Viewing entries in
Ready to Race




The KwaZulu-Natal Owners and Trainers Awards for the 2007/2008 racing season were held at a Dinner Dance occasion at Greyville after the day-night meeting on Saturday.

The evening was co-hosted by Graeme Hawkins and James Goodman and was well attended by trainers, owners and other members of the racing fraternity.

David Thiselton writes that the Horse of the Year was awarded to Imbongi, who was trained by the Trainer of the Year, Mike de Kock, and bred by the Breeder of the Year, Summerhill Stud. Imbongi’s second stint in KZN followed his surprise win in the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas but he then proved himself a top class horse, Mike de Kock having said during the season that the Russian Revival chestnut improved tremendously with gelding.

He won the Grade 2 KZN Guineas in brilliant fashion after being squeezed not much more than 100m from home and then became the first three-year-old of the season to beat older horses when landing the Grade 2 Drill Hall Stakes over 1 400m against a star-studded field that included the likes of Pocket Power.

He then beat Pocket Power again when finishing second to Dancer’s Daughter in the Grade I Gold Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood, a race that was billed “the Race of the Season”.

was also crowned Champion three-year-old colt, while his groom, Goodman Bhuku, was named Groom of The Year.

The announcement of the Sean Tarry-trained Wendywood as the Champion three-year-old filly was accompanied by some sadness as the Grade I Woolavington winner died of colic recently after her amazing career of just three runs, culminating in a respectable effort in the Vodacom Durban July. Assistant trainer, Deshone Steyn, received the award on Sean Tarry’s behalf. |

Champion two-year-old filly went to the Grade I Thekwini Fillies Stakes winner, the Duncan Howells-trained Gypsy’s Warning, and Champion two-year-old colt went to the Grade I Premier’s Champion Stakes winner, the Mike de Kock-trained Rocks Off.

Mike De Kock also scooped both the Champion Older Horse and Champion Stayer awards, with Canon Gold Cup winner Thundering Star, and the Champion Sprinter Award with SA Fillies Sprint winner, Rat Burana.

The Mike Miller-trained Garden Province winner, Outcome, won the Champion Older Female award.

Mike de Kock’s Award for Champion Trainer was, unbeknown to many, a close shave as he only had a single winner more than the perennial winner of the award, Dennis Drier, on KZN racetracks.

Brandon Lerena was Champion Apprentice for the third year running while Champion jockey went to the evergreen Robbie Hill.

Markus Jooste was Champion owner while Moga Pillay won the Anita Akal Award, which honours those who go beyond their call of duty in serving the horseracing industry.

Mike de Kock’s
many awards were received by his assistant John Buckler, as the maestro trainer is currently in the US preparing Eagle Mountain for the Breeders’ Cup.



NEW APPROACH retired after victory in Champion Stakes

kevin manning and new approach
Kevin Manning celebrates aboard New Approach

Princess Haya of Jordan’s New Approach (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) became the first G1 Epsom Derby winner to follow up in the G1 Emirates Airline Champion Stakes in the same year since the 1968 hero Sir Ivor with an emphatic six-length success on Saturday.

The Thoroughbred Daily News reports that capping a memorable afternoon for Jim Bolger following the surprise win of Intense Focus (Giant’s Causeway) in the G1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes a half hour earlier, the 6-5 crowd’s choice opened up when committed by Kevin Manning with three furlongs remaining and by the time he reached the line, he had smashed the previous track record set by Palace Music in this race 24 years ago.

“Everything went according to plan,” his typically understated jockey commented afterwards. “He really impressed me today and of all his wins, I’ve no doubt that today was his best.”

Khalid Abdullah’s Twice Over ran second and previous Herman Brown inmate, Linngari, ran a very creditable 3rd.

New Approach has been retired to stud and will stand at Dalham Hall.




MUHTAFAL : Stallion Profile


“If we were going to war, he’d be our General.”

Those are the words of Summerhill stud master Mick Goss, who has never been shy of singing the praises of Mr Prospector’s son Muhtafal, now firmly ensconced as the leading stallion standing in KwaZulu-Natal. The farm’s stalwart has been making steady progress up the stallion ranks over the past few seasons and has reached another important milestone - he cracked fifth place on the General Sires list in 2007.

Ranked 17th in 2004, tenth in 2005 and sixth in 2006, the now 16-year-old sire enjoyed a stellar season which yielded six stakes winners and culminated in total progeny earnings of more than R8.1 million, placing him behind only ‘big guns’ Jet Master, Western Winter, Jallad and Fort Wood.

This achievement has resulted in a significant revision to his service fee and the chestnut will command a fee of R60,000 in 2008, up from a previous high of R40,000.


Muhtafal was bred for success - he is a full-brother to Canadian Horse of the Year and Champion three-year-old Afleet and is out of 1988 Canadian Broodmare of the Year Polite Lady, who in turn is out of another Broodmare of the Year, Friendly Ways. Free of Northern Dancer blood, his pedigree carries duplications of both Bull Dog and Nasrullah in the fifth remove.

