Watch Winter Star in action…
(Image : JC Photos - Footage : Tellytrack)
“We tend to consign the progeny of a stallion to the bin
as soon as the next good idea emerges.”
Racing is a complex business, we know that. Ask anyone to define the sector we operate in, and you will get any number of answers. Some will tell you we belong to the gambling or agricultural sector, others will tell you it’s a marketing business, while the purists will say it’s a sport; a hijacked one, but a sport nonetheless. Nobody ever ventures the fact that we’re in the fashion game, where owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys switch allegiances from one week to the next. We tend to consign the progeny of a stallion to the bin as soon as the next good idea emerges, often enough at our own expense, because a good stallion is a good stallion, is a good stallion. Whether he is on a hot or a cold streak, sooner or later, his virtues will pop up again.
Given his own history and the fact that he was not a two-year-old himself (Solskjaer debuted in the Irish 2000 Guineas (Gr.1), a mark of the esteem he enjoyed in the eyes his trainer, Aidan O’Brien), so it wasn’t reasonable to expect he would be a sire of early two-year-olds. The scoreboard at the end of the sophomore year read two top class performers from the first relatively small crop; Mauritian Horse of the Year Ice Axe and multiple Group One performer, Shogunnar, among them. Spurred, no doubt, by the reception of his first yearlings at the sales (he had the top priced filly at the National Yearling Sale and an average in the region of R300,000), breeders supported him staunchly in his third season, and there’ve been more than a few juveniles this year accruing from that lot, suggesting that those who put their hands up at last November’s Ready To Run in particular, are standing in the “pay-out” queue.
On Sunday, the shortest priced favourite on the Turffontein card was the recent S.A. Fillies Nursery heroine, Virgo’s Babe (who pretty well destroyed that field by a growing five lengths), though there was steady money for the one-time winning Solskjaer juvenile, Winter Star, from the relatively unheralded Johan Janse Van Vuurenstable. She bounced out at 5-1 (“bounced” is hardly appropriate here, as she dwelt at the start, losing several lengths), and remained in the rear for the bulk of the 1200 metres. Approaching the last two furlongs, her pilot let out a notch in his reins, and she didn’t need a second invitation. She cruised through the field like a hot knife through butter, catching the leaders with 150 to run, and was 3.75 lengths clear of the Nursery winner going to the line. This performance ranked with the best we’ve seen from a juvenile filly this season, and it will be interesting to see whether her connections send her to Durban now for the big Group Ones on July day and Gold Cup day. Either way, she has to be the most aptly-named two-year-old in the land right now.
Nobody here (nor at Coolmore, from whence he came) would be surprised at Solskjaer’s ability to get a good horse. Coolmore have a habit of reserving the names of great people some years in advance, so that when the right horse shows them enough to warrant a great name, they allocate it to him. At the time, Coolmore’s principal, John Magnier, held a substantial interest in Manchester United, and they opted to name their two best youngsters Solskjaer and Van Nilsterooy respectively, after the two best players at the club. All Solskjaer is doing now, is what was expected of him.