Equus Breeders Premiership Trophy
Equus Breeders Premiership Trophy

South African Breeder’s Premiership 2012/2013

(Image : Summerhill Archives)


Greyville, 27 July 2013

Racing is an unforgiving business, it spits out dreamers like us, and losers like a chaff machine. There’s hardly a person who’s played at it that hasn’t been hurt by its vagaries: we’re dealing in flesh and blood, and like us, horses have good days and bad days. One minute you’re cruising, the next you’re stumbling, and you have to have the stomach for its ups and downs. In that sense, it’s not unlike rugby, where just this past season, our Sharks had five consecutive victories under their belts and looked set for the play-offs, only to crash to five consecutive defeats.

Racing and rugby are easier to promote than running, which at best, is a middle class fad. For that reason, they appeal to tough-minded nations like Argentina, Australia and Ireland. It’s not wise to offend citizens of these countries. To them, a scrum or a whip-cracking finish, is just a pleasant interlude among like-minded countries. Cauliflower ears and a few welts on the bum are signs of a life well spent. Others might beat them, but not even the All Blacks can scare them.

That was a long story, getting to this point, which was about the chances of the Summerhill entries on Gold Cup Day. Monday’s story disclosed that we have sixteen runners from the farm engaged on Saturday: it’s difficult enough getting a place in the field on days like these, let alone queuing up for a cheque. We’re not going to deal with the chances of all of them: some are compromised by bad draws, one or two in our opinion have gone over the top, and at least one other is there through wishful thinking.

Tinchy Stryder is an interesting entry in the third. At her best, she’s shown she could come from far back to down the subsequent Group One giantess, Blueridge Mountain, and if Blueridge Mountain was engaged here, she’d be a galloping certainty. That said, nobody knows whether this talented filly has recovered from the injury that cost her a start as the ruling favourite in the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup, so we’ll have to see.

In the Juvenile Fillies Group One, the Thekwini Stakes, the obvious favourite is Klawervlei’s impressive Golden Slipper victress, For The Lads, who looks unbeatable on that effort, especially as she was running on strongly at the end, and looks untroubled by the extra furlong. If you don’t have hope though in this game, you have nothing, and until it actually happens, we’ll be consoled by the run in the Golden Slipper of Admiral’s Eye, who came from the worst of the draw and the back of the field on July Day to finish 5th behind the favourite, beaten less than three lengths. It’s likely she ran the fastest last 400, and as a granddaughter of Sunday Silence, the extra furlong here is likely to see her at her best, particularly as a half-sister to the stout fillies, Saltwater Girl and Rapid Flow, as well as Saturday’s Gold Cup entry, Shogunnar. Of course, there are others in the field that she still has to beat, the obvious ones being the Golden Slipper runner-up, Along Came Polly, and yet another Klawervlei-bred, Alascan Maiden - they seem to have us surrounded!

In the Premier’s Champion Juvenile Stakes (Gr.1), there is one entry off the farm, Umgiyo (not officially bred under our name, but sold by us). As a winner of his only race, he has it all to do against a more-experienced opposition, but he’s a beautifully bred son of Danehill Dancer out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, and if blood matters at all, he should be a runner.

As we’ve already mentioned, Klawervlei have a big hand in the Gold Cup itself, with the impressive winner of the Gold Vase Kolkata, well drawn here under champion jockey, Piere Strydom. The Summerhill response lies in two horses bred and raised here (again not under the official label), Shogunnar and Patriotic Rebel, both of whom have a bit of a shout, though the latter is poorly drawn at 15. This is an awfully open affair though, and only a brave man could be emphatic about any particular horse’s chances. Problem is, as far as the championship is concerned, there’s an awful lot of money at stake here, and the outcome could be decisive.

On the other hand, we have a proper horse in the Champions Cup (Gr.1) in No Worries, who ran a cracker in the Vodacom Durban July, coming from draw 19 and the back of the field with the fastest last 400m, for the fourth-placed cheque. At much the same weights, he has it all to do, against Jackson, Whiteline Fever (a kilo better off and over his preferred distance), July runner-up, Run For It, and the in-form Bravura, who at his best is capable of a top performance, and comes into the race well treated at the weights. No Worries represents the best form of the sophomores right now, so he’s not only our hope for the Number One box; he carries the hopes of an entire generation.

In the Gold Bracelet (Gr.2), we have our own home-bred Checcetti, as well as our sales graduate Dylan’s Promise, looking to spoil the party for Thunder Dance. On form, Thunder Dance has to be the pick here, but with different riding tactics (she likes to be forward and dictating), Checcetti could make a meal of this one as she did last year, and then anything could happen. We don’t know what Dylan’s Promise beat in the Oaks, but she couldn’t have done it any better than she did: if she’s progressed since then, she could be in the shake-up too.

The Darley Arabian (the Listed 10th race) brings together some vast talents, and here we are represented by Corredor, Emperor Augustus and Distinguished in a “sunset” attempt at keeping our hopes of retaining the title alive. This is a helluva line-up, the top class Yorker, Halfway To Heaven, General Sherman and Red Barrel representing some outstanding class, and we’ll have to be good to feature. Garth Puller assures us though that he holds Corredor in the highest regard, and coming from a journeyman of his excellence, that’s high praise. With Emperor Augustus in attendance, it’s a matter of “letting the games begin”.

Finally, our aspirations rest with Negev in the 11th and Showmetheway in the last. Drawn well for a change, Negev has Mike de Kock’sBluRoute (she’d better do so; Louis Goosen is a box guest and he won’t forget it if she doesn’t) and Bermuda Sloop (Klawervlei again) to contend with, but she’ll make them run. In the last, Klawervlei are strongly represented by the West Is Wide, and as we’ve said, we have Mark Dixon’sShowemetheway, but it’s unlikely that either of them will be showing the way, as they’re both drawn wide, and besides, they have De Kock’s Welwitchia and Ormond Ferraris’ Sharp Design to contend with before they can put their hands on the dough. A helluva day’s racing, and one that’ll take a few good “Johnny Walkers” to endure.

In the end though, ours is a sport that has little sympathy for the vanquished; it prefers to hail its survivors, and those that “survive” are the ones that choose to make their own luck, and damn the odds. This weekend features the seasonal showdown for the breeder’s and the trainer’s premierships. The former is a straight battle between Summerhill and Klawervlei, the latter between Mike de Kock and Sean Tarry, and the margins at the moment are just about identical. The challengers are both in striking form, and both hold formidable hands. Earlier this week we speculated about the Klawervlei entry, and they have a few obvious standouts. Our hand, on the other hand, is a little light on favourites, but this farm hasn’t been the champion breeder of racehorses for the past eight consecutive seasons for nothing, and there are some out there who just don’t know where these runners come from!

De Kock, who with his better part, Diane, will be racing with us on Saturday, is another thing altogether. At least, as the trainer of his entries, his destiny is in his own hands, while ours are both tied behind our backs. He’s been known to survive the odd skirmish in weighing rooms, jockey clubs and on hotel veradahs in the past, and you can be sure of one thing, he’ll have gloves on both fists when he gets in the ring Saturday. One other thing about De Kock though, is that like us, he can handle these things, and he’ll get over whatever Saturday dishes up.

summerhill stud, south africa
summerhill stud, south africa

Enquiries :

Linda Norval 27 (0) 33 263 1081

or email linda@summerhill.co.za