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YEATS : The Ultimate Heavyweight Champ


Ascot Gold Cup 2006 - 2009
(Photo : Horsephoto/Press Association/Sporting Life)


 That was Friday’s headline in the American Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN), following YEATS historic fourth victory in the world’s greatest staying race. We suspect the authors have been reading our “propaganda” on his slightly older brother, resident Summerhill stallion SOLSKJAER, who was named for immortality in honour of the world’s best footballer of his time.

The publishers of both the TDN and the Thoroughbred Times obviously know where SOLSKJAER resides, as they were very quick to send their congratulations, as though we might have been an active party in this remarkable dream.

Amazingly, we have discovered in the course of the weekend that YEATS fourth consecutive victory was the first in the 202 year history of the Gold Cup (Gr 1), and that he was the first horse in more than a hundred years to win the race as an eight-year-old. The question now is, do the Coolmore team have a crack at a fifth consecutive victory? No doubt knowing the principals, they’ll be dying to have a go, but already jockey Johnny Murtagh is hedging his bets: “He can’t go on for ever, and I don’t want to be the one on top when he loses; he’s the ultimate heavyweight champ and it’s the greatest day in my riding career”.

A final word from trainer Aidan O’Brien:

“Horses like Yeats don’t come along more than once in a lifetime and I’ve never seen scenes like it before – all the cheering and those posters and flags for him – that’s what it’s all about. It’s more than money and value with him, it’s something really special. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don’t come true, even though you dream and dream”.

solskjaer stallion


ROBERT CLARK : Rembrandt's Acknowledgement

robert clark thoroughbred artistRobert Clark
Thoroughbred Artist

The press release on A.P.Arrow’s purchase for South Africa, has provoked a flood of congratulations on a scale we’ve not seen before. One of his most avid supporters is a man known in American art circles as the “Rembrandt of Racing”, Robert Clark. He took the trouble to write to us.

“I have been a big fan of AP Arrow for quite some time. I painted Azeri for Michael and Lenora Paulson a few years back and became friends with them. I was painting live at Gulfstream Park when AP Arrow won the Skip Away Stakes a couple years ago and joined the Paulson’s in the winner’s circle for the win photo, which I have hanging on my studio wall. So, as you can see I’m not just a casual fan of the sport or of this particular horse; I followed all of his races and know very well that while he never picked up his Grade 1 victory, he ran against the toughest competition year after year. He’s run with several horses that will be in the Hall of Fame some day. Add to that his pedigree that is impeccable and you have just acquired what will probably be a tremendous stallion. As sad as I was to see him leave the United States, after having a chance to study your farm’s web site for the last few weeks I am extremely impressed and realize that the best possible thing that could happen to AP Arrow is for him to have found his way to Summerhill.

I’ve been told by Shadwell manager, Rick Nichols, that Sheikh Hamdam was amazed by his painting of Invasor. I’d love to create an exciting painting of AP Arrow in action and/or a regal conformation painting set there at his new home”.

 robert clark website linkrobert clark invasor link


visit                    view Robert Clark’s painting of Invasor


admire main ap arrow

Grant Pritchard-Gordon, one-time anchor man in the organization of the famed Prince Khalid Abdullah and Juddmonte Farm operations, and founder of Badgers Bloodstock, is as recognisable as the best men in racing.

Among his many achievements, he was also central to the deal that secured his boss his breeding interests in Danehill, and which led to the production of the likes of Dansili, Champs Elysees, Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Cacique and Stronghold.

When “Badger” goes on record; write it down. This is what he said this week about Summerhill’s latest stallion prospects!

“So you obviously needed more excitement and work in your life. Well, you have certainly pushed the boat out this time! I have to admit that you have excelled yourself again in locking into yet another great bloodstock connection with the Yoshida family! Any sons of AP INDY and SUNDAY SILENCE will be a welcome addition to the stallion ranks of South Africa… and being such good racehorses as well must increase their chances of success. I am sure that the team behind AP ARROW will give him every opportunity”.

A BOYS CONSPIRACY : The Value of Mates

highland cow and calf postcard

So one old customer at Summerhill, whose time goes back almost to the opening of the gates, reminds us periodically of the value of good friends. We had a mutual pal pass away two weeks ago in the form of Sir Clement Freud, and Alec Foster, remembered for his association with Summerhill with his horses Steamy Window (Natal Oaks Gr.1), Cereus (Canon Gold Cup Gr.1) and Red Carpet Style (countless Grades Stakes races), has never been too far from his laptop when things of interest pop up, and he was quick to pounce on the reporting in England’s

We shall charm you with a couple of extracts over the next few weeks starting with “Ruin stared me in the face. £10,000 was 15 years’ salary, a 200 acre farm in Suffolk, 20 times the average reason for jumping off Beachy Head”.

