident, because the most important thing was that everything had gone well since we got here. The key thing with travelling horses is that when they get to their destination, they put their head in the manger, and that’s what this horse did.”

Mike de Kock agreed with the suggestion that after his Breeders’ Cup Turf second, and backing it up with yesterday’s huge win, Eagle Mountain is a horse that can and will compete on any stage. Eagle Mountain will now return to Dubai and be set for the “Super Thursday” meeting in early March. “After that, we’ll decide which way to go - to the 1800m race or the 2400,” he said.

The races under consideration are two of the richest turf races in the world (each worth US$5 million) - the Dubai Duty Free (1,777m) or the Dubai Sheema Classic (2,400m) on World Cup night.

(edited article by Murray Bell from ANZ Bloodstock News)

Form is temporary : CLASS IS PERMANENT

executive chef jackie cameronHartford House Executive Chef Jackie Cameron

There’s an old saying in the racing world that you might fluke the odd big performance, but it’s the ability to consistently achieve at the top level that’s the real mark of quality. The magnitude of Hartford House’s Top Ten Restaurant Award last Sunday evening, is only just beginning to sink in, and the extent of it is quietly coming home to us.

The reality is that none of these achievements are overnight occurrences, and they’re no different to winning Breeders’ Championships. We know what it took to put a team together capable of landing the spoils in the horse business, and the sustained record of four consecutive championships has been the product of almost 30 years of blood, sweat and tears.

In Hartford’s case, the journey started almost eight years ago, with the recruitment of a man by the name of Richard Carstens, who came to us with the option of working at Hartford or at our new venture at the time, Lynton Hall. As it turned out, despite Hartford’s own requirements, we felt that Lynton’s need was the greater because it was in its infancy, and after eight months at Hartford, Richard relocated to the coastal resort, where he took Lynton to a top ten finish in the national awards, and in the end, was elected the nation’s top chef.

As Richard was departing for Lynton Hall, we discovered a waif-like Thespian, who had already spent a year at the Mount Grace Country House & Spa, in the form of Pietermaritzburg born and raised Jackie Cameron, and she proceeded to beaver away as industriously as anyone we’ve ever come across in an already industrious team. Though wet behind the ears, Jackie quickly revealed an underlying potential that’s rare not only in people of her age, but uncommonly so in older people too. It wasn’t long before local critics nabbed onto her coattails, and began to invest in her growth. People like Mechthild Yorke-Mitchell, then restaurant critic for Wine Magazine, Anne Stevens of The Mercury, Derek Taylor of the Sunday Tribune, and latterly and very significantly, Victor Strugo of The Saturday Star, who has been a powerful personal mentor to Jackie. All of them caught onto the fire that was raging at Hartford.

Of course, there’s been many other accolades, and last year the Hartford restaurant made the Dine Top 10: Deluxe 2008 voted by Diners club international & Wine magazine, but the Prudential Eat-Out Restaurant Awards are the summit of them all, and to have achieved this is the ultimate for any young chef or restaurant anywhere.

The point of this is that under Cheryl’s tutelage, in the relatively short space of 12 years, we’ve seen the emergence of two national celebrities in the culinary game, and it’s all a result of a sustained obsession that goes beyond perfection.

There’s no team in the world that can appreciate the significance of Hartford better than that at Summerhill. We know what it takes, and we understand what it is that keeps you there. Class, class and more class, and nothing less than class.

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OF CABBAGES (LETTUCES) AND KINGS

sangoma and lettuceCelebrating a successful first crop

The Irish, the English, the Australians and the Argentineans are all well known for their close identity with horses in general, and with racing in particular. Yet there can be few nations anywhere whose culture is more deeply linked to the horse, and the use of the horse, than that of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The full expression of the Basotho people’s obsession with horses could be no more evident than in their Monarch, King Letsie III’s “detour” to Summerhill this morning, enroute from Maseru to Johannesburg. Anyone familiar with the route will tell you there are much quicker ways of reaching Johannesburg from the Mountain Kingdom, yet His Majesty just had to see his new SOLSKJAER foal, and his new broodmare acquisition.

