Waging battles on two fronts that took them down to the proverbial finish line last year, brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida continued to dominate racing in Japan unlike any other familial dynasty in the world.
Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder reports that for the fifth consecutive year, Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm scooped the title of leading breeder with 617 runners garnering 310 wins and earning the equivalent of a mind-boggling £54,088,324. Northern-bred runners included three champions: juvenile filly Buena Vista, sprintermiler Sleepless Night and dirt horse Kane Hekili.
Catherine Hartley accepts the award for Breeder of the Year on behalf of Summerhill Stud from Peter Miller at the 2009 Highveld Racing Awards (Photo : JC Photographics)
It may not be the National title, but it’s certainly one we’ve always coveted, and we’re very proud to hold. For the second consecutive year, Summerhill was last night named Highveld Breeder Of The Year, and Vuma’s Catherine Hartley was on hand to pick up the silverware. Gauteng is the most competitive racing environment on the continent of Africa, and we’ve always counted ourselves lucky to be among the finalists for this prestigious award.
It’s probably an appropriate moment to revisit our standing on the National Breeders Log as well, where our lead is approaching R5 million. We’re reminded at this time of an advertisement we wrote in May 2005, as we marched to our National Breeders’ Premiership, and we thought we were reasonably comfortable with a R2 million margin. While the big lady still has a bit of singing to do, it’s a comforting thought that there is a sound buffer between us and our pursuers.
We never forget though, the sacrifices our people have made towards this achievement. It’s a sobering thought that, in our 30th year in business, that we should be so deeply indebted to so many, who’ve given up so much in getting us there.
AUTUMN IN SOUTH AFRICA MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE
The rains have stopped now in our part of the world, the days are blue and there’s hardly a cloud in sight. From now until September, the one thing that’s constant with us, is day after day of sunshine, the only difference lies in temperature. From nature’s perspective, Mooi River’s world goes to sleep for a few months and takes a well earned rest after so much output, so much given from September until now.
But for those of us who live here, we’re just entering another era of furious activity, weaning mares, preparing the winter pastures, preparing ourselves for the breeding season and the marketing of the stallions, assessing all the horses on the farm, particularly the mares, with a view to the forthcoming breeding season, and then writing the recommendations to our many customers around the world.
Of course, KwaZulu Natal, Africa’s racing capital, enters its Champion’s Season as we write, and so the sports are only just starting.
It’s a beautiful time at Summerhill and Hartford, and it’s not only the wonderful weather but the changes that come with the seasons, the briskness of the mornings, the warmth of mid-day and the coolness of the evenings. It’s an invigorating time, energies are lifted, and while the land and the environment go to rest, we have a little respite in which to get stuck into our intellectual pursuits.
And then we have a few things to look forward. Next month we have a draft of five yearlings arriving from Australia, two filles by the reigning European champion sire, Galileo, and colts by the celebrated international stallions, Red Ransom, Anabaa and Hussonet. On the same flight we will have a brace of new stallions, two men who will hopefully have a breed-shaping influence on our lives for many years to come.
These are momentous events in the life of a thoroughbred stud, the arrival of two progenitors who’ve been especially selected to take us to new levels.
But this little story is about autumn, not new stallions, and that is a story for another day.
Ask any student of racing twenty years ago which the greatest racing event in the world was, and they would’ve unhesitatingly answered the English Derby. Today the title is a vigorous contest between the “Derby” (as it’s commonly known), Paris’ Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Dubai’s World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps the Japan Cup. Certainly, if not alone the greatest, the English Derby stands apart as the most famous.
For all that, who would ever have expected an upstart South African bank to become the Derby’s sponsor? Upstart, did we say? Yes, in global terms that’s probably an apt description, but Investec has always been an innovator, a “breed-shaper”, as we might term it in racing parlance, and that’s exactly what the local banking pacemaker agreed to this week for the next five years.
No doubt, the hand of Bernard Kantor, avid racing man and the fellow that bought us Count Dubois, was more than prominent in this relationship, which follows a £38 million revamp of the Derby’s home, Epsom Downs.
Did we leave out another marquee event when we counted the “big five”? Yes, we probably did, and that’s Royal Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which for almost two decades was sponsored by South Africa’s De Beers. The difference here is that, at the time, De Beers happened to be the world’s biggest diamond producer, whilst Investec has a way to go before it can claim the same status in the banking world. Maybe, just maybe, this is a precursor of what’s to come.