Quoting from Alec’s postcard to us (the face of which is depicted in this Highland Cow and calf) “I remember when he came to Summerhill to interview you for the Sporting Life. He was not easy either, but he was known for that. I do recall you asking him where he was staying, and he gave the name of a non descript hotel in Pietermaritzburg, to which you, rather mystified, asked why he should be there, rather than at Hartford House. He replied “It’s the nearest hotel to the betting office”. That was Sir Clement Freud.


sir clement freudSir Clement Freud
1924 - 2009
(Photo : NY Times)

The world has already lamented the loss last week of the adventurer, writer and celebrated raconteur, Sir Clement Freud. We have our own recollections of a visit which entertained us endlessly 20 years ago, when he was a personal guest of the Goss family whilst they were still living at Hartford House.

Sir Clement’s appreciation of his visit was echoed in the most beautiful statement about Hartford House and Summerhill Stud. “From there you drive towards Giant’s Castle in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains and 5kms southwest is a handsome drive, lined by trees and decorated with potted conifers, that leads to one of the country’s most beautiful houses. You have arrived”. “Let us return to Summerhill, which is so beautiful that if you had a broodmare you loved it would be downright cruel to send her anywhere else”.

Following is a personal tribute by Derek Taylor, published in the Sunday Tribune.

The host of a fairly uproarious publisher’s party introduced me to Freud – a wit, racecourse addict, chef-patron, cabaret manager, member of the House of Commons and grandson of Sigmund Freud – adding I was from Australia.

Clem, already practising his concerned, lugubrious bloodhound expression although his too-young dewlaps weren’t yet up to it, said sympathetically, “I’m so sorry, but your secret will be safe with me.”

We became friends and almost every time I went through London since, we managed a lunch or an evening of cheerfully libellous accounts of current scandals and politics.

Clem died last week – at his desk, working well into his 80’s, still working hard – and our world is the poorer for his exit.

Thousands of South Africans will remember him as the mordant voice of the BBC radio comedy Just A Minute. For many of its record 41-year run, the show was re-broadcast in SA and around 20 other countries.

Sir Clement Freud MP – as he become known after serving in three successive parliaments – had recorded his last episode of Just A Minute 10 days before he died.

One of his repetitive boasts was he kept his jokes out of his work in the House of Commons as a Liberal Party member.

His Proudest claim was he helped create the Monty Python comedy team. John Cleese and the others had all known or known of each other when members of the Cambridge University Footlights society.

But it only dawned on them to work together after Clement had got them to appear in the cabaret he ran in his nightclub.

This showplace for young and original talent above the Royal Court Theatre also served rather good food : while waiting to be called-up for military service in 1942, Clement found a job as an apprentice chef at the Dorchester Hotel in Park lane, aged 16.

He wrote a successful book, Freud On Food, which contained the immortal line : “The aphrodisiac reputation of the oyster is overrated : the last time I had half a dozen only four of them worked.”

Among his hints for social success and economy was the suggestion that you roasted a couple of coffee beans in a frying pan to release their aroma into the dining-room – while you made the instant coffee.

His children’s book, The Grimble, which didn’t do well when it was published, was later praised as “a masterpiece” by J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter bestsellers.

This “ultimate immigrant Englishman”, as he once described himself to me, was born in Berlin and arrived in England when Grandfather Sigmund sized up the Nazis’ lethal anti-semitism and escaped with his family to London in 1933.

“We got away early to avoid the rush,” Clement told me.

Much of his self-deprecating humour stems from that frightened 12-year-old boy from Berlin, taken to England without and English to his name.

And from his assimilation in a country not itself short of anti-semitism in polite circles – as Sir Oswald Moseley, leader of the British Union of Fascists demonstrated before he was locked up for World War II.

Clement served with the Royal Ulster Rifles and, after the war, was a liaison officer at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Becoming an Anglican when he married Jill Raymond, an actress, they had five children and 17 grandchildren. Jill still runs a successful theatre company at 78.

