Following a somewhat tepid fortnight, the sparks flew for Summerhill this past week with action on both the racecourse and off it. It’s part of our history though, that hard on the heels of a setback, such is the nature of the racing beast that if you keep your tail up, the good news quickly follows the tough tidings.

In all our years here it has been thus, so that when Home Guard passed on, Northern Guest, who in those days paid for most of what Summerhill consisted of, quickly followed. In his wake came Rambo Dancer and Fard, then up popped perennial “Big Five” sire National Emblem, and when he departed for Bonnievale, his space was quickly occupied by Kahal and Muhtafal. Their yeoman service saw them both crack regular spots in the top ten, and as they reached the end of their careers, Visionaire emerged in their stead. So the obvious question which begs answering right now, is who we can look to as the new pretenders?

Golden Sword (High Chaparral)

While there’s truth in the adage not to “count your chickens before they hatch”, there’s comfort at least in the early exploits of the progeny of Golden Sword and Traffic Guard. From the perspective of juvenile expectations, both these stallions were capable of performances at the highest level over a mile-and-a-half, and not even the bravest forecasters would’ve anticipated their first crops to come out blazing at two.

Traffic Guard (More Than Ready)

Surprisingly then, Traffic Guard already has a brace of runners claiming the number one box, while of his eight to go to the races, no fewer than five have already earned cheques, all of them exhibiting a penchant for coming from behind, and the further the route, the better.

The judges that raised their catalogues for the first of the Golden Swords represented a worthy collection of some of racing’s shrewdest, so there’s been healthy anticipation at the prospects of his first runners here on the farm. Given the fact that at his best, Golden Sword was within two-and-a-bit lengths off the best horse in the world, Sea The Stars in the Investec English Derby, they too were thought by our team to be crying out for some ground; that opportunity Belle Rose received when Mike de Kock nominated her for the 1600m juvenile event at the Vaal on Thursday. That she cruised up by a growing three-and-a-half lengths and was chased home in third by her paternal half-sister (Oasis Queen), was not only a vindication of what horsemen had said of the Golden Swords, but it was also reward for those that foaled Belle Rose and proclaimed her a star in the making within 2 hours of her birth.

Gary Alexander and Bruce Gardner with Unagi (Admire Main) / JC Photos (p)

She wasn’t alone among winning juveniles from the Summerhill Ready To Run draft this week though, as the last race of the day featured Admire Main’s Unagi, an R80,000 graduate of November’s CTS Ready To Run Sale at Inanda Club, who was bravely tossed into a line-up of talented elders in the last at the Vaal for Gary Alexander; Unagi duly hacked-up by five in one of the season’s most impressive two-year-old performances. On the same card, Scott Kenny’s R20,000 purchase from our “School” sale, Tokyo Drift, was another admirable advert for the “Rising Son” of Sunday Silence. At Turffontein on Saturday, the David Nieuwenhuizen-trained daughter of Brave Tin Soldier, Brave Queen, paid an eloquent tribute to her R20,000 price tag at the same sale by getting up in the last stride to break her “duck”.

Catherine Hartley at the Highveld Feature Season Awards / JC Photos (p)

It’s always good to close off a solid week at the races with some recognition; at a time when we’re outnumbered and pretty much under siege from the “big guns” in the breeding business, we were proud to have Catherine Hartley fetch the Highveld Breeder’s Award for Summerhill for the fourth time in recent years on a glittering Saturday evening.

Looking to the future, for a farm like Summerhill where you’re only as good as your last race, the strength in depth of your stallion band is always vital to your aspirations. While we’ll be acknowledging his arrival in greater detail elsewhere in these dispatches, on Sunday the sun rose spectacularly as it does at this time of the year, just after six in the morning, and within the hour a gaggle of farm staff were clamouring at the arrival of a new warrior at our stallion barn.

There’s one thing about this game if you want to play it properly, and that is there’s no resting on your laurels. Maintaining your relevance means getting up ahead of the cocks in the morning and grinding it out till the sun has slipped behind the “Giant”. If ever there was evidence needed that we’re alive and well and living in Natal, here is an ample dose.