Well done, Investec. From one champion team to another, we salute you.
When Cocoa Rose steamed home in the Juvenile event at Scottsville on Sunday, the fact she was Kahal’s second highlighted youngster winning on the weekend, was not the only remarkable thing about the race.
Cocoa Rose has run just three times following her purchase for R70,000 just a few months ago at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale. This victory and her close-up second to the Graded Stakes performer, Ashjaan, has already virtually repaid the outlay of her 10 owners.
The real fable here though, is that five of her owners are “first-timers”, converted to “victimhood” by none other than one of the great scribes of the game, Charl Pretorius (of Racingweb fame www.racingweb.co.za), seen here celebrating at an address we daren’t disclose,judging by his company in the Jacuzzi!
Take The Hint Pretty Polly Stakes 2009 (Photo : PA Photos)
When General Louis Botha, most feared of the Boer generals, took command of his nation’s troops at the foot of Summerhill in November 1899, he knew what he was in for. Britain had already claimed dominion over two thirds of the earth’s surface, and here was a man about to engage the most powerful army in creation.
But this was a man who knew how cavalry, skilfully deployed, could turn the tide of a battle. As a farmer himself, he also knew the value of breeding.
Which brings us to the point. Today’s cavalry may well compete on more peaceful fields, but the contest is just as fierce, and the importance of breeding has never been more critical.
This past weekend at the Guineas meeting in Newmarket England, the point was well made for the umpteenth time. Last year we introduced two exceptional young stallions to our band (Mullins Bay and Stronghold), and both of their already outstanding families received an encouraging boost in the principal Derby and Oaks Trials respectively.
There has been many an outstanding racehorse, not to mention Derby winners, spawned through their exploits in the Newmarket Stakes over ten furlongs of the Rowley Mile course, and on Saturday Your Old Pal (by Rock Of Gibraltar out of a half sister to Mullins Bay,) made it two from three starts thus far as he got up in the dying strides for the victory. In the very next event, the time-honoured Pretty Polly Stakes, (the route the World Champion mare, Ouija Board took on her way to Oaks glory) Stronghold’s half sister (by Montjeu,) Take The Hint, was a comfortable winner in a field whose advertisements included several Group One performers.
Your Old Pal made an impressive six-length winning debut at Newbury last October, and is reportedly headed for Royal Ascot’s King Edward VII Stakes (Gr.2) on the 19th June, while Take The Hint’s next engagement looks like being the English Oaks (Gr.1) on the Friday of the Derby meeting at Epsom.
She’s On Fire arrives at Summerhill Stud (Photo : Leigh Wilson)
“MEMORIES OF THE 1983 DURBAN JULY”
Durban July watchers will remember with great affection the escapades of the fine mare, Devon Air, who took Africa’s greatest horse race end-to-end, and then proceeded to pulverize a quality field in the Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) over the marathon two mile trip at the Greyville circuit a month later. Toiling behind Devon Air on the first Saturday in July was a Summerhill-bred, Versailles, so for us, there was added significance in this grand dame’s victory.
This week, a Group One winning granddaughter (by Jet Master out of Cream Of The Crop, by Concertino out of Devon Air) arrived back for her new career at stud. 6:30pm Sunday evening, to be precise.
We need to be precise about these things, because these are momentous events on stud farms. There are precious few horses in the world that carry the title of “Group One winner”, and She’s On Fire is one of those, having distinguished herself not only at that level among her own sex, but having put up Grade One performances against the colts as well, notably in last year’s renewal of Africa’s richest race, the Gomma Gomma Challenge (Gr.1).
We’ve written about Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and his “picking” talents before and anyone looking at the photograph of She’s On Fire on arrival, will know what we ‘re talking about. And when they come from Ormond Ferrarisyou can see the hand of a maestro.
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 racingpost.com.
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.