Clement always protested that he didn’t know his world-famous grandfather well, but he remembered being taken to tea with him in Hampstead and “he was a good grandfather – he never forgot my birthdays.”

I once asked him if he had ever been tempted to follow in Sigmund’s footsteps by becoming a psychiatrist. “Good God, no,” he said. “Have you ever read any of that stuff? I got through a couple of pages of it once. Most unhealthy.”

Towards the end of his life, Clem turned his jokes towards death. His main regret, he told interviewers, was Spike Milligan had beaten him to the epitaph : “I told you I was ill”. Clem had settled on “Best before… (the date of his death).”

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A few National Sales comments...

pen and handwriting


barry irwinBarry IrwinTeam Valor’s Barry Irwin is famous for having proclaimed South Africa “the best kept secret in the racing game. “You’ve raised world-class horses in a world-class environment, and you have some of the world’s best horsemen”. About this year’s sale, Barry fingered the draft in general as the best by some stretch he had encountered. Some statement from one of the world’s greatest “pickers”. We often wonder whether the partners in Team Valor appreciate the talents of this man, who has separated himself from virtually every yearling selector we know, in achieving the hit rates for which Team Valor has become renowned. He’s not only a good picker though, he’s a supreme strategist, places his horses in the right places at the right time, and he seldom misses an opportunity.




Summerhill’s draft was outstanding, in what was the most outstanding collection of horses I’ve seen in nine visits to South Africa’s National Yearling showpiece”.




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LINDSAY PARK STUD : The Extension of a Legend

sam hayes national yearling sale (heather morkel)Sam Hayes
(Photo : Heather Morkel)

One of the associations in which we take great delight, is with the legendary Lindsay Park Stud in the vicinity of the famed Barossa wine growing region of South Australia. Lindsay Park was founded by one of Australia’s training icons, the late Colin Hayes, father of Australia’s leading trainer of the present era, David Hayes and grandfather to Sam Hayes, who has taken over the stud breeding operations at the property.

Lindsay Park has many things in common with Summerhill, not the least of which is its isolation from the mainstream of Australian breeding, the Hunter Valley. Like us in KwaZulu Natal, South Australia is off the beaten track in breeding terms, yet it continues to produce a stream of top quality horses, despite its removal from the location of the nations top stallions. Only recently, it has produced the likes of the celebrated Grade One winners, Niconero and Nicconi (winner of last weekend’s Galaxy Stakes Gr1). From all accounts, Sam enjoyed his trip to us last week. With his permission we quote from his note penned on the way home.


Dear Mick and Cheryl,

I am currently flying from Johannesburg to Sydney and reflecting on the last ten days.

I would like to sincerely thank you both for your wonderful hospitality in Johannesburg, at Hartford House and at Summerhill Stud.

The South African experience in general was everything that I had hoped it would be (and more!). The results of the National Sale were encouragingly strong in the face of a decline in world confidence. I was most impressed by the sale ground facilities and permanent hospitality areas within each barn (not to mention Linda’s chicken rolls… one of many highlights!)

The trip from Johannesburg to Natal with the stopover at Clarens provided for a great opportunity to view the South African landscape. Thanks for letting me travel with you.

Hartford House is a very special place. It is a credit to your imagination and sense of style Cheryl. The decor, delicious food, excellent service, warm hospitality and Zulu dancing will not be forgotten. It is a world class venue. Congratulations!

Summerhill Stud was quite inspirational. Seeing the Summerhill Stud graduates winning Group races at Turffontien on Saturday and then witnessing the top filly and colt being sold from your draft was only the beginning! Being able to observe your farm and your team at the top of its game was a real treat.

It was motivational to see first hand what can be achieved with hard work, optimism and persistence. The vision that your team has for Summerhill has largely been realized and to see a business modeled so meticulously on the template of one’s vision was most inspiring.

The things that stand out in my mind are the proactive initiatives to train and educate your staff (not only with work skills but general life skills as well). The genuine focus on clients. The effective diversification of your business through insurance and feed divisions and the development of organic pasture management practices.

But what I loved most was the burning desire you all had to become South Africa’s leading breeders, backed by a steadfast belief that you would one day get there despite not having the monetary backing or the perceived geographical advantage of your rivals. You are reaping the benefits of doing what you love. That really does inspire me.

Naturally I found so many parallels with what we are hoping to achieve at Lindsay Park Stud. I can’t wait to get back to work. I know, with time, we can do the same.