In fine form, His Majesty and his entourage were guests of the team at lunch, and there’s nothing that makes the Royal heart more jovial than a discussion about horses.

Nobody is more conscious of the impact which the global financial turmoil is having on the world, than we are. Long before its onset, and against the backdrop of spiralling food costs, we embarked on a programme to encourage our people to be as self-sufficient as possible. The first fruits of the new campaign are just being harvested, and nobody’s done better than Ida Nkabinde (one of nine from this family in the service of Summerhill) who arrived with these freshly cut lettuces, all organically produced, of course.

For those who don’t know, Ida is also one of our resident “Sangomas” (traditional healers,) and it seems some of the ancestors were alongside her in this endeavour. Eat your heart out Woolworths!

The Power of the Positive

positive

It’s been a helluva year for Summerhill. New records at the races, new benchmarks for the trade, and a brand new Breeder’s Championship, for the fourth consecutive year. You’d think we’d be quite pleased with ourselves, and we’d be kidding if we didn’t admit to feeling a bit lucky.

Yet this is the time to give credit where credit is due. As a business, we‘re more dependent on people than most. Mainly because we started with nothing, and without relationships, we’d have ended with nothing. We owe everything to the people around us. Our customers, those that keep their horses with us, and those that support our sales. Our suppliers, our advisers, our bankers. Our trainers, our jockeys, our agents. Those that promote our sport in the media, and the fellows that lay on the show. The fans in the stands, and the punters at the rail. To our colleagues, the breeders, who kept us at our game, and played it the way it should be. Thank you. We re proud to call you our friends.


And then finally, to our own team, and the horses they’ve raised. You’ve set new standards in the way things are done. Encore for your dedication, your integrity and your decency, and as much as anything, your ingenuity. You’re the reason we get up in the mornings.

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For the record : THE KZN BREEDERS AWARDS

kzn breeders awardsTeam Summerhill
(Photo : Gold Circle)

Anything we ever achieve at Summerhill is always the product of many people’s contributions, and in this case, as we’ve so often said before, we must start by remembering that we work with one of the best teams in the world. Besides the expertise of those who’ve had the opportunity to work abroad at the management level, there are those among our Zulus, from the people who clean the stables all the way to the upper echelons of those who make the place tick, that have had their hands in this scrum. It’s an appropriate time then, to remember we’re privileged to work with the Zulus here, some of the most gifted stockmen in the world. Their contribution has been immense.

Besides, there’s hardly a horse bred on this farm that doesn’t involve co-ownership, and so we must congratulate all of those people that were associated with the breeding and raising of Friday night’s winners, either in partnership or on their own. Here we mention the names of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai; the late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum; Mike and Marty Meredith; Peter Brown, Dr Barry and Liz Clements, Robert Lynch, Stephen Gill and Angus Gold. All of them had a hand in these achievements, and our guys are standing at attention acknowledging their part.

Sprinter of the Year – Rebel King

KZN Stallion of the Year – Muhtafal

Stayer of the Year – Galant Gagnant

Breeding Achievement of the Year – Summerhill Stud

Three Year Old Colt – Imbongi

Stallion Prospect – Labeeb

Middle Distance Female – Outcome

Outstanding Older Female - Outcome


Well done.

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Tempest de Frederickz : Another celebration of a different kind

old hartford house postcard

Sunday witnessed another gathering of Hartford connected people, this time the 90th birthday of Tempest de Frederickz, (who was born Ellis in 1918). The Ellis family acquired Hartford as long ago as 1939, and they lived here until early 1990, when the Gosses took over.

During that time, Raymond Ellis Snr manifested his all-conquering racing operation on the farm, and proceeded as an owner/breeder to outstrip the achievements of any of his kind in all of history. From this property, the Ellises bred, raised and trained the winners of every major race on the South African racing calendar, and enjoyed the recognition from no less an author than Sir Mordaunt Milner, as ranking with the all-time elite of the private breeding and racing game. They’re the only South Africans in history to enjoy mention in the same breath as the Aga Khan, Lord Derby and the Sheikh’s Maktoum in English racing, Coolmore in Ireland, France’s Boussac and Italy’s Tesio, and America’s Hancocks and Phippses.