Broodmare Manager, Annet Becker, with Broodmare Of The Year Aspirant, Cousin Linda, dam of this year’s Cape Flying Championship (Gr.1) Ace, Rebel King and top colt at the NYS, and nightwatch supervisor, Sizwe Ndledla with the dam of Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) hero, Desert Links (Selborne Park). As Annet said, “It’s a great shot of them both – as well as the mares!” (Photo : Leigh Wilson)
Our Bloodstock and Broodmare, Foal and Yearling Sales Managers, together with Assistant Managers Richard Hlongwane and Thulani Mnguni, have been scouring the paddocks during the last few weeks, alongside Mick Goss and photographer Leigh Wilson, scrutinizing the weanlings from last season as well as their mothers, with a view to the lengthy deliberations regarding the latter’s stallion mates for the forthcoming year.
This is a painstaking affair, with every detail being noted concerning the mares’ breeding histories, the progeny they’ve already produced, the trainers and the work rider’s views, and now of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we’re looking to the future.
Summerhill farm clients know that over the next few months, they’ll be receiving the first of the proposals from our mating team, whose work spans the wee hours of May, June and July.
There’s a reason why we get so many horses to the races, and why so many train on well into their sixth, seventh and eighth years, and that’s because of the work that gets done in such detail right now.
If you take a walk down memory lane, you’ll very quickly reach the conclusion that the Computaform Sprint is in all probability the defining race on the South African sprinting calendar. In the last ten years alone, the names of Tommy Hotspur and Golden Loom (2 x’s) precede a succession of quite the most outstanding sextet of sprinters imaginable. Starting in 2002 with Laisserfaire,National Currency, Cataloochee (who had to get past six times Equus Awards nominee, Nhlavini to take the honours,) National Colour, Mythical Flight and J.J.The Jet Plane, you’re quick to realise what kind of a contest we’re in for.
This year is no different, as the horse who’s constantly had to take on these famous exponents of the art of sprinting, the Summerhill-bred Rebel King, is among those going to post, and he really is the one carrying the standard for the older brigade, though the second highest rated of the older horses is another graduate of our paddocks, Battlestar Express.
That said, the talk is about the youngsters right now, and here Warm White Night and Private Jet carry the tag of the young pretenders. Interestingly, stable jockey Anton Marcus has opted for the mount on Warm White Night, while Andrew Fortune is aboard our gladiator. They’ll have to be good, we think, as a win here for Rebel King would almost certainly close the door on the sprinters’ championship.
There can’t be too many race meetings in the world that boast eight Graded Stakes races, yet that’s what racegoers can look forward to Saturday at Turffontein, and if the last few months are anything to go by, we can count on some big hitting contests. For Summerhill, we have sixteen footsoldiers on duty in the Graded races, but for the time being, we’ll concentrate our comments on the three Grade Ones, kicking off with the top-biller, the Champions Challenge (Gr.1) for all of R2 million.
There are a lot of pundits who would make the quartet of Smart Banker, Likeithot, Senor Versace and Crown Of Power from the Charles Laird stable a “shoe-in” for the laurels, but we’re not sure it’s that cut and dried. Much will be claimed by the connections of Buy And Sell, Surfin’ USA (whose mother Fenn Tarbitt-owned Palm Beach Gold is a resident mare at Summerhill), Forest Path and Zirconium, while Ormond Ferraris will be hoping that his gallant mare, She’s On Fire, is able to reproduce the run which carried her into second spot last year.
Charles Laird may well have four aspirants engaged in the big one, but we’re not without our own hopes, headed up by the horse that managed second place in the event a year ago, Catmandu, on-fire Thandolwami, and the heroine of the prestigious Gerald Rosenberg Stakes at her last start, Spring Garland, while Steve Sturlese’s El Padrino rounds it out. There are some doubts about the stamina limitations of Thandolwami and El Padrino, but the former has managed a decent draw for the first time in heavens-knows-how long, and he seems to have a love for Turffontein and its long strait. How many times has this fellow been beaten by the fact that he’s run out of space at Greyville, and we only have to go back to November to see him running within a quarter length of Likeithot on precisely the same weight terms as they meet on Saturday? For what it’s worth, Hartford hosted Champion Jockey, Anthony Delpech over the Election holiday, and he believes only altitude can deny Thandolwami his due. Some recommendation from a world class rider.
The fact is, Summerhill graduates make up 25% of the field in what is one of the richest races in the nation, and that tells you all you need to know about their upbringings.