Thanks also for giving me an insight into how you run your monthly accounts. Those templates will be very useful in helping us to re-design our financial reporting.

The whole experience was an absolute privilege that I sincerely appreciate. Not even watching the Australians loosing the one dayer in Cape Town was going to dampen my spirits!

Please pass on my thanks to all the team, especially Heather, Linda, Kerry, Annet, Tarryn and Marlene.

Long may your success continue!

Warm Regards
Sam Hayes

Summerhill Stud’s Australian Ambassador!

Facebook, Twitter, Social Media and Horseracing

bold application facebook

Bold Application by Kahal
(Gold Circle/Summerhill Stud)


Social media is defined as any platform where users can interact, create content, communicate and converse in a free and informal manner using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies, most commonly via the internet and mobile communication networks.


Leading the online social media frontier is Facebook.


Facebook is a free-access social networking platform that allows users to join networks organised by location or interest groups, thus facilitating the easy transfer of information between personal contacts or organisations.


Ray Paulick, leading voice in the US Thoroughbred industry and previous editor in chief of BloodHorse, last year launched the online publication, The Paulick Report (, which aims to provide the Thoroughbred Industry with an independent voice for news, analysis and commentary.


The Thoroughbred Daily News recently published an interview with Ray Paulick in which he discusses his experience with Facebook and other social networking websites from a horseracing standpoint.


TDN : What has your experience been on Facebook? How does it help you keep in better touch with racing, or promote your racing product to customers? How might the industry better use social networking to promote itself? What other sites do you use?


Ray Paulick : Like many middle-aged adults, I first learned about Facebook from my kids, who now rely on this tool more than e-mail for communications with their friends. I’ve found Facebook to be a useful tool for reaching a new audience, and if I’m going to generalize, I’d say it’s a younger demographic, though more and more people from my generation are discovering it as a fun and useful way to keep in touch with individuals or groups of people, from old friends to relatives to folks I’ve met online.


From a business standpoint, Facebook has been a means to heighten awareness among racing enthusiasts about the Paulick Report, though our audience consists mostly of people with an investment or serious interest in the Thoroughbred industry. In addition to my own Facebook page, the Paulick Report has a group page on Facebook, but we try not to inundate people with breaking news or updates because I’m afraid that if you flood inboxes you’ll lose a good part of your audience.


We’re still tweaking how to best utilize this tool, and are looking at other platforms, including Twitter, which has really caught on in some areas of news and communications. There’s no question that the future of publications, news gathering and networking is online.


Having said that, I think many people who have been in the Thoroughbred industry a while are a little slow to the dance on some of these tools. I’m glad to see so many racetracks and organizations getting on board this online bandwagon. As marketing budgets are cut, it’s a very cost-effective means to keep in touch with customers and other interested parties. In particular, I like what the New York Racing Association is doing on YouTube - adding original content to the site that is both entertaining for fans and useful for horseplayers. I hope other tracks learn from them, because if we don’t start reaching out to where most younger people are spending their time these days – online – we’re only going to see our fan base continue to shrink and our demographics take on an even older profile than we currently have.”


The percentage of businesses taking advantage of the “free” social media environment is currently minute in comparison to the potential on offer. This is something that anyone can and should be involved in, especially in times of scaled back marketing budgets.



thoroughbred speed (michael nefdt)In pursuit of the “Perfect Equine Athlete”

This is my response to Saturday’s article which suggested that thoroughbreds might have “topped out” in terms of their progression as speedsters. The answer is simply “NO”, they haven’t. The first thing any correspondent on racing has to understand is that, unlike human competition, horseracing is a tactical business, the idea being to get the race to pan out to suit the individual horse’s style of running. Bear in mind, unlike human beings, the horse has no ambition to break records, as he doesn’t understand the subtleties of timing. His instinct is to run, and in the process, to beat his opponent. That’s what his genes have been honed towards throughout his 300 plus years of existence, and so it’s a wonder human beings have been able to teach horses to settle in a race, off the pace, and await their time.

The reality is, with the enormous prize money available to racehorses (human races are run for significantly less), the best tactics are all important, and getting the horse across the line first is the only thing that matters. If a record tumbles on the way, it’s a bonus.

Of course, like every form of endeavour, the closer you get to perfection, the more difficult it becomes to establish new records, and it’s no different in the field of human sports. Throughout history, people have set themselves targets against which to run, yet the biggest increments in human athletics have been in the last 50 years, where special nutrition, enhanced facilities and rigorous training programmes have dominated, even more so in the last twenty years.