Besides being sterling breeders, the Ellis family were richly endowed when it came to the arts, and Tempest was reputedly a fine musician, while Graeme Ellises’ “The Duck Pond: Midnight” reveals his prowess.

THE DUCK POND: MIDNIGHT

Tonight, if you will walk beyond that lonely tree
And stand quite still, perhaps you’ll see
Cloud shadows spun by moonlight; cool
Breezes lulling sleepy flowers;
Three ducks splashing silver in the pool
To while away the evening hours;
And at the water’s moon-kissed brink,
Two sleepy cranes that sit and think
Of summers spent in unknown lands,
And waves that lap on silver sands.

By Graham Ellis - 1943
Written at Hartford

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SUMMERHILL AND HARTFORD : A Double Celebration

chef jackie cameronHartford House Head Chef Jackie Cameron
(Patrick Royal/Hartford House)

As weekends go, and with a history of almost a century of achievement involving the Summerhill and Hartford properties, this one will take some beating. On Friday evening, 26 of our team attended the KZN Breeders Awards, and while you might say that having won a national Breeders’ Championship for the fourth time, this is just “small beer’ the truth is, very little beats recognition by your own peers, and the eight prizes awarded to our various Champions mean just as much this year as they did the first time we marched up to the stage almost thirty years ago.

So much for Friday. Sunday evening in Cape Town, our pride and joy, Hartford House, was recognised for an extraordinary achievement. The restaurant made the top ten in the nation, and significantly, it was the only one in KZN to receive this accolade. Embracing as this competition does, every restaurant in South Africa in all categories, this is one of those very rare achievements, particularly when you consider where we are : ten kilometres outside of the dustiest little dorp in the Midlands, at the southern most tip of what the civilized world likes to call the darkest continent, and yet, for the past six or seven years, Pietermaritzburg-bred and raised Jackie Cameron, a waif of just 26 years old, and her team have marched all the way to this very select podium. But it’s not only in the company that they’ve joined in receiving this recognition, it’s also in the quality of those that didn’t quite make the cut, that you begin to realise the immensity of what they’ve accomplished.

For all that, Jackie Cameron will be the first to acknowledge that she’s galvanised a great team around her, not only in the kitchen but in the front of house, and it’s the sum of all these things, and the wonderful ambiance of old Hartford that has brought together an irresistible combination. Putting all of this into context, we should recall the other “victories” which this little team has gained in recent years.

When Jackie Cameron joined us some seven years ago, she was just out of cookery school, yet she was old enough even then to recognise the need to train the people around her, in particular those from the previously disadvantaged community. Instantly, she recruited two ladies who’d been serving as casual cleaners in the horse operation, and taught them to clean dishes. She then taught them to clean vegetables, to make bread and then to cook, pretty much in that order, and three years ago, a third generation Zulu lady with only six years of education behind her, accompanied Jackie Cameron to a world culinary exhibition in Zurich as South Africa’s representative. Just last year, another, with only five years at school, made it to a similar exhibition in Prague, while our Zulu Traditional Dancing team, who’d never set foot beyond the confines of Mooi River ten years ago, made it to the World Championship in Tokyo in 2006, where they finished third.

Last year, in Hong Kong, they finished second in the world, and they’ll be on their way shortly to the United States to go and lift the world crown. Wonderful stories about a wonderful part of the world.

From one champion team to another, we salute you Hartford House!

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JUDGEMENT DAY: PILATE PRONOUNCES

tobie_spies_john_kramerTobie Spies and John Kramer
(Photo : Grant Norval)

In the life of any racehorse breeding establishment, the judging of a farm’s stock by independent experts is always a signal event. Wednesday was such a day.

Every producer has a different approach to the way he raises his horses, and it’s a well-documented fact that at Summerhill, more than most, Mother Nature plays a primary role. While some have been preparing their horses for this event for several months now, our way is to leave them out in our “organic” environment for as long as possible, avoiding the stress of incarceration and human intervention, and asking the elements and the wonderful world we live in, to continue their good work in shaping the futures of our horses.