Imbongi 23 April 2009 (Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club)
You can go into any worthwhile website on racing anywhere in the world right now, and you can pick up news of this weekend’s big events in Hong Kong, including the Champions Mile. However, the one thing you won’t get is a statement from the horse’s mouth, so we thought we’d bring you news of our most recent bulletin from Mike de Kock, who sends our home-bred, Imbongito post on Sunday.
Anyone hoping to make any sort of impression in this race would have to take history into account in their calculations, knowing that in all its time, the Hong Kong Champions Mile has yet to witness a placed runner among its foreign raiders, and that last year’s spectacular hero, Good Ba Ba reached the post in an amazing 1min 31.3 secs, and you know what you’re up against.
However, Mike de Kock is of the firm view that Imbongi is a real contender, provided he is over the troubles which confronted so many of the Mike de Kock stable in Dubai over the World Cup, and if Imbongi can get back to a modicum of the form which carried him to stardom in two Guineas and a triumph over Horse Of The Year, Pocket Power ans well as four other Grade One winners in the Drill Hall last season. Mike tells us though, that Imbongi managed an official “bullet” 21,5 secs for the last 400m of his final workout on Tuesday. If that’s not notice he’s ready to run for his life, tell us what is?
Keep your heads down, there could be an explosion Sunday morning (9:55 am our time).
Manhattan Rain (Encosta De Lago/Shantha’s Choice) (AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes - The Royal Randwick)
Australia-watchers were dealt a feast of quality racing at Sydney’s Royal Randwick at the weekend, where the historic Doncaster Handicap, Australian Oaks, the T.J. Smith Stakes and the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes featured on the menu. The event though, that really caught the imaginations of racing fans, must surely have been the Sires’ Produce, the second leg of Sydney’s Juvenile Triple Crown, where the remarkable mare, Shantha’s Choice (by Canny Lad) featured her third Grade One winner and her fourth Stakes winner, overall. Amazingly though, that’s not the end of the story, as Manhattan Rain (by last season’s champion sire, Encosta De Lago) is a half brother to no less a man than Redoute’s Choice, sire sensation of Australia. Shantha’s Choice herself was an undistinguished runner, yet her fairytale continues here, with the fulfilment of his pedigree destiny by this juvenile youngster.
Ironically, Manhattan Rain was bred by Muzaffar Yaseen, 50% owner (can you believe?) of Redoute’s Choice, so his mother is precluded by virtue of his own ancestry, from visiting what is arguably the best stallion in Australia. For the record, without being able to return to the sire of her two best runners to date (Danehill is deceased), Shantha’s Choice has had to settle for a range of different mates, one of whom (Rock Of Gibraltar by Danehill) is the sire of her Grade Three winning filly, Sliding Cube, as well as a return visit to Encosta da Lago and most recently Hussonet, the Mr Prospector stallion resident at Arrowfield Stud.
There’s a battle royal on the boil between the respective farms of the Yoshida brothers in Japan, Shadai Farm and Northern Farm for the Breeders’ Championship of the nation.
These two giants of the Japanese domestic breeding scene have been banging it out, hammer and tongs, for years now, with Northern Farm leading the march for five consecutive seasons. However, it seems this year, they have their hands full with brother Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai, who leads the list by a relatively comfortable margin at the time of writing. The last couple of weeks have witnessed something of a turnaround though, and this weekend’s Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was the best illustration of the saying “it’s never over till the fat lady sings”.
While the hot favourite for the event, the hitherto unbeaten Logi Universe (by Neo Universe, by Sunday Silence) went off a warm favourite, he had no answer for the closing rush of his paternal half-brother Unrivalled (also by Neo Universe) who prevailed by 1,5 lengths from another grandson of Sunday Silence (by Special Week,) Triumph March. Given his interminable dominance, it may have seemed surprising the third horse across the line Selun Wonder, was not descended in male line from the “Emperor” of Japanese stallions, but the “wonder” arises at the revelation: that his dam is by none other than, (you must have guessed it,) Sunday Silence himself. The first two across the line were both bred by Northern Farm, and strung together more than ¥180 million in the process. As a matter of curiosity, both descended from Northern Dancer-line mares, in the one case ex a daughter of Sadler’s Wells, the other a mare by Dancing Brave.
It’s perhaps something of a commentary on how slowly we occasionally react in this country to the obvious, that we have as yet no son of Sunday Silence in our stallion ranks, especially as the youngest of his remaining progeny at the races is now six years old. That’s something we intend to remedy at Summerhill, so we would advise our readers to keep on reading.