Muhtafal raced in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and such were the expectations for the son of Mr Prospector that in his debut outing, he was pitched against allowance company at Churchill Downs. The result, a facile victory recorded in a time just outside of the 1200m track record. Another victory followed, this time at Keeneland when powering home by five lengths in what was then the fastest six-furlong time ever recorded by a sophomore at the historic track. On the strength of such form, the colt started favourite for the Gr.3 Kentucky Derby Trial, but suffered a leg injury which ultimately put paid to his racing career. Following two unsuccessful starts at four, the chestnut was retired to his owner’s Shadwell Stud in Kentucky in 1997. From two relatively small crops, he sired stakes winners Charmu, Polite Lil Lady, Winter Leaf and X Country.

Muhtafal exchanged the Kentucky bluegrass for the lush green hills of KwaZulu-Natal and arrived at Summerhill Stud in time for the 1998 breeding season, boasting credentials tailor made for South Africa: he was a son of the great Mr Prospector, a full brother to a champion and successful sire in Afleet, and most important, he possessed brilliant speed.


Muhtafal was quick off the mark with his first South African-conceived crop, which yielded three stakes winners. Tuscan Elegance clearly inherited her sire’s brilliant speed, winning six races over the minimum trip, including the Gr.3 Southern Cross Stakes, the Goldfields Sprint and the Gardenia Handicap. Side By Side won the Gr.3 Umzimkhulu Handicap, while The Waltz improved with age to end his career a ten-time winner, which included two runnings of the Gr.3 Christmas Handicap.

Muhtafal’s first Gr.1 winner emerged from his second crop in the shape of Disappear, who defeated the mighty Nhlavini in the 2005 Mercury Sprint at Clairwood. Also a winner of the Gr.2 Post Merchants, this fine sprinter has likewise proven to be a durable performer, for he is still in training and has amassed stakes just short of the million Rand mark.

Muhtafal sired yet another Gr.1 winner in Let’s Rock’N Roll, a foal of 2002, whose victory in the Gr.1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint earned him the title of Champion three-year-old male sprinter.

Four-year-old daughter Outcome became her sire’s third Gr.1 winner with a handsome victory in the prestigious Garden Province Stakes at Greyville on July day.

Muhtafal was expected to deliver stock noted more for speed than stamina and results have indicated that his progeny generally take after their sire, carrying their speed up to 1600m, with the notable exception being Veiled Essence, who scored a come-from-behind victory in the 2006 Gr.2 Gold Circle Oaks.

Muhtafal has to date shown a preference for mares from the Northern Dancer tribe - Gr.1 winner Outcome and Mauritian stakes winner Flaminglight are both out of Elliodor mares, while Gr.3 winning sprinter Fair Brutus, dual stakes winner Nottgalashia and Battlestar Express were bred from daughters of Danzig’s son National Assembly. As expected, he is proving to be a perfect foil for the daughters of Summerhill foundation stallion, Northern Guest, a son of Northern Dancer. All of Let’s Rock’N Roll, Side By Side, The Waltz, Hot Reception and Alejate are out of mares by the multiple champion broodmare sire.

Muhtafal has also sired Disappear, Umngazi and Mzwilili out of daughters of his former stud compatriot Coastal, giving linebreeding to Raise A Native.

Racing South Africa



GALILEO colt heralds biggest Australian success for Darley Stud

peter snowdenTrainer Peter Snowden with wife Lyn and daughter Lisa
(Jenny Evans)

On Saturday, Randwick’s Spring Champion Stakes G1 over 2000m, heralded Darley Stud’s biggest racetrack success in Australia to date.

The hero was the Galileo colt, Sousa, who romped home to win by an emphatic six lengths for trainer Peter Snowden, taking Galileo’s tally for the year to 18 stakes winners.

Sousa was purchased by Woodlands Stud for A$420,000 at the 2007 Inglis Easter Sale and was one of hundreds of horses to pass into Sheikh Mohammed’s ownership following the purchase of Ingham Bloodstock earlier this year.

Galileo missed out on a Group 1 double on the same Randwick card when David Payne’s Gallant Tess was beaten by less than two lengths into third in the Epsom Handicap.

Unbelievably, there are 3 lots by Galileo on this year’s Emperors Palace Ready To Run sale to be held at the TBA Complex on  2nd November.

You can see these spectacularly animals strutting their stuff here at the Summerhill Ready To Run Gallops on 17 October.




EAGLE MOUNTAIN bound for Breeders' Cup

mike de kockMike de Kock
(John Lewis)

charl pretoriusCharl Pretorius Freeracer Mike de Kock is set to write another new chapter in the history books by becoming the first South African to saddle a runner at the US Breeders’ Cup World Championships meeting at Santa Anita near Los Angeles, California, on 25 October.

Mike de Kock announced on Monday, 6 October, that Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s four-year-old, a Group 3 winner in his comeback run last week, will be entered for and pointed at the 2008 Breeders Cup Turf over 2400m.

Eagle Mountain
, a son of Rock Of Gibraltar, won last Friday’s Group 3 Nayef Joel Stakes over 1600m after a year’s layoff, setting a track record. Mike de Kock said: “This was a meritorious win considering that he (Eagle Mountain) came back from a serious pelvic injury and over a trip too short. He is at a high level of fitness and is eligible for the Breeders Cup. I consulted with Sheikh Mohammed and we made a decision to pencil his name in when entries fall due on 14 October. With three weeks to go, we will be focusing fully on the race in his preparation.