While the old saying that there are “different strokes for different folks” was never more appropriate than it is in the horse business, the reality is the way we do it works for Summerhill, manifesting itself as patently as anyone could hope for in four consecutive Breeders’ Championships. That’s not to say that we’re right and everyone else is wrong; it’s simply that, in the model we follow, it seems to be the best way to proceed.

Every new crop of youngsters brings new challenges, and whenever there are the progeny of new stallions, there is new excitement. That said, we usually deal with the first stock of a debutant stallion on the basis of entering just a few of them for the showcase National Sales, preferring to keep a good number back for the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, where we can work closely with them, and understand their individual idiosyncrasies. This way we get to know how they respond to the making- and-breaking process, how quickly they learn, how they handle the rigours of exercise and being ridden, what their temperaments are like, what sort of actions they have, how durable they are and whether the mating which has produced that particular individual, is worth pursuing in future. The Ready To Run has been a great instrument in advancing Summerhill’s cause over the years, and has been a grand educational lesson for all of us.

We’ve often proclaimed the virtues of South Africa’s horsemen, and we point to the achievements of our jockeys, trainers and breeders on the international circuit as evidence of this. In Hong Kong, where the pursuit of the jockeys’ title is something every self-respecting rider in the world will take on at some point in his career, the Jockeys’ Championship has been in South African hands for seventeen of the past eighteen seasons (think Basil Marcus, Dougie White, Felix Coetzee, Robbie Fradd and Bartie Leisher), while the likes of trainers Mike de Kock and Herman Brown in Dubai, Patrick Shaw in Singapore and David Ferraris and Tony Millard in Hong Kong have illustrated the validity of this statement time and again. Of course, often enough they’re doing it with South African-bred horses, and that says something about the establishments that produced them.

We’re no less blessed in the quality of the intellectuals that bestride our game, and in the judges that are sent to the farms to cast their eyes over our yearlings. John Kramer, who’s been around since Methusalah, is as astute as anyone we know, with a far-sighted vision which is right nine times out of ten, when it comes to his expectations of what a horse will look like down the road. His assistant is the celebrated ex trainer, Tobie Spies, who in his day as an active conditioner of racehorses, was as hard-working a man as we knew at the sales.

There wasn’t a horse in the catalogue Tobie wouldn’t look at every sale he attended, and then he’d short-list his favourites and make sure, when the hammer fell in his favour, that it represented good value. Twice in the first four runnings of the old Bloodline Million, he managed to pull the needles out of the proverbial haystack.

The judges were more than complimentary about the draft in general, and they warmed particularly to the first progeny of Solskjaer and Cataloochee, each of whom claimed two of the top horses in the draft on points. In fact, the bulk of their horses earned “8’s” and above, and you couldn’t get off to a better start with a first crop sire than that. All three of the Hobb Alwahtans entered scored well, too, and so we’ll be looking to a good sale from these “freshmen”.

Besides a liberal sprinkling from our stalwarts, Kahal and Muhtafal in the line-up, we have a quality entry from some of the world’s best young stallions in Street Cry, Johannesburg, Shamardal and the old war horse, Royal Academy. Four of these are fillies from some exceptional families, and are bound to be on the list of anyone with a “collectors” taste for a good horse and a bit of serious pedigree, especially in these risk-averse times when downside seems to count so much.

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MICK KINANE : "MALESH NARREDU could be the Secret Weapon"

mick kinaneMick Kinane
(Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Malesh Narredu, champion jockey of India, could very well be the International Team’s “secret weapon” in Saturday’s International Jockeys’ Challenge between South Africa and the “Rest of the World” at Turffontein.

David Mollet writes in the Business Day that this is the view of world-renowned rider Mick Kinane, who is the oldest and most experienced jockey in the international team. “I have ridden against Malesh and he’s a really talented guy - his record in his home country speaks for itself,” said Mick Kinane.

Interestingly, Malesh Narredu has won exactly the same number of jockey titles - 11 - as former South African champion Michael Muis Roberts, who will be the manager of the South African side on Saturday.

Malesh Narredu’s big race wins include 115 graded races, 41 Group One events and 53 classics. These include 11 derbies and India’s Triple Crown.

Nevertheless, even that record is dwarfed by that of 49-year-old Mick Kinane, who can boast more than 160 Gr1 victories all over the world including the Melbourne Cup on Dermot Weld’s stayer, Vintage Crop.