In tandem with a decline in the economy, the breeding industry shows a 34% drop in the number of mares being bred since the peak of 1992.
Michele MacDonald writes in Owner Breeder that in a remarkably parallel arc to the grim economic downturn, breeding in Japan has contracted. With statistics showing that Japan’s economy shrunk at the end of 2008 more than at any time since 1974, the Japan Racing Association reported that the nation’s registered foal crop was only about 6,800, which marks the lowest number since 1974.
Since Japan produced 10,309 foals to hit its peak in 1992, production has plunged 34%. The number of stallions has also fallen by more than half; 603 in 1991, the year the largest foal crop was conceived, to 281 in 2008.
Of that group, 104, or 37%, had been imported, with breeders relying on America more than any other country. Perhaps most interestingly, ten of the 281 stallions standing in Japan last year covered about one-fifth of the nation’s 11,360 mares that were bred, and each of those ten, all of whom stood at the Yoshida family’s Shadai Stallion Station, was bred to more than 200 mares.
Six of the ten most active stallions are sons of Sunday Silence, including the three leaders, Agnes Tachyon, Daiwa Major and Fuji Kiseki, thus further concentrating the blood of Japan’s all-time most significant sire, whose daughters also remain a big part of the breeding pool.
Agnes Tachyon has made a bid to be his sire’s successor after earning his first leading sire title in 2008, with Fuji Kiseki second in last year’s rankings by progeny earnings.
However, some challengers are emerging, with Japanese Derby winner King Kamehameha ranking as leading freshman sire last year and Symboli Kris S, the leading first-year sire of 2007, standing atop Japan’s 2009 general sire list up to early March.
Barry 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.
Peter DoylePETER DOYLE : ARGUABLY IRELAND’S TOP BLOODSTOCK AGENT
“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”.
“We’ve had quite a lot of rain so the track is in good condition. They picked up speed from the 800m mark and completed the last 400m in an official 21.5s, very good. Both are looking well and we’re looking forward to next week.”
Mike de Kock himself will be jetting to Hong Kong within the next few days.
Scenes from Hong Kong (Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club)
“A piece from Mick Goss”
Growing up in one of the remotest parts of the world as the son of a Pondo trader, I never imagined myself as the owner of an international class racehorse, let alone partnering a member of a nation’s ruling family and running for R14million, at Group One level. Yet that is what Imbongi has done for Summerhill Stud, and next weekend he gets his chance to take on some of the world’s best milers in the Hong Kong Mile (Gr.1). His travel mate, Archipenko, showered himself in glory as the hero of last year’s Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Gr.1), and he returns this year to defend his crown.
Hard on the heels of Summerhill-bred, raised and educated Paris Perfect’s $600,000 romp in the Dubai World Cup (Gr.1), and Art Of War’s stand out billing from Mike de Kock as the “biggest surprise of the Dubai Carnival”, Imbongi now gets his chance to show to the world what made him the most formidable three-year-old miler in South Africa last year.
Keep a check on Mike de Kock’s website for all the latest news from Hong Kong.
Events at Sydney’s Easter Sale, showcase of Australia’s Thoroughbred industry, have prompted a major re-think on stallion fees by that country’s marquee farms. John Messara’sArrowfield Stud, has headed the change with its announcement of fees for the forthcoming season, largely characterised by dramatic reductions. Of course, most of Arrowfield’s stallions come off a very substantial base, and in the current climate this would not be sustainable. Public spiritedness has brought about the revision.
“We have elected to fully recognise the current market situation, occasioned by the global financial crisis and to adjust our fees to levels which will ensure breeders can achieve profitable outcomes by using Arrowfield’s first class stallion line-up,” John Messara said. “While the Easter yearling average was down about a third on the 2008 figure, it should be remembered that the service fees at the time of conception of these yearlings made a lot of the Easter trade quite profitable.”
“The other factor that breeders should consider is that the 2009 conceptions will not be sold until the 2012 yearling sales, by which time it is hoped the economy will have recovered.”
”Redoute’s Choice fee for 2009 will now be $198,000 (inc GST), down from $330,000. Going against the trend is the country’s leading first season sire by earnings, Charge Forward, which will stand at $27,000, an increase of 11 per cent.”