On the very day that “Boeing” unveiled their latest stratospheric invention, the horse by the same name, Jet Master, ascended to the heavens. One thing that’s sure about the passing of Jet Master, is that he’s going upwards, not down. If ever there was one, he was South Africa’s saint of the turf. He didn’t deserve to go the way he did, for all the virtues he represented. He didn’t know his father, and he only briefly knew his mother, but what he did know, was that he was born to run. Few people, besides Pat Devine, saw in him what he turned out to be. At R15,000 South Africa’s most famous weanling purchase, Jet Master belied his origins to become one of the greatest equine athletes of all-time.
His 126 merit rating at the height of his career, placed him squarely among the best racehorses in the world, and in hindsight, it’s a sadness that the age of the international adventures of the likes of Mike de Kock were not yet upon us, when he was strutting his stuff on the racecourses of his homeland.
In so many respects, Jet Master was a triumph over circumstances which might have stopped lesser mortals in their tracks. To begin with, his life was a victory of the plebs over the pedigree patricians, of a struggle with the afflictions of a defective breathing mechanism over the trials of the racecourse, and of the South African-bred stallion over the colonial-era belief that what comes from outside, is better than the inside.
As a young man, he bestrode the racecourses of our land like a colossus, displaying remarkable agility for a horse of his size, and the gatespeed of a quarter horse. He finished off his races in the ruthless fashion we’ve come to expect from All Black rugby teams, yet his retirement to stud was greeted by the usual scepticism about his pedigree (or the lack of it), his wind afflictions, and anything else we could throw at him. In many ways, if it was possible, his career as a stallion exceeded that of his life as a racehorse. His numbers tell us he was as effective a stallion, (and perhaps a bit more), than any single horse in the history of the South African breed.
We knew Jet Master, or should we say his family, well. His great grandmother lived at Summerhill, a daughter of the Platberg Stud resident, Joy 11, and the only Black Type horse in several generations of her pedigree. We knew his grandmother as well, because she was bred and raised here, and we knew his mother too, for the same reasons. We also knew the family of one of his greatest offspring, the internationally celebrated J.J. The Jet Plane. His mother, too, was bred at Summerhill by our own giant, Northern Guest, and his grandmother, his great grandmother and beyond, were all residents of the old Hartford.
We shall all miss Jet Master, as his passing leaves an enormous hole in the ranks of our stallions. But the one thing South Africa will have gained from his being, is that we no longer need to stand back when it comes to our local bred as stallions. The one thing he’s demonstrated so well, and he’s done so time and again, is that the highly performed racehorse; bred, raised and tested on our home tracks, is as effective a weapon in the production of good horses, as any.
Our thoughts go out to Pat and Henry Devine, to Benny Marais and his team at Klipdrif Stud, and to the nation as a whole.