“That will always remain one of the great moments in my career as it was the first success by an international rider in Australia’s most important race,” said Mick Kinane.

The much admired Irishman said he was delighted to be back in South Africa after riding in the last International Challenge here 22 years ago.

Australia is represented in Saturday’s international team by Damien Oliver, who knows all about Cup day at Melbourne. He has won the marathon race twice and remains the only apprentice to have won the AJC Derby, Australia’s premier three-year-old race.

Malesh Narredu’s rides in the four international races are Chariots of Fire for Geoff Woodruff, Acheron for Sean Tarry, Twilights Rush for Ormond Ferraris and Single Minded for Stuart Pettigrew. While Chariots of Fire may battle against the likes of stable companion Kingdom Come and KZN raider Citizen Dante, Twilights Rush is a decent sort on his day and could have a say in the finish of the 1600m Lufthansa Handicap.

Mick Kinane’s four mounts in the international races are Keat’s Drift for Charles Laird, Sunny Jim for Geoff Woodruff, Flight Queen for Dennis Drier and Battle Hero for Paul Matchett.

Although Flight Queen has to concede weight all round in the Racing Association Handicap, she has an each-way chance but it seems likely she could find one too smart for her in Frankie Dettori’s mount, On The Bluff.

Frankie Dettori will be the big attraction at the city track as he is arguably the best known jockey in the sport. His affable attitude and big race successes have kept him in the media spotlight for the past two decades.”

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MICHAEL "MUIS" ROBERTS HONOURED

michael_muis_robertsMichael “Muis” Roberts - South Africa Team Manager
(TAB/Summerhill Stud)

A long overdue honour has been bestowed upon arguably South Africa’s greatest former jockey, Michael “Muis” Roberts.

In Johannesburg last week, Michael Roberts was named manager of the South African team that will line up against the cream of the world’s top jockeys for Saturday’s International Jockeys’ Challenge at Turffontein. He was awarded his South African national colours along with the nation’s best jockey talent.

Michael Roberts,  the 11 time Champion jockey of South Africa and 1992 Champion jockey of Britain, is now a racehorse trainer in the Karkloof Kwa-Zulu Natal where he trains 65 horses for owners, including Fieldspring Racing and Sydney Cassell.

Michael Roberts has himself competed in a number of international jockey “Tests” staged in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. He has also managed international jockey teams in Royal Ascot’s Shergar Cup competition.

Frankie Dettori of Italy, captain of the international team is an old friend of Michael Roberts.

“When I was riding in the UK he was an apprentice, and too young to drive, so I often gave him a lift to the races,” recalls Michael Roberts. “He used to chow sweets in the back of the car with my daughters and practise his English on them.”

A neck injury resulting from a fall in the UK in 2001 led Michael Roberts to retire from riding at the age of 48. “I was still enjoying racing; if I hadn’t been injured I’d probably still be riding.” he said.

Summerhill wishes Michael Roberts and Team South Africa every success this weekend.

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INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS' CHALLENGE : The Leviathans of Racing

christophe soumillonChristophe Soumillon
(Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Saturday’s Steinhoff Summer Cup meeting sees the re-inauguration of the Jockey’s International concept, this time in “Test Match” format as they take on the cream of South Africa’s best, and it’s likely to be as great an attraction as the main event at Turffontein. The four-race International Jockeys’ Challenge is led by South Africa’s champion jockey, Mark Khan, and an international team which includes the irrepressible Frankie Dettori.

Twelve of the world’s top jockeys will be in action, with the visiting contingent including France’s flamboyant Christophe Soumillon, cool Irishman Mick Kinane, Australian legend Damien Oliver, top English jockey Darryl Holland and Indian champion Mallesh Narredu.

The South African team comprises Piere Strydom, Kevin Shea, Mark Khan, Weichong Mawing, Karl Neisius, and Anton Marcus, with Anthony Delpech as the reserve. All have been awarded Proteas colours, as has team manager Michael Roberts.

