Let’s face it, this was an extraordinary sale. For any number of reasons.

Firstly, the best comparable sale in the southern hemisphere, Sydney Easter, was down 40%. The principal northern hemisphere sales have all suffered even greater blood-letting, yet the South African National Sale was down by less than half, (20,6%) to be precise. I doubt there’s a producer of racehorses anywhere, who wouldn’t have bought that result a year in advance.

Secondly, against the worldwide trend, and for the second sale in succession (remember, the Summerhill draft posted a 46% increase at November’s Ready To Run?), our draft at the Nationals was once again a touch over 20% up. We apparently live in as daunting times known to living memory, yet this was one hell of a result, reflecting as it probably does, Summerhill’s great run of four consecutive Breeders Championships, and the exceptional effort the farm’s people are making on the ground in the production of quality racehorses.

Thirdly, for reasons largely connected to history, but almost in defiance of economic logic, the bulk of forecasters and journalists were predicting that the upper end of the market would hold up, whilst the middle and lower ends would face collapse. Our own prediction, largely relying on the belief the “big money” would be sparser, suggested that the top end would contract and merge itself with the middle, and this is exactly what happened. All the big name stallions, Jet Master, Fort Wood and Western Winter, saw their averages severely pruned, while the emerging “nuvo” class, Kahal, Muhtafal, National Emblem (note, three sires that made it at Summerhill) and Captain Al are beginning to flex their muscles. Then, there will always be a couple of new emergents, and this year the revelations were obviously Var (off to a decent start with his first juveniles) and Solskjaer, who not only got the top filly of the sale (R1,5million to the USA’s Team Valor,) but also attracted the attentions of three of the nation’s top trainers, Ormonde Ferraris, Charles Laird and Mike de Kock, as well as one of the world’s top agents, Peter Doyle. Some kind of compliment to any horse’s first crop.

Further evidence that our assumption was correct, is provided by the Sporting Post’s reflection that the difference between the aggregate takings this year, and those of 2008 (+-R46 million) was almost precisely the difference between what the top 10% of horses made last year, and the receipts for 2009.

To cap it all, besides the top filly, Summerhill emerged as the vendor of the top colt on the sale, Rebel King’s Kahal brother fetching R2,4 million after a protracted battle between Dubai’s Sheikh Hamdan (Mike de Kock), Markus Jooste (Charles Laird) and Graham Beck (Mike Bass).

Anyone who might have thought that success in the sales ring was not always coupled with achievement at the races, must finally have had those thoughts expunged. Summerhill’s annus mirabilis found its most emphatic expression on the Saturday which separated the opening session of the National Sales from the second day, when the progeny of Labeeb took the three opening races on the card, including both the Oaks and Derby Trials for Ormonde Ferraris, followed by a brace of Graded Stakes triumphs for Spring Garland and Rebel King in the prestigious Gerald Rosenberg and Senor Santa Stakes respectively. Then there was a wag who rather cheekily chirped that the wind couldn’t have been blowing for Summerhill that day, as we weighed in with three seconds from Catmandu, Mr Softee and Lisa Anne in three other Graded events on the card, when these might have won on a good day!

So what does this all boil down to? For the last seven or eight years, people who breed their horses at Summerhill have enjoyed a wonderful run with their progeny in the sales ring and at the races, and many of our customers have contributed measurably to our four Breeders Championships, an achievement without precedent in the last thirty years. To think this has all been done against the odds and in an environment which was once considered a little out of the way (now manifestly the new centre of the breeding universe!), is a compliment to everyone associated with the farm and the faith you’ve invested in us. For our part, our pledge is to continue to up our game, to find new ways of differentiating ourselves from the way things have always been done, and in the process, continue to discover the “five percents” that distinguishes our product.

The challenge is to keep reinventing ourselves as we have done throughout the past thirty years, and to ensure that, whatever our position in the annals of the breeding business, we never forget those three things which the market respects most: excellent quality, unparalleled dependability and outstanding value. It may mean that we will not top the National Sales every year, but it does mean that you will always have a demand for your stock, and occasionally, as we have seen in the past several years, we’ll get really lucky at the sales.

As we said in 2007, the next big challenge will be the next Ready To Run. Whatever happens between now and then, you can be sure the Summerhill team will have their heads down pushing the envelope. What we can promise, is decisive leadership and some real imagination. The rest is in the hands of the G-20.

Finally, it’s probably sensible that we remind ourselves again of our clarion call of recent months. Times like these might, on the face of them, appear to be daunting, but one thing history does tell us, is that these are also times of opportunity. Those with the will and the foresight, will see this as a moment to acquire quality breeding stock. The foals accruing from this year’s breeding season will only reach the market in 2012, by which time the economies of the world should be solidly back on their feet, and the rewards for those who do have stock on hand, could conceivably be beyond precedent.

Warm regards,

mick goss signature

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South African National Breeders Log

south african breeders log