Previous winners of the illustrious Breeders Cup Turf include In The Wings, Daylami, Fantastic Light and High Chaparral.



ZARKAVA wins Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

prix de l'arc de triomphe winnersPrincess Zahra, His Highness The Aga Khan, Christophe Soumillon, Alain de Royer Dupre
(Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty)

The Aga Khan’s homebred filly Zarkava (Ire) (Zamindar) had Longchamp holding its breath when making it a magnificent seven career wins and a fifth at the highest level in yesterday’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the world’s richest race on turf with a stake of 4 million euro.

Despite the disappointment of rain at Longchamp, and a few doubts about the filly being drawn on the inside and having her first run against colts in such an important event, she powered to victory from Youmzain (Sinndar), who filled the runner-up spot for the second consecutive year.

The punters’ patriotic bets saw her start as the even-money favorite - but she almost threw away their cash when jinking right when exiting the stalls, almost losing jockey Christophe Soumillon. Soon recovering, the bay found the gaps when it mattered and delivered her trademark acceleration to lead with a furlong remaining and surge clear under a hand ride.

Zarkava remains unbeaten in 7 starts and is the first filly to win the Arc since Urban Sea (dam of Galileo), who took the honours in 1993.

youtube link

Watch Zarkava winning the 2008 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe





rock of gibraltarRock Of Gibraltar

EAGLE MOUNTAIN returned to the track in fine style on the weekend winning the G3 Joel Stakes in Newmarket, England for South African champion trainer Mike de Kock. It was an incredible training feat for Mike and his team as this son of ROCK OF GIBRALTAR had suffered a pelvic injury earlier in the year and had been off the track for 349 days.

Previously trained by Aidan O’Brien, he was second to Authorized in the G1 Epsom Derby and runner up to Literato in the G1 Champion Stakes.

Coolmore’s Rock of Gibraltar (or ‘The Rock’, as he has become known) was a machine of a racehorse winning 7 consecutive Group Ones. He shuttles to Australia where he is standing for A$82 500 this season and has produced stakes winners in USA, England, Ireland, France, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, including multiple G1 winner MOUNT NELSON and G1 Gold Medallion winner, SEVENTH ROCK.

Amongst the exceptional draft of two year olds on offer at the Ready to Run sale on 2nd November is a good looking son of ‘The Rock’ who is catching the eye here on the Summerhill tracks. Come and see him in action as well as sons and daughters of GALILEO, ROYAL ACADEMY, FLYING SPUR, CAPE CROSS, MUHTAFAL and KAHAL at the Ready to Run gallops at Summerhill on 17 October.



Pedigree Focus by Tony Morris

European Bloodstock News

When, some four and a half years ago, I chose the title for this feature, I was extremely conscious of its ambiguity; in fact, it was my deliberate intention that it should be open to two interpretations.

This was to be a slot where emphasis was generally placed on the distaff side of pedigrees – a weekly dissertation on some aspects of a female family that had become topical by virtue of a recent result in a major race.

But I did not mean to promote the view that pedigrees should be interpreted solely in terms of female lines. It stands to reason that a proper reading of any pedigree should give due weight to all its component parts; when science tells us that, at every mating, each parent contributes equally to the genetic make-up of their product, we are on dodgy ground if we choose to believe in direct lines as crucial to the inheritance of characteristics.

Indeed, we do not even need the evidence supplied by Mendel, and the many eminent authorities who have supplemented the knowledge that he imparted. Any amateur student of the Thoroughbred has long been able to recognise, by dint of minimal research, that male lines tend to flourish for a while, then fall into decline. It is not necessary to go back into ancient history to establish that fact; it suffices just to know how potent the lines descending from such as Hyperion and Tourbillon were 30 or 40 years ago, and to realise what is now left of them.

Similarly, it is common knowledge that female lines tend not to thrive consistently over long periods; their fortunes fluctuate, and frequently deteriorate when access to successful sires is denied them.

Furthermore, in a breeding regime which generally permits only a tiny percentage of males – those who are proven successful athletes – to procreate, but which provides that opportunity to almost all females, regardless of their performance on the racecourse, we kid ourselves when we claim that the Thoroughbred of today is the product of three centuries of selective breeding. We have selected the males for logical reasons, with performance as the chief criterion; the females have never been selected on that basis.

In truth, when we use the term ‘family matters’ in its other sense, suggesting that it has genuine importance, it is most often applicable only in terms of the commercial market. The convention of displaying catalogue pedigrees as we do has evolved precisely because the bottom line in any pedigree tends to be its weakest area. All the mares in other positions are there by reason of success in production, through descendants who have earned a right to breed; that is not necessarily the case in the direct female line, hence the need for catalogues to attempt to show just cause for those mares to feature in the breeding population.

And nobody need doubt that catalogue entries have tremendous influence on the perceptions of buyers. The amount of black type displayed on the page may make a huge difference to the value of any animal. Without question, in that sense, family matters.

