Mick Goss
You ask yourself how much of this is luck, how much is science and how much is instinct, and since we’re dealing in something as inexact as breeding racehorses, the answer has to be a little bit of each.
— Mick Goss / CEO

At last it’s official: Rabada is South Africa’s highest-rated juvenile in 2015. His merit rating of 111 eclipses that of the dual Group One winner Seventh Plain, and Dominic Zaki’s Arabian Beat, both high class performers in their own right. From a Summerhill perspective, this honour places the son of Brave Tin Soldier in distinguished company, making him the seventh juvenile colt from the farm to top the national rankings alongside Spook And Diesel (by Northern Guest), Allied Invasion (Home Guard), Hot Guard (Home Guard), Imperial Despatch (Imperial Dilemma), Rebel King (National Emblem) and Carnadore (National Emblem).

It’s a daunting thought that any two year old should have to commence his sophomore season off a ranking attained by only six of the 18 entries in this year’s Vodacom Durban July, which in theory at least, attracts the country’s best older horses. The consolation of course, is that the three year old racing programme is well endowed in its Classic opportunities, which means that horses of Rabada’s ilk can meet their opponents on level terms whenever their paths happen to cross in these events. It’s getting there that’s problematic, because the prep races, particularly where they are handicaps, are designed to give the lowest-rated horse in the field the same chance as the man at the top.

For a farm that’s never set out with the specific intention of breeding a precocious juvenile, there is obviously some satisfaction in an outcome that counts seven colts at the top of their respective generations, and as was the case with Spook And Diesel, Imperial Despatch and Hot Guard, he hails from a family whose tenancy at Summerhill has been long and enduring. In Rabada’s case, we go back 37 years with his family, so we’ve known his great, great grandmother, just as we did in the nurturing of the first four generations of Jet Master’s family. You ask yourself how much of this is luck, how much is science and how much is instinct, and since we’re dealing in something as inexact as breeding racehorses, the answer has to be a little bit of each.

Asked about his family’s breeding philosophies, which in the case of thoroughbreds, date back to his grandfather, affectionately known in racing circles as the “old Aga”, the Aga Khan III had this to say: “If the critical observation of nature is a science, then breeding is indeed partly scientific. Every single competent source of information about every single individual in my stud book is invaluable to me. This is equally true for external male and female lines from which I breed. Relating that information to past, present and future pedigrees, however, is not science. That is the art of interpretation or, in the case of long-established traditional breeders, historic memory. If interpretation is well founded and is based on sound observation, it can then be used as logic. Measured across the nearly 80 years of my family’s thoroughbred breeding in Europe and the large number of bloodlines which we have managed and developed, I feel bold enough to say that logic has played a greater role than luck. Are there any rules to this that can be articulated? No, there are not. The word “rule” contains a level of absoluteness that nature does not have, unless it has been manipulated. If there is a conclusion I can share with you about thoroughbred heredity, it is that when observation is translated into interpretation and then into logic, fortuity (or luck or chance, however one might put it) becomes probability. Aga Khan breeding policies are anchored in the most stringent parameters of probability, developed over decades and regularly challenged by exceptions that deserve to be tested.” We could not have had a better spokesman.

From a statistical perspective, it’s worth noting from the table at the foot of this script that of the country’s top 22 juveniles of the past season, unsurprisingly, 4 are trained by Mike de Kock, 3 by Michael Azzie and 2 each by Dennis Drier, Dominic Zaki and Justin Snaith.

Rabada 3 C 3 0 111 M Azzie, M G
Arabian Beat 3 C 3 2 110 S Zaki, D
Seventh Plain 3 C 4 1 110 M Drier, D R
Abashiri 3 C 1 1 109 M Azzie, M G
Prospect Strike 3 G 2 2 109 M Zaki, D
Brazuca(Aus) 3 C 0 2 109 M Janse van Vuuren, J A
Entisaar(Aus) 3 F 3 1 107 S de Kock, M F
Mogok Master 3 C 2 5 106 M Peter, P A
Princess Royal 3 F 2 4 105 S Kotzen, G S
Nephrite 3 G 1 2 105 M Houdalakis, M N
Shaama(Aus) 3 F 1 1 103 S de Kock, M F
Madame Dubois 3 F 1 2 102 S Sage, R R
Lineker(Aus) 3 C 1 2 101 M Snaith, S J
Persian Rug 3 F 2 1 101 M de Kock, M F
Redcarpet Captain 3 C 2 3 101 M van Zyl, G H
Beat The Retreat 3 C 1 2 101 M Gordon, A D
Lauderdale 3 F 2 4 101 M Howells, D C
Star Chestnut 3 C 2 0 101 M Snaith, S J/td>
Muwaary (Aus) 3 C 2 1 100 M de Kock, M F
Chestnuts n Pearls 3 F 2 1 100 S Drier, D R
Captain Chaos 3 C 2 1 100 S Sheehan, R G
Melliflora 3 F 2 5 100 M Azzie, M G

Darn The Deficit

The NHRA’s ruling last year that in future, earnings in restricted races would henceforth be excluded for championship purposes, flew in the face of the protocols observed by every other major racing jurisdiction in the world. We’ve said enough on this topic to leave it there, other than to recall that we, like the nation’s foremost racing publication, the Sporting Post, prefer to live by the world’s standards rather than by parochialism, no matter how they work out as far as Summerhill’s own interests are concerned.

At the beginning of last week, Klawervlei’s opening salvo was fired off earnings of R18,393,527, while Summerhill’s stood at R17,941,339, which meant that we lagged the leaders by R452,188. There was a point during the Gold Cup meeting, which was postponed from the previous weekend to last Saturday, when our earnings amounted to R456,250; that would have placed us R4,062 ahead had the postponement not meant that, for statistical purposes, the accruals would fall into the next season. Klawervlei responded in the manner they’ve done most of the year, with a final lunge that netted them R54,375. The effect of this was that, postponements and NHRA rulings aside, at the end of the day, with both of us aggregating in excess of R18,000,000, there was a scant R50,000 odd separating us. That said, no matter which way you look at it, they were the winners, fair and square, for which they deserve the credit.

Rabada & Mike Azzie / Gold Circle, Xpressions (p)