Summerhill Stallion Barn
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
SOUTH AFRICAN BREEDERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
Summerhill CEOWe finally did it. We don’t know what the margin is, but judging from the sms’ and emails, the telephone calls and the television announcements, there are enough people out there who do know, and they’ve been generous in their praise. These are humbling moments, because they remind us of the millions of hours our people put into delivering them, and of the courage and talents of our horses in claiming victory. In its present form, Summerhill is thirty-four years old, and it took 25 of those to produce the first championship, historic for the fact that it was the first time in the game’s annals that the pendulum had swung East. That it’s remained here for the past 9 years is a tribute to guts, determination and a work ethic that goes way beyond the call of duty. I have to confess, as thrilling as it always is to know that you’re part of a championship, it’s an even greater satisfaction to know that for the next year, you can look forward to the sunrise knowing that you’re going to work with one of the world’s great teams, and that you’re getting to work with the Lord’s greatest creation.
The daunting thing though, now the job is done, is that this very day, your tally winds back to zero, and the whole thing kicks off again. There’s no respite, the competition is keen, they’re resourceful and just as determined, and the numbers (and the odds) are overwhelming. You’d think that keeping a team like ours interested after nine years at the top and keeping them motivated would be something of a challenge, but these guys know that the first thing they have to do, is to keep their feet on the ground. Horseracing is an unforgiving business, one moment you’re cruising, the next you’re bruising, and there’s little time for the fallen. It prefers to hail its survivors, and the best thing to do at times like this, is to remember your heroes: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Gary Player, Jan Smuts, the Dalai Lama and Vincent O’Brien and you quickly get sense of perspective. So as soon as the back-slapping is over, it’s back to the grindstone. The horses don’t know yet that we’ve won the championship, and they need to be fed.
One of the first calls we received last evening, came from this farm’s fine friend, the King of Lesotho: that His Majesty should have the time and the inclination to remember these things in a frenetic schedule, is the best proof of the value of relationships and the beguiling impact that horses have on the human spirit. Another call came from a fellow champion, our once-again crowned leading trainer, Mike de Kock and his wife Diane, whose margin of victory over a dogged foe, Sean Tarry, was about as tight as ours was over Klawervlei. De Kock was garnering his eighth trainer’s title, but as we like to remind him, we reached that milestone a while back!