In order to acquire a firm conviction that family truly matters to events on the racecourse, we probably need more weekends like the one just gone, when several big race results lent substance to the belief.

There was a Group 3 winner out of a mare who won the Oaks. Another was the third individual Pattern winner for her dam. A Group 2 winner was the second from his dam to have won at Pattern level this year.

Another successful at that level became the sixth major winner out of his dam, herself a victress of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. No less wondrous was the fact that the two Group 1 winners at Ascot were closely related in the female line – and only in the female line – the dam of one being full sister to the grand-dam of the other.

So, let’s hear it for the females of the species! Oaks heroine Love Devine’s St Leger-winning son Sixties Icon (Galileo) notched the sixth Pattern victory of a stellar career in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. Sadima, already with Group 1-winning colts in Youmzain (Sinndar) and Creachadoir (King’s Best) to her credit, was responsible for her third notable scorer in as many years when her daughter Shreyas (Dalakhani) won the Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Fillies Stakes at Gowran Park.

Mare aux Fees , who produced this year’s Prix Vanteaux winner in Belle Allure (Numerous), doubled her Pattern score for 2008 when Jukebox Jury (Montjeu) took the Royal Lodge Stakes, both having arrived in her late teenage years. And the celebrated

Urban Sea, last of her sex to have recorded a “triomphe” in the Arc, added to her outstanding record as a broodmare – exemplified by Urban Ocean (Bering), Galileo, Black Sam Bellamy, All Too Beautiful (all by Sadler’s Wells) and My Typhoon (Giant’s Causeway) – when Sea the Stars (Cape Cross) staked a claim for consideration for 2009’s Classics with his victory in the Beresford Stakes on the Curragh.

But it was surely no less remarkable that Raven’s Pass (Elusive Quality), now rated Europe’s champion miler after his dismissal of Henrythenavigator and Tamayuz in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and Rainbow View (Dynaformer), Britain’s undefeated and undisputed champion juvenile filly after her triumph in the Fillies’ Mile, should share such a close connection in the female line.

The honours in the case of the Gosden-trained duo belong to sisters Words of War and Ascutney, respectively the 1989 and 1994 products of matings involving Lord At War (a male line grandson of the great Brigadier Gerard) and Right Word, a daughter of Verbatim from a family previously renowned for Grade 1 winners such as Danzig Connection and Pine Circle.

Right Word, who died in 2005 at the age of 23, was no great shakes as a runner herself, managing only one second place from six starts, but Words of War was a tough stakes-winner, placed twice at Grade 3 level, and Ascutney had a Grade 3 win in the Miesque Stakes to her credit. Words of War made her name as a broodmare swiftly, as her first-born was No Matter What (Nureyev), successful in the Del Mar Oaks, and next came E Dubai (Mr Prospector), a Grade 2 winner, Grade 1-placed in the Travers and Super Derby, and already a noted sire.

Ascutney already had a Grade 3 winner in Gigawatt (Wild Again) under her name before Raven’s Pass came along, while No Matter What had just one minor scorer on her CV before the emergence of the exciting Rainbow View.





If ever vindication was needed for Summerhill’s deep conviction on MACHIAVELLIAN as a Sire of Sires, then surely STREET CRY’s two Group One winners in the USA this weekend, was it. His daughter ZENYATTA, remained unbeaten in eight starts in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (Gr1), drawing away by 3.5 lengths, while his two year old son STREET HERO, became this young sire’s eighth Group One winner with just three crops at the races, as he scooted off in the Norfolk Stakes (Gr1), notching his first lifetime victory in the most illustrious company.

Back home, KAHAL continued to sow his own breeze, reaping the whirlwind at the top of the nation’s Sires’ log. KAHAL started out as a little known stallion at an R8,000 service fee, and his mates to date reflect his rather modest beginnings. However, the early achievements of EMPEROR NAPOLEON, BOLD ELLINORE, DESERT LINKS etc, quickly dispelled any notion of ordinariness about this fellow, and he now bestrides racing’s headlines like a stallion colossi in the making.

“If he’d got the mares FORT WOOD and WESTERN WINTER have had, he’d be challenging for the Championship”.

We didn’t say that; but a legend did.

It’s Mike de Kock’s considered opinion (and he should know, having trained four Group One performers by KAHAL), that this is a Champion in the making and with his much improved patronage of the last few seasons, KAHAL should be well on his way. If the foals from the new generation are anything to go by, we’d have to agree.





alan and brenda magid with dahlia's guest and her foal

Judge Alan and Brenda Magid with Dahlia’s Guest and her Way West colt
(Grant Norval)

One of our favourite pals, Alan Magid, one-time doyen of the South African judiciary, didn’t take long to visit at the news of the arrival of his sparklingly attractive Way West colt. This fellow arrived on Saturday morning, and at a massive 60kgs, he’s one of biggest foals we’ve seen in a while, certainly as big as any thus far this season. He’s out of the Northern Guest mare, Dahlia’s Guest, and is a half-brother to the top-class Mark Dixon trained filly, Prize Flower (by Muhtafal).