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STEINHOFF SUMMER CUP : Bigger and Better than ever

galant gagnantJimmy Lithgow’s Summer Cup pick, Galant Gagnant
(Gold Circle/Summerhill Stud)

With the Gomma Gomma dropping out of the sponsorship race, the Summer Cup under the generous hand of Steinhoff’s Group CEO, Marcus Jooste, is back in its rightful place as South Africa’s third richest horserace, with an enhanced stake of R2,000,000.

Yet that’s not all this time-honoured event has to offer this weekend, as it comes with the additional attraction of the renewal of the Jockey’s International, pioneered in the old Transvaal more than 40 years ago, by the legendary likes of Sandy Christie and Wally Segal during their tenure as General Manager’s of Turffontein and Gosforth Park respectively. Who will ever forget the spectacle of those bigger-than-life clashes between the colossis Lester Piggott, Ron Turcotte (remember SECRETARIAT?), Willy Carson, Fernando Toro, and the older Gianfranco Dettori, father and mentor to racing’s greatest name of the modern era, Frankie Dettori?

Meanwhile the focus of today’s script is the race itself, and the fact that Summerhill has no fewer than four entries headed by the Group One performing GALANT GAGNANT; the rapidly improving THANDOLWAMI; JAY PEG’s Guineas nemesis, DYNAMITE MIKE and dyed-in-the-wool veteran, FORK LIGHTENING. According to Jimmy Lithgow, writing in this weekend’s Sunday Times, the horse they all have to beat is GALANT GAGNANT, an eye-catching fourth behind the top-notch Our Giant in a preparation race at Turffontein over 1400m earlier this month.

This four-year-old was a short-head second behind the Dubai-bound Russian Sage in the Daily News 2000 (Gr1) at Greyville, and if his subsequent disappointing runs in the Vodacom Durban July and the Champions Cup can be overlooked, he seems to be peaking at just the right time. Anthony Delpech has the ride while the stable’s first jockey, Kevin Shea, will be piloting Rudra.

Another big chance is Charles Laird’s Smart Banker, an impressive winner of the recent Grade 2 Victory Moon Stakes when he had Mike de Kock’s Rudra just over a length behind him.

Of the older horses, Prince Asad has the class and the stamina to win for Geoff Woodruff, whose stable has recaptured its form of old. Stable jockey Mark Khan will partner Geoff Woodruff’s obvious first choice, the younger Aluminium. The latter appears to be somewhat overrated by the handicappers though, and capitulated tamely when challenged by Smart Banker and Rudra in the Victory Moon Stakes.

Charles Lairds third runner, Likeithot, was a gutsy winner of the Grade 2 November Handicap, but may battle to beat Thandolwami, a fast-finishing second on that occasion. KwaZulu-Natal trainer Craig Eudey will be going all out to achieve a ground- breaking success in the Summer Cup and Thandolwami, who has something to find with Galant Gagnant on their Daily News 2000 form, cannot be discounted.

If you’re looking for a long shot the out of form She’s On Fire is lengths better in soft going while Membrado, second in last season’s Canon Gold Cup at Greyville, is not short on stamina. The latter’s stable companion, FORK LIGHTENING, tends to rise to the occasion and rates a place.

JIMMY LITHGOW’S SELECTIONS

1 GALANT GAGNANT

2 PRINCE ASAD

3 THANDOLWAMI

4 SMART BANKER

Click here to download the final field for the
R2million Steinhoff Summer Cup

(Computaform/TAB)

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MIKE DE KOCK : Build up to Dubai Racing Carnival

mike de kock

Mike de Kock
(TDSports/John Lewis)

The month of December is not all about Christmas stockings and decorated trees for reigning South African Champion Trainer Mike de Kock, as it heralds the start of another preparatory phase in his build up to the Dubai Racing Carnival.

Mike de Kock Racing reports that the 2009 renewal of the world’s richest racing spectacle will represent Mike de Kock’s sixth sojourn to the UAE desert. Every year he’s had to match a terrific previous season but time and again he’s managed to better his own records with phenomenal spells of success.

In his five desert seasons so far Mike de Kock has saddled an astounding 63 winners from only 288 runners , capturing some of the world’s richest and most sought-after racing trophies against gruelling competition from the very best the racing world has to offer.