In the world of the equine runner, the extent to which horses could be worked was long ago taken beyond where human beings were prepared to stretch themselves, so “topping out” (or reaching a stage closer to perfection) in human athletics. But all of this ignores the remaining opportunities for improvement.

The fact is, at Summerhill, we’ve found several means in the last fifteen years of significantly improving the performance of our own horses, and we’re nowhere near done yet. Our suspicion is, as has been the case with human athletes as they’ve grown bigger and stronger by the decade, is that there are still genetic and nutritional advances which can shape the equine athlete, and take it to levels we’ve yet to explore. That, and the discovery of the latent potential of our own environment, which we still have the daily luxury of exploring.



Have racehorses reached their speed limit?

speedy horsesSpeedy Horses
(Painting : Thoroughbred Paintings)

According to Mark Denny, PhD, of California’s Stanford University, it doesn’t look as though Thoroughbred racehorses will be breaking records anytime soon… or perhaps ever again.

Mark Denny believes that a plateau in racing speed was reached back in 1949, 1971, and 1973 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, respectively.

Denny analyzed the records for the U.S. Triple Crown races from 1896-2008 for the Kentucky Derby, 1925-2008 for the Preakness Stakes, and from 1926-2008 for the Belmont Stakes (when the current race distances were set).

In addition to noting that horses are not running any faster than they were decades ago, his assessment also revealed that the predicted maximum running speed is only 0.52-1.05% faster than the current race records.

“These results suggest that definite speed limits do indeed exist for horses and that their current speeds are very close to these predicted limits,” said Denny.

Despite the fact that horses have been bred for speed and the population from which to select fast racehorses has increased over the past 50 years, race speeds have not increased in the past 40-60 years.

“Horses appear to have reached their limit,” noted Denny.

While Denny’s analysis may be construed as disappointing by some, Denny attests that his findings should not, “diminish the awe with which we view the performance of horses.”

The study, “Limits to running speed in dogs, horses and humans,” was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in December 2008.

What do you think?


Dancer’s Daughter raids Empress Club Stakes

dancers daughterDancer’s Daughter
(JC Photos/Africana)

David Thiselton writes in The Sunday Tribune that the champion grey race mare, Dancer’s Daughter, powered home to the cheers of the crowd at Turffontein on Saturday in the Grade 1 R1 million Laurie Jaffee Empress Club Stakes over 1600m and probably gave South African horseracing a huge boost in the process.

Whereas the champions of yesteryear toured the country to run in all of the big features, Johannesburg had not seen one of the Cape’s big horses for sometime, as it has become the norm for them to concentrate exclusively on the Cape summer and Durban winter seasons.

Trainer Justin Snaith said after the race that having consistently told the public that Dancer’s Daughter , a daughter of Shadwell Stud’s Act One, was one the best females ever to race in the country, it would have been “criminal” not to bring her to Johannesburg to prove it.

Justin Snaith expressed recently that when he talked it was actually his horse doing the talking and how Dancer’s Daughter did so on Saturday, slicing through the field like a knife through butter in the straight before easily repelling the challenge of the Mike de Kock–trained Milk and Honey.

During her Johannesburg campaign, Dancer’s Daughter has been cared for by five time South African champion trainer, Geoff Woodruff, at the Vaal and the only question mark had been whether his stable jockey, Mark Khan, would be able to settle the notoriously headstrong mare. Mark Khan, the reigning champion jockey of South Africa, did so to perfection and had her near the tail behind horses from early on.

The Johannesburg public can now look forward to the Graham Beck-owned grey running in two more Grade 1 races in April, the Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Champions Challenge.

Her legend is sure to grow to epic proportions if she pulls off the treble that nobody had envisioned her taking part in just over a month ago, as she was being prepared for the J&B Met amid rumours that she would then head overseas.

The better she does, the better it will be for the reputation of her J&B Met conqueror, Pocket Power, who is no doubt one of best the horses to ever race in South Africa.

Milk And Honey ran a fine race to finish only one length back, as the rest of the field were strung out like the washing, the Ormond Ferraris-trained Gypsy’s Warning finishing third and the Mike Miller-trained KwaZulu-Natal challenger Outcome next best.