There’s a twist in this tale, and it revolves around Alan’s wife Brenda, who really is the “judge” in this instance. At the 2007 version of the Summerhill Stallion Day, our generous friends were anxious to support the charity auction of stallion services, and after seeing the parade, and finding herself enamoured by the appearance of Way West, Brenda put up her hand in earnest. Bidding beyond the advertised service fee (that’s what charities are about!) and despite the desperate protest of her thrifty husband, Brenda won the day and had the service knocked down to her. The dilemma for the Judge (we speak of the judicial one now,) after that was which of his mares he should use the service for, his inclination being the sister to the winner of the inaugural Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup, Umngazi.

But knowing the success Danehill has enjoyed with Northern Dancer-line mares, (Rock Of Gibraltar, Horatio Nelson and Peeping Fawn), our mating committee urged the use of Dahlia’s Guest to Way West.

The photograph tells the rest of the story. We’re hoping this year’s choice of stallions will be left to her ladyship!



Remember Alan Briggs? He's hit the Big Time.

alan briggs
Alan Briggs
(BC Thoroughbred/Keeneland)

Most breeders around the country will recall the visit to South Africa of Alan Briggs, one of the world’s foremost pedigree experts and a bloodstock agent in Florida, USA.

He came on the recommendation of the greatest bloodstock analyst of them all, Bill Oppenheim, and sized up a “mating-recommended” for just about every mare in KwaZulu Natal, and a heap of them in the Western and Eastern Cape.

This week, Alan Briggs and partner Bob Cromartie teamed up in the sale of the top priced colt (by Giants Causeway) on the opening day of the greatest horse sale in the world, Keeneland September.

The son of Kingmambo mare, Voodoo Dancer, made a flat $1 million, sold apparently to an English investor.

Those that heeded his wisdom on his visit to South Africa, when he came as a guest and at the expense of Summerhill, would be wise to revisit his recommendations. The proof of his pudding is in his eating.



Another Cracker of a Weekend!

galileos night and andrew fortuneGalileo’s Night with Andrew Fortune aboard
(Gold Circle)

megan romeynMegan RomeynThis past weekend got off to a great start with the announcement of the winners at the East Cape Awards. Paris Perfect, son of Summerhill super sire, Muhtafal won the Champion Three Year Old Colt / Gelding title. This was just reward for the talented and hard-working colt who has shown that Muhtafal’s progeny are not just confined to sprints and the shorter distances.

Once again the gutsy little dynamo, Hear The Drums, a R45,000 purchase from the 2005 Ready To Run, came away with two awards, winning the Champion Older Colt / Gelding and Champion Sprinter titles, confirming his status as a superstar.

Congratulations to owners Peter and Gail Fabricius!

Around the country, the Summerhill runners showed their mettle yet again with some impressive performances. Muhtafal continues to prove why he is ranked in the top five sires in the country, with his progeny shining on the track. Not to be outdone though was the late Summerhill stallion Rambo Dancer, with his daughter, Oriental Dancer, confirming her status as one to watch for the future.

The fourth race at at Kenilworth on Saturday saw a stellar performance by the Galileo colt, Galileo’s Night, for long time friends of Summerhill, owners Johann and Gaynor Rupert. After a jostle early on, Galileo’s Night settled before snaking his way through the field, hitting the front in the closing stages and winning comfortably under a weight of 60kgs. He held off a gallant Steely Dane who was left to fight it out with My Best Friend for the places.

Other winners at Kenilworth were Desert Raider (Malhub) in the first and Sabrage (Muhtafal) in the ninth.

Then it was off to Turffontein where 2007 Ready To Run graduate, The General, by Muhtafal, recorded his debut win in the Graham Beck Wines Maiden Plate over 1000m. There was some jostling for the early lead as the runners made their way up the straight, but as the rest faded, The General kicked into gear and Mark Khan guided him to an impressive win going away by 2 1/4 lengths.

Oriental Dancer, daughter of the late Summerhill stallion, Rambo Dancer, held off the rest of the field to record her fifth win from 20 starts in the fourth. With Piere Strydom in the saddle, she was held back at the rear of the field, ready to pounce. Her chance came in the closing stages when she picked up her pace and ‘took off’, narrowly winning from the fast finishing Snap Decision.

Clairwood on Sunday  saw another of Muhtafal’s progeny claim the laurels, as El Padrino won the first in comfortable style to record his fourth career win. El Padrino was bred by long-time Muhtafal supporter and good friend of Summerhill, Steve Sturlese and his partner Peter de Marigny, and is out of the Desert Team mare, Dot Dot Dash



Is the breed getting weaker? Part 2

stallion and mare(Cheryl Goss)

The Real issues: horsemanship and the horses

While there may be compelling reasons from the perspective of risk and value for the early retirement of horses, and the reduction in the number of starts they undertake, we have some other observations to offer on the subject, gleaned from our own experiences and the opinions of some of our more esteemed colleagues in the game. These include:

