Team Valor International visit to Summerhill Stud
Team Valor International visit to Summerhill Stud

Team Valor Delegation

(Photo : Leigh Willson)

“The harder I work, the luckier I get”


Another old saying in racing is that you get “lucky owners, and unlucky owners”. But as another afficionado of the game once said, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”, and that applies as much to our business today, as it did to the golfing business in those days. We speak of course, of Gary Player, our greatest-ever sporting ambassador, whose love of golf is surpassed only by his passion for our sport.

The reality though, is that you don’t just get lucky in racing. Like any other form of endeavour, you almost invariably have to pass the old test of the 10,000 hours at the grindstone, and then you need a bit more, which is the instinct for picking the right horses, or what you might call the great “tick of the heart. Think Igugu, or Hollywoodboulevard, or Imbongi, Fisani, Pierre Jourdan, Hear The Drums among recent examples.

One person whose association with the game is as deep as the taproot of a gum tree, is Barry Irwin of Team Valor, who has on more than one occasion, pronounced South Africa, its horses and its horsemen, as the “undiscovered secret of the world”. We were recently honoured by a visit of 12 of the Team Valor partners, who stayed with us at Hartford for just short of a week over the Vodacom Durban July, and we got to reminiscing about their successes with South African-bred horses. There were members of that party who have invested in every South African horse Team Valor has ever bought here, and they have a staggering strike rate of 23 individual Stakes winners since their involvement first kicked off with the Altus Joubert-bred filly Crimson Palace, who went on to Grade One glory in the Beverley D in the United States. Here is the honour roll :

Grade 1 Winner

Captain’s Lover


Crimson Palace

Ebony Flyer

Gypsy’s Warning

Ipi Tombe


Little Miss Magic

On Her Toes

Russian Sage


Grade 2 Winner, Grade 1 Placed

Sally Bowles

She’s On Fire

Grade 2 Winner


Grade 3 Winner, Grade 1 Placed

Alexandra Rose

Grade 3 Winner


Success Counts

Tara’s Touch

Stakes Winner, Grade 1 Placed

Warning Zone

Stakes Winner


Joshua’s Mistress

Miller Time

Sting Operation

This is a helluva score, unsurpassed in previous history, and some kind of a tribute to the genius of Barry Irwin. Of course, Team Valor’s accomplishments are not, by any means, limited to South Africa or its products, as exemplified by the fact that right now, they lead all other owners in the United States by total Stakes earned in 2011, and by some margin in the number of Stakes winners. That number includes this year’s Kentucky Derby hero, Animal Kingdom, arguably the best three-year-old in America at present.

Back to Gary Player for a moment, and his love of the game. He is the only man alive with the distinction of winning 3 British Opens (besides his 3 senior titles). He once had the distinction of having bred a runner in England’s greatest race, The Derby. In an interview with The Guardian, he was asked whether he’d rather win The Derby or the British Open. He was quick “with respect sir, I’m the only man who could answer you this way. I’d rather win The Derby than three British Opens”. End of story!

Summerhill is the South African home to the Team Valor broodmare band, and of course, to another one-time sterling campaigner of theirs in Visionaire, just about as exciting a racehorse as any to have darkened the doors of our stallion barn. If you haven’t witnessed his closing run in the King’s Bishop Stakes (arguably that country’s greatest stallion maker), go to click the left hand tab that says Visionaire. Better still, see the new Summerhill Sires Film released on SuperSport this past week, which tells you more. And if you need any more convincing phone former riding legend, Rhys van Wyk, who was here on Investec Stallion Day. He was reportedly in awe. And if he knows nothing else, he knows horses.