The first leg of the triple crown, the Grade 2 R1-million Gauteng Guineas, saw a dramatic finish with the Charles Laird-trained Oracy scraping home by a whisker under Anton Marcus ahead of dead-heaters, the Paul Matchett-trained Cerise Cherry and the Tyrone Zackey-trained Royal Rez.

Oracy, a New Zealand-bred by Zabeel, is owned by Markus Jooste. Still unbeaten, he is favoured by some to land the Triple Crown and this was going to be his toughest leg as he would prefer further.

Still, the proximity of 92-rated Royal Rez once again casts a doubt over the class of this season’s three year old male crop.

Charles Laird, Anton Marcus and Markus Jooste earlier combined to win the Grade 2 Hawaai Stakes over 1400m with odds-on favourite Our Giant, who ran out a comfortable one-length winner over what would appear to be his favourite trip.

The Mike Miller-trained KwaZulu-Natal raider, The Big Ask, a graduate of the Summerhill Ready To Run, ran a fine second, while another out of town horse, the Zimbabwean Lisa Harris-trained Earl Of Surrey finished third.

The Mike de Kock-trained Zirconeum romped home in the first leg of the Triple Tara, the Grade 2 R500 000 Gauteng Fillies Guineas, winning by 3.5 lengths from the Geoff Woodruff-trained Sharp Mistress and the Paul Matchett-trained Golden Scold. Zirconeum is owned by Chris, Andrew and Doug Haynes, together with Gary Grant and Mike de Kock himself.

Pocket Power delivers third L'Ormarins Queen's Plate

pocket powerPocket Power with Bernard Fayd’Herbe aboard
(Photo : Gold Circle)

Kenilworth racegoers yesterday witnessed a dramatic day’s racing filled with elation and despair. The fancied daughter of Act One, Dancer’s Daughter, failed in her attempt to repeat her success from last year in the Paddock Stakes whilst the son of Jet Master, Pocket Power, obliterated the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate field to record his third successive victory in the feature race.

Nicola Hayward writes for Thoroughbred Internet that in the Paddock Stakes (Gr1), Gauteng-based filly Emblem Of Liberty took the honours by beating favourite, Dancer’s Daughter, in some style, even though this was her first attempt at the 1800m trip. The four-year-old daughter of National Emblem, out of the Kendor mare, Dafka, was bred at Odessa Stud by Lionel Cohen who also owns her in partnership with Mrs C Cheyne, whose husband Greg Cheyne raced the horse to victory ahead of River Jetez (Jet Master) in second and Dancer’s Daughter (Act One) in third.

In the feature race, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (Gr1), Pocket Power rewrote the history books by taking line honours for the third consecutive year.

The six-year-old gelding, trained by Mike Bass and piloted by Bernard Fayd’Herbe, maintained an unbeaten record over the Kenilworth mile running out an impressive winner. Pocket Power (Jet Master) looked a picture going down to the start and by the time the field had turned for home, the powerful bay was mid-field. He found another gear in the straight to comfortably beat Our Giant (Giant’s Causeway) into second, with Kapil (Jallad) flying at the finish to take third.

The next clash for many of the day’s runners will be the J&B Met at Kenilworth on 31 January, where Pocket Power will be gunning for “another” third successive victory.

JOHN GOSDEN : Not just a pretty face

john gosden on horseJohn Gosden
(Daily Mail)

The only man at November’s Breeder’s Cup World Championship of Racing to come away with two victories, was Stronghold and Russian Revival’s trainer, John Gosden. Here’s a man who graduated from Cambridge University still confused about his future, and took a year off working in agriculture in Venezuela. The son of a distinguished horseman in his own right, the late Towser Gosden, John soon realised that despite a mind better suited to a professorial calling, he was going to devote his life to a career with horses.

That this was a choice of unusual wisdom, has been evidenced often enough, and the events at the Breeder’s Cup simply re-emphasised the extent of his tactical astuteness.

The intricacies of the turf and the exploitative strategic value of a life spent in observation and interpretation, was what made the difference for Princess Haya’s charge Raven’s Pass, in the big event on the card, the Breeder’s Cup Classic where he tore down the colours of the world’s highest ranked racehorse of the time, Curlin. This is Gosden’s account of how it happened……

“I learned a lot when I was on a show in the early 80’s with Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker and Charlie Whittingham. I was just a kid, but they were talking about riding on different surfaces – dirt, turf, firm turf, to loose wet turf, cuppy tracks, tighter tracks and so on – and they pointed out the most important thing was that if you want a horse to accelerate in the latter part of a race it has to be able to get hold of the track more than anything else, which is why on a cuppy track, or on a track that isn’t tight, or on loose turf it’s very hard to do that. The key thing about Santa Anita is that with the surface they are on now you can put your foot down and really spring off it.