  • The business of breeding in the first half of the last century was the preserve of proper horseman, steeped in the tradition of producing and raising animals, in particular those of the equine species. The game has changed. Whereas the welfare and development of the Thoroughbred rested in the initial two and a half centuries, in the hands of the British aristocracy and subsequently in those of people who could afford to do it for the love of the game, rather than for its commercial benefits laterally, the business has been hijacked by “venture capitalists”. While there have been obvious benefits accruing from this turn of events, especially regarding the value of horses and the viability of the businesses producing them, it may have had an impact on the type of horse we produce and in particular, his durability.
  • When the motive behind the sport was the competition involved in beating your colleague, the intent behind breeding a racehorse was the production of an animal that could run faster for longer than the next one. That’s changed dramatically, and today, it seems that the greater influence in the minds of the breeders is largely what the progeny will yield in the sales ring.
  • Besides increasing the dearth in the availability of quality horsemen these days (many have left our ranks for other attractions in the economic environment), there are other considerations that compromise the soundness of an animal, including the urgent need to develop as big and precocious a product by the time the horse gets to the sales. The commercial imperatives are such that just about everything else that matters in the development of the athlete is forgotten in the process, and so, when it’s all taken its course, we’re left with the hope that besides being the “business” when an animal gets to auction, it still has the ability to run on top of it.
  • Financial considerations have also brought about the dispersal of the great thoroughbred families that used to comprise the private studs of the big owner-breeders of their era, so that the luxury of developing these families in a “closed herd” environment has all but disappeared. In the South African context, there are just a handful of people still in a position to produce horses for the sake of the sport of racing, and here we speak of people like Bridget Oppenheimer, Gaynor & Johann Rupert and Sabine Plattner among very few others.

Rewind three or four decades, and the scene was distinctly different. In our own district alone, we recall the great private breeding establishments of the Ellises (the most successful owner-breeders of their era right here at Hartford which, for those who are not familiar with it, forms part of the greater Summerhill estate), the Labistours, who dominated the Durban July in the 50’s from their Dagbreek Stud in Nottingham Road, Joyce Tatham’s Springfield Stud and Harry Barnett’s Springvale Stud. There were several others besides the Oppenheimers in other regions including the Armitages’ Rathvale Stud in the Eastern Transvaal, but the times they’re a changing.

Today we’re down to just a handful of these noble people, as we’ve said. Every other establishment has to make a profit, and increasingly, the principles involved in producing a sound, durable athlete are being compromised in the interests of the outcome in the sales ring.

  • Claiborne Farm is one of the most distinguished American breeding establishments, and it’s been in the hands of the Hancock family for four generations. One of the late, great “Bull” Hancocks sons, Arthur (owner of Stone Farm in Kentucky, and the breeder of two Kentucky Derby winners) proffers the view that overbreeding (the practice of committing hundreds of mares to a stallion in a single season) is also having its impact, though how precisely this comes about is not entirely clear to us. Presumably what he means is that the bigger a stallion’s book, the less the quality of the mares, and while that’s logical, those mares would’ve been sent to other stallions otherwise, and we guess that whether or not they produce sound progeny depends on whether or not they were wisely mated. The end result would be the same, all things being equal, whether they went to one stallion or were dispersed among a number of stallions, as the number of resultant progeny, give or take a few from a fertility perspective, would be very similar.
  • The biggest impact on American breeding however, must flow from their medication policies. Distinct from most countries of the world, certain states permit liberal pre-race medication of horses aimed at either masking or reducing “soreness”, or staunching bleeding, with the result that breeders who use horses that have been treated in this way for stud purposes, are bound to be perpetuating in their progeny whatever weaknesses those horses suffered from during their racing careers.

There is little doubt that with the passage of time, this must have a deleterious impact on the breed, and it’s probably the single most important feature, in American breeding at least, in weakening the end product. Of course, American blood is sort after the world over, and so there’s bound to be an impact in other areas of the globe as a consequence of this policy.

Americans are going to have to concentrate increasingly on addressing this issue if they’re to maintain their position as purveyors of quality bloodstock to the rest of the world, and of course in the production of horses capable of competing on the international stage, free of medication, on an on-going basis.

Back to South Africa, where in Summerhill’s real world, we hold the view that the demands of the commercial marketplace are the one factor that’s bound to impact on the soundness of our horses to a greater degree than any other. We undertake several thousand mating recommendations every year for prospective breeders and their mares prior to a breeding season, and the one question we’re asked more regularly by our correspondents than any other, is what they’re likely to get for the resultant foal when it gets to the sales.

Mercifully, in our own deliberations on these things, we very seldom involve ourselves in what the foal is likely to make in the sales ring, but rather what sort of animal we’re likely to produce as a result of the mating. Our thoughts, as much by design as anything, revolve around the issue of producing a racehorse, and we’d like to think (perhaps naively) that in producing a horse of proper athletic proportions, we’re likely to get both a sound animal and one that will run for its owner when it gets to the racecourse, and that question, properly answered, should take care of the results in the sale ring. It obviously doesn’t entirely though, as we seem to battle to crack the “million” mark for our yearlings.

That said, we’re doing well enough, and we sleep without conscience in the wake of a sale, knowing our horses represent value to those who’ve bought them, and that they have a more than even chance of turning out well when their big day comes first-time at the track.

The Breeders’ log tells the rest of the story.