With 20 of those winners recorded in 2007, his best UAE season ever, Mike de Kock’s task seems to be getting harder, yet in 2009 his string will be 45 strong, more than twice the average number he’s trained at his Grandstand Stable Complex in his first five years.

With 19 inmates already in work with assistant Trevor Brown in Dubai and at least another 23 soon on the way on different chartered flights, Dubai 2009 could be Mike de Kock’s greatest carnival ever.

A Summer Cup winner, a Durban July winner, Derby winners, an Oaks winner and SA’s Champion Sprinter left Cape Town for Mike de Kock’s base at Newmarket, England, in October. They included Summerhill Stud’s multiple Graded winner Imbongi, Grade 1 winning three-year-old Rocks Off, Daily News 2000 winner Russian Sage, top class Oaks winner Front House, sprint sensation JJ The Jet Plane as well as sand stars Naples and Quicksand.

All, except JJ The Jet Plane and Breeders Cup Turf runner-up Eagle Mountain are expected to leave England for Dubai on 4 December. “JJ’’ and Eagle Mountain will stop over in Hong Kong en route to Dubai to contest races on the Cathay Pacific International Extravaganza and Mike de Kock said: “There is a quarantine issue which concerns JJ, but he has been officially invited to the Hong Kong Sprint and is being prepared for the race. The officials are bending over backwards to help us. Eagle Mountain will be going for the Hong Kong 2000.”

Trevor Brown said from Dubai yesterday: “All is well and we’re looking forward to a cracking season. Among the horses already back in training here are Archipenko, Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil, who have all had nice breaks and are starting to shed their excess condition, and Inca Noble, a very talented but injury-prone filly who is doing exceptionally well at the moment.’’

Among the Dubai stalwarts from previous years who are likely to race at Jebel Ali and perhaps Nad Al Sheba in the pre-carnival period from 19 December are Ablaan, gelded Limehouse and Drift Ice. In early January there could be races for the likes of Brave Tin Soldier and Trinity College.

New acquisitions already in Dubai are Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Indian Tamburina, a filly Trevor Brown describes as small and laid-back, but with good ability, Zajel and Musaytit from Australia and Blues And Rock from Argentina.

Four recent acquisitions from Coolmore are also on their way and include Zulu Chief, a half-brother to boom sire Hawk Wing, and Macarthur, a brother to Racing Post Derby winner Motivator, by Montjeu.

“Royal Vintage, Lucky Find and another new horse called Stubbs Art landed in Dubai last Thursday,” Trevor Brown concluded.

 

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YEATS : Finest Stayer of Recent Times

yeats and mick kinaneYeats with Mick Kinane aboard
(bbc)

For the third consecutive year YEATS brother of Summerhill stallion, SOLSKJAER, has won the coveted Cartier Champion Stayer.

Few horses have succeeded in capturing the affection of an admiring Flat-racing public like Yeats has done in recent times, but then only one other horse in history has managed to clinch the Gold Cup at Ascot on three successive occasions. Yeats joined fellow staying legend Sagaro in completing a hat-trick in the Royal Ascot showpiece in June ,and the Sadler’s Wells seven-year-old is rewarded with a third consecutive Cartier Champion Stayer Award.

With four Gr.1 victories under his belt before this year, Yeats was already established as the finest stayer of recent times. He made five starts in 2008, opening his campaign with a second successive win in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in April. True greatness then beckoned, and Yeats embraced it with a devastating five length defeat of Geordieland at Royal Ascot that saw him join the hitherto peerless Sagaro. A second Goodwood Cup was added as Yeats sauntered across the line seven lengths clear of Tungsten Strike.

Yeats suffered a reversal at Longchamp in the Gr.1 Prix du Cadran on 4th October as he finished a below par fifth to Spanish raider Bannaby. The great horse put that rival in his place on final start of the campaign when returning to Longchamp for the Prix Royal-Oak on 26th October. In a strong renewal of the Gr.1 contest, Yeats held the previous year’s winner Allegretto by a length and a half, with Bannaby back in fourth. Rather than a life at stud, Yeats seems set to return in 2009 when his adoring public will be willing him to a record fourth Gold Cup and perhaps another Cartier Racing Award.

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