The one thing that was very clear to me about Curlin, good horse though he is, he wins races by grinding them into the ground. He’s a relentless galloper. He just gallops and gallops, and like all dirt horses he’ll go the last quarter slower than the first but he’ll just stay on. That was where he was vulnerable, because if you can sit on him – and he was drawn beside us, so the game plan was always to track him – and you are still travelling at the quarter pole you are in business. We’ve got a turn of foot, and he hasn’t. We have what European horses are trained for – acceleration – and he hasn’t. Goldikova has it and Henrythenavigator has it. That’s where we caught him. I don’t think he’d ever had two horses come either side of him and I think it shocked him, and it shocked the jockey too, because he was in the perfect spot. On that surface a horse can really show you a burst of speed. We call that class in Europe. In dirt races you don’t see it happen. You think it’s happening but it’s an optical illusion. What it means is that the horse in front is dying and the other one is just staying on at the same pace. That’s why he was vulnerable, and that’s why we went for that race.”

(article by Graham Dench, Pacemaker December 2008)

Grand Prix motor racing is a sport followed by tens of millions around the globe, and its aficionados will tell you that it’s the tactical aspect of the sport that attracts them. Truth is this, and thus most times, it’s the fastest car that gets you home, provided there’s a modicum of competence behind the wheel. Motor racing is a limp fish though next to horse racing when it comes to the complexities behind the tactical appraisal of the possibilities of a contest, and it’s people like John Gosden and our own Mike de Kock, who separate themselves from the ordinary through their instinctive wisdom.

News from Afar : A Darley Flying Start Graduate at Work

stallion dansiliDansili
(Photo : Juddmonte)

South Africa’s Kevin Sommerville writes:

Work at Juddmonte is going really well. If you’re interested in horses this is a pretty fantastic place to be, surrounded by the likes of Dansili, Cacique, Rail Link, Zamindar and Oasis Dream. It is however the broodmare band that everybody drool’s over, Hasili (dam of 5 Gr.1 winners), Toussaud (Dam of 4) and the runners Heat Haze (Gr.1), Intercontinental (Gr.1), Banks Hill (Gr.1) and many many others.

As the weather has been pretty awful I haven’t been out the office much but come the summer I’ll be visiting all the foals of our stallions all over Europe. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see some spectacular farms as well as to meet some wonderful owners and managers.

I’ll be heavily involved at the sales come October and December next year and I’m looking forward to that. They seem to do things rather different over here; we have our top 3 stallions booked up already, on average about 120 mares! Dansili will once again cover a phenomenal book of mares! He could very well be the best sire son of Danehill in the future. His figures are phenomenal from very inferior mares! Keep an eye on him!

The Industry over here has received a heavy blow to the ribs (bit like the Aussies). Overproduction and a lack of prize money are a major concern. Issues not easily solved.

Juddmonte however sits in a pretty situation but still it’s hitting everybody hard! A major rethink of the industry is required.

This is probably not much info for the blog but as the weather improves; I’ll be getting out more which will be fantastic and I’ll have a few more stories as the year goes on.

Have a wonderful 2009.


VETERAN STALLIONS: Worth a second look

stallion sunset (michael nefdt)Summerhill Sunset
(Summerhill Stud)

Andrew Caulfield writes in the Thoroughbred Daily News that to say it is going to be fascinating to see how the Thoroughbred industry responds to the spreading recession sounds a bit too gleeful, when experience has taught us that there are going to be casualties, both human and equine, as production is cut back. But experience has also taught us that the industry will be fitter and leaner, and consequently healthier, when the economy inevitably starts to rally.

The question is how best to survive until that happens - hopefully not too far into the future. Although it may be stating the obvious, breeders are going to have to ensure they obtain the best value for money or biggest bang for their buck, to use a more colorful expression.

One area worthy of consideration - especially for the owner/breeder - is whether the hot new stallion is as safe a bet as a less fashionable stallion with a proven track record. The stallions I am thinking of in the latter category are those which have reached veteran status (aged more than 20). Because of their age - and what could be termed the boredom factor - these stallions are rarely as busy as they were in their heyday, when they achieved so much that they earned a lifelong place in the industry.