Summerhill Sires : What we stand for. And what they stand for.

kahal, cataloochee and malhubKahal, Cataloochee and Malhub
(Grant Norval)

A glance at the South African Stallion Register of two decades ago, reveals two things. A good many more stallions than we have today, and an inclination to use the moderate relatives of this or that Classic winner or top class runner. But seldom the top class runner himself.

Enter the Ruling Family of Dubai, and a policy of respecting the fact that this business is about running, that a good pedigree belongs to a good horse, and the rules changed. Those rules have served us well, to the degree that there’s not a soul at the farm who wouldn’t acknowledge the role of racing class in our stallions in Summerhill’s four consecutive Breeder’s Championships. In fact, it’s one of the bedrocks on which our success has been founded.

Horses that have that winning attitude, don’t have it because they were good racehorses. They were good racehorses because they had that attitude, and it’s a combination of their athleticism and their will-to-win that they’ve passed on to their progeny.

Now take a glance at our current line-up, and apart from the depth of their pedigrees, you’ll find that class at the racecourse is embedded in their CV’s. To the last. Then look at their stud fees, and you’ll discover another thing. The market speaks. Summerhill listens. And only then do we fix our prices.

What it all comes down to, is this . If you’re not using a Summerhill stallion, ask yourself or your advisors, why not? Ever since we opened the gates in our valley, right here is where our most successful colleagues have staked their prospects. And luck had very little to do with it.

summerhill stud stallion fees table



Thoroughbred Reproduction : The New Kids on the Block

A Stronghold Cover
(Grant Norval)

Move your mouse over the photo above to see THE FUTURE”


greig muirGreig Muir Summerhill Stallion Manager

September 1 saw the opening of the 2008 Breeding Season throughout the Southern Hemisphere; however for the new arrivals, Mullins Bay, Stronghold and Ravishing, or “the Tsvanguri’s” as they have been nicknamed in the Summerhill Stallion Barn, the opening of the 2008 Breeding Season for the new kids on the block began several months ago.

Among free running horses, reproductive behavior in stallions involves several complex mechanisms of courtship and mating, and there are many natural sequences to establish and maintain a broodmare “harem”, which traditionally takes several years as the stallion matures. Domestically the transition from athlete to “Super Stud” may consist of a mere few months, during which time stallions remain separated, and social interaction with “harem’s” and reproductive behavior is restricted. Psychologically, the training of the breeding stallion requires careful management in order to avoid the development of aberrant behavior, which might induce unpredictable aggressiveness, inconsistent performance and other vices, and at the end of the day, we try to ensure that life in the breeding shed is safe and fun for all.

As a break from creating his own “harem”, a daily routine consisting of hand walks around Summerhill and Hartford, amongst paddocks accommodating the latest foals with their mothers, or quietly introducing himself to the prospective mares over the railings of their Rye grass paddocks, Danehill “Tsvanguri” and Timeform’s Champion Handicapper of 2006, Stronghold, broke his maiden, the lucky lady being Deceptive Charm, a Fort Wood daughter of multiple stakes winner, School For Chefs early Monday morning. The never ending hours of input from the staff over the last few months, ensured the mature approach of Stronghold to the mare, and in less than a few days, he’ll be one of “the professionals”; although as a “Tsvanguri” it is likely he’ll be wanting to take the mantle from another’s head…….. and perhaps we should not be missing out?




curlin dubai world cupCurlin winning the 2008 Dubai World Cup
(The Age)

The Board of Directors for the Emirates Racing Authority has released fixtures for the 2008-09 UAE racing season and have announced that the 2009 Dubai World Cup will be held on Saturday, 28 March.

The world’s richest day’s racing will be the highlight of 46 race meetings this season, hosted by three racing clubs of the United Arab Emirates; the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Dubai Racing Club and Jebel Ali Racecourse.

The season will open at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday, 6 November, the first of 21 fixtures there.

The first 10 fixtures make up the Winter Racing Challenge, before the Dubai International Racing Carnival commences on Thursday, 15 January, with the first rounds of the Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Challenge.

The 10 2009 DIRC fixtures will be held on the corresponding weekends to that of last season, and climaxes with the Super Thursday meeting on Thursday, 5 March.

Jebel Ali will host the first of their 10 Friday meetings on 21 November, while Abu Dhabi stages 15 Sunday fixtures, commencing on 9 November.

From a Summerhill perspective, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the challenge by Kahal’s Desert Links, Galant Gagnant and Art of War, as well as last season’s electrifying performer Imbongi.



Big Race Double : MUHTAFAL remains the General

(Nicholas Goss)

It’s an old adage at Summerhill that if we were going to war, Muhtafal would be our General. He is, in simple terms, the most reliable producer of quality racehorses in South Africa given his opportunities, and there are only two factors that mitigate against him being right in the mix for the Sires’ Championship.

Not that he’s been too far off, mind you, as he’s made the top five sires for the last two years. The first mitigating factor is that his stock generally don’t run beyond a mile, and with the best endowed races in South Africa being contested over 2000m and beyond, he’s always going to be blown out by the sons and daughters of horses that can get that sort of trip on a regular basis. The other limiting factor is the early perceptions that followed him from the United States when he first arrived here, that he was low on fertility. Of course, that was true, as much as it is also known amongst his best supporters these days, that his fertility at this time is only just short of what we would consider good. Though he is still renowned for being fussy about his mates and taking a good deal of time to serve those he’s not mad about!

Statisticians will tell you though, that the son of Mr. Prospector (yes, he is Mr. Prospector’s most successful son to stand in the southern hemisphere) posts Stakes winners with the regularity of the best stallions in the land, and this last weekend was another illustration of his prowess. There were two Stakes races contested over the Vaal’s sand track at the weekend, the first of which, the Banyana Handicap over 1000m, was taken in great style by Nottgalashia (for Mark Dixon, one of Muhtafal’s greatest fans) while the other was a real triumph for Summerhill, with Alejate finally earning her big Black type in an epic duel up the straight with Kahal’s Summerhill-bred daughter, Cape Tango (for Kahal’s biggest supporter, Mike de Kock). This brings Muhtafal’s Stakes winning tally already, in the first month of the new season, to three following Battlestar Express’ “lightening-bolt” in the closing moments of the Umngeni Handicap (Listed) on Gold Cup day.

So Muhtafal is right in the thick of things in the Sires Premiership again, though he’s a little way short of stablemate, Kahal, who heads the log following Desert Links spectacular win in the Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) on the first weekend of the month.

The Summerhill sires, to put it mildly, are riding high.



Tiza takes Prix de Meautry for Rupert Plersch

owner rupert plersch and racehorse tizaRupert Plersch and Tiza
(Racing News Wire / Heather Morkel)

Tiza continued to fly the flag for South Africa in France on Sunday when he won the G3 Prix de Meautry at Deauville. Bred by Daytona Stud and owned by good friend and client of Summerhill, Rupert Plersch, Tiza reportedly made strong headway on the outside to lead 200 metres from home to add to his victories in last year’s Gr3 Prix de Ris-Orangis and Gr3 Prix de Seine-et-Oise.

By Mr Prospector out of Storm Cat’s top-class three parts sister Chapel Of Dreams, Tiza’s sire Goldkeeper has sired twelve Graded winners from 398 foals and stands at Sandown Stud in South Africa for R50,000. Successful in two Gr2 races and runner-up in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint in his native South Africa, Tiza is the fourth foal of Elliodor mare Mamushka .

Says trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre: “I’m tempted to try the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye (at Longchamp October 5) again, but we will only go there if the ground is soft enough for him.”



STREET CRY: A King Among Kings

street cryStreet Cry 
(AP Photo/James Crisp)

Yet another grandson of Mr. Prospector, Street Cry, (like Kahal, Mullins Bay and Hobb Alwahtan at Summerhill) by Machiavellian, has been very prominent in racing’s headlines recently, posting three new Two Year Old Stakes winners, and his sixth individual Grade One winner, with his first crop only midway through their four year old season.

This is a quite remarkable achievement, and is highlighted by a recent advert posted by Darley in the Bloodhorse. “Street Cry has seen his career off to a blazing start, firing in a remarkable half-dozen G.1 winners – with his first-crop foals still only midway through their four-year-old season. A.P. Indy had sired three G.1 winners at the same stage in his career, while Street Cry has also left Distorted Humor and Kingmambo (two G.1 winners apiece) reaching for the white flag. For those with longer memories, it’s a show of firepower that blasts away the early achievements of Danzig (two G.1 winners). Storm Cat and Mr. Prospector (both stuck on two, too) also have to bow to Street Cry’s superior marksmanship. There sure is a new gunslinger in town.”

The obvious conclusion, is that there are some big names out there, but when you really examine them, you realize just how big. That only serves to magnify where Street Cry is right now, and just how valuable a sire-of-sires Machiavellian is becoming.



The state of play in the United States... a few reflections.

smart strikeSmart Strike
(Lane’s End)

A glance at the latest stallion rankings in the United States is instructive, particularly if you’re a reader of the Summerhill Sires Brochure. No fewer than eight of the eleven stallions on this season’s domestic roster carry the blood of Mr. Prospector, and it’s a reassuring thought that, with two-thirds of their season now complete, no fewer than five of the top ten stallions in the most competitive stallion environment in the world, the United States, carry his blood.

Indeed, three of them, including the log leader, Smart Strike, make the top five, where Distorted Humor (a grandson by Forty Niner) is in third place, while Kingmambo (a son in his own right) is fourth. Kingmambo leads all sires by Graded Stakes winners (6), while another son, Chester House (in 9th place) leads all stallions by total number of Stakes winners (14) just ahead of a grandson, Grand Slam (10th).

Smart Strike (by Mr.Prospector)         $7,456,059

Tiznow (by Cee’s Tizzy)                           $5,449,097

Distorted Humor (by Forty Niner)        $5,064,189

Kingmambo (by Mr.Prospector)          $5,053,186

Giant’s Causeway (by Storm Cat)        $5,005,336

Tale Of The Cat (by Storm Cat)              $4,829,761

Stormy Atlantic (by Storm Cat)               $4,499,757

A.P.Indy (by Seattle Slew)                       $4,404,834

Chester House (by Mr.Prospector)     $4,298,535

Grand Slam (by Gone West)                  $3,865,050