Warm wishes from eminent journalist Mike Tarr

hartford house table setting
Lunchtime dining on Hartford’s verandah
(Photo : Hartford House)


Hello Jackie and Cheryl:

Just a short note to thank you both and Gold Circle and Gill Simpkins for the wonderful experience of being at Summerhill this week and the great lunch in a perfect setting. Jackie you are a genius, pea soup and ice cream!! such invention. I love it. And the Norwegian salmon was superb and the desserts sublime. I hope to come back and do a proper crit and also take in more of the amazing atmosphere of Summerhill. We are truly blessed as South Africans to have a place like this. Thank you for a memorable day.

I saw Mickey briefly on our tour but would obviously like to interview him and get an in depth view into his thoughts on the farm and subjects in general. I am told he has a wonderful way with words and views about our country.

Best wishes and thank you again.
Michael Tarr

(Eminent Journalist : The Daily News)


RUDRA dominates Steinhoff Summer Cup

rudra winning summer cupRudra with Kevin Shea aboard
(Mike de Kock Racing)

Saturday’s R2million Steinhoff International Summer Cup saw the Mike de Kock / Kevin Shea Group 1 juggernaut deliver once again with 3-1 favourite, Rudra, taking the day’s spoils in dominant fashion.

Jimmy Lithgow writes in The Times that the four-year-old Parade Leader (Kingmambo) colt, who runs for the partnership of Tony Moodley, trainer Mike de Kock, Chris Gerber, Ferdie Ladeira and rugby commentator Paul Bayvel, raced clear after cruising into the lead at the 300m marker.

It was a fourth Summer Cup victory for Kevin Shea, who has had a tremendous year, winning on several continents on Mike de Kock’s horses. But this was his easiest victory in this prestigious race. Rudra was Mike de Kock’s eighth winner in the Summer Cup.

While Mike de Kock was doubtful after the race whether Rudra could beat the mighty Pocket Power in the J&B Met early next year, there is no denying that the horse is a class act.

Settled towards the back of the field, with second-favourite Smart Banker in his slipstream, Rudra travelled easily. Kevin Shea allowed stable companion Equal Image, also racing in Tony Moodley’s colours, to take the lead, with Speed Of Gold, Membrado, Eddington and Senor Versace well placed.

Prince Asad made a move at the top of the straight but once Rudra was given his head, there was no doubting the result.

French jockey Christophe Soumillon, deputising for the injured Anton Marcus, worked hard on Smart Banker on the outside as the field reached the 200m mark and had to take evasive action as one of the leaders fell back.

Smart Banker, who beat Rudra in the recent Victory Moon Stakes, ran on stoutly to finish as Kevin Shea looked back for the opposition and eased up short of the line.

Smart Banker’s stable companion, Senor Versace, ran on well for third, with Prince Asad fading slightly at the finish to take fourth.

Earlier, Christophe Soumillon, rated by many as the best rider in the world, rode superbly to win the Grade 2 Dingaans on Charles Laird’s inexperienced New Zealand-bred colt, Oracy.

This smashing individual must be one for next year’s Vodacom Durban July short list as he was having only his second race.

While Kevin Shea was the star of the show on Rudra, Christophe Soumillon demonstrated the dedication it takes to become one of the world’s top jockeys, spending hours in the past couple of days pounding the tennis courts at Sun City in a sweat suit to take off the weight needed to make the ride on Smart Banker.

A good crowd turned out to watch the feature events, as well as the four-race international jockeys’ contest.

But superstar Italian Frankie Dettori, Ireland’s Mick Kinane, Australian Damien Oliver, India’s Mallesh Narredu, England’s Darryl Holland and France’s Belgian-born Christophe Soumillon had no answer to the powerful South African team, even though Darryl Holland gave the visitors a good start by winning the first of the four competition races and also won the Grade 2 Merchants aboard trainer Joey Ramsden’s Something Else.

By the last of the four races, the South Africans had established an unassailable lead, courtesy of victories by Karl Neisius and Piere Strydom, but man-of- the-moment Kevin Shea provided the clincher in the ninth race, winning on Alec Laird’s Urban Reason.

The South Africans won by 60 points, scoring 179 to the Rest of the World’s 119.

Mark Khan, the South African captain, won the bronze saddle as the highest-scoring individual jockey.




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.”