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Breeding Knowledge



Bill Oppenheim and Cox's Ridge
Bill Oppenheim and Cox's Ridge

Bill Oppenheim and Cox’s Ridge

(Image : Chef de Race / Summerhill Archives)

Bill Oppenheim

Thoroughbred Analyst

When it comes to stallion and sales analysis, Bill Oppenheim stands alone. Not only in the modern era, but in all of time. A couple of hours with Bill on his favourite topics, is like a semester at Harvard. He has a brain that means he would have been good at anything, but the racing and breeding industries just got lucky. A native of America, he now lives in Scotland, and he pops up all over the world, wherever horses and racing are found, where he is feted by the rich and the not-so rich, the famous and the not-so famous. He also knows his limitations (or rather, it might be more apt to say, he knows where his interests lie and where they don’t), and so he solicits the help of experts in other fields to assist him in the valuable work he undertakes.

He recently addressed a symposium on the breeding industry, and this is what he had to say regarding the things that intrigue him about the game, and specifically the area of his own expertise :

Most of you know me as a columnist for the Thoroughbred Daily News, so I’d like to briefly outline my credentials to speak here today. When people ask me what I do, I tell them, “I’m an analyst in the breeding and auction sales sector of the Thoroughbred horse industry.” The usual reaction to that is, “say what?”

As an analyst, one of my jobs is a journalist, and that’s how I’m best known. But another of my jobs is as a pedigree consultant, advising on matings and purchases at sales. I’ve also done this job for about 30 years, ever since John Ed Anthony hired me to help him select mares to go to Cox’s Ridge when that horse retired to Claiborne Farm, I think in 1980. I would advise on perhaps 200-300 matings a year and havebeen fortunate to have been involved with three major operations over that time, which means the advisor is working with at least some top mares and sires, which of course enhances your chances. I’ve been involved in advising on the matings of 13 Classic winners since 1992, including two winners of the Epsom Derby, three consecutive European champion 2-year-olds, two Arc winners, and the winners of the Epsom Oaks in 2007, 2008, and 2010. I report this simply to say this is a field I have worked in for 30 years with some success, so I do bring some practical experience to the table.


There are a few things I really like about how the Thoroughbred business, especially as what I call the breeding and auction sales sector of it (as distinct from the racing sector) has evolved. I like that it is a truly international business, a ‘business without borders; ‘sure, there are a lot of wholly national characteristics of the industry in each country, but when we talk about, say, bloodstock agents who travel to and buy at the major international auctions, we mean Kentucky, Newmarket, Goffs in Ireland, Deauville, at least, but the buyers are coming from Australia, Japan, the Middle East, South America, South Africa, Russia, India, Korea, Turkey, and many other countries and regions as well.

In a very important respect, the ‘breeding and sales sector,’, anyways is a business without borders.

Second, we are fortunate to be working in an essentially unregulated ‘free market’ economy. Of course, there are rules and regulations, but there are not artificial, externally imposed barriers to, or conditions of, trade. It makes it more feasible to analyze how certain principles operate, such as one of the most important - the law of supply and demand. Also, this has become a big-money business.

Thoroughbred horses can be worth really big money, so much so that it has created its own economy. This is because Thoroughbreds are not just racehorses and breeding stock; Thoroughbred horses are also financial instruments, like, say, commodity options, or derivatives. The difference is these financial instruments are live animals, too.

Third, at the end of the day - I mean, at the end of the race - there is a finish line, and a result. Horse racing itself has to be a meritocracy - the best horse wins. As an aside, that’s what I personally dislike about handicap racing, because the intention is for the best horse not to win, but, fortunately, in the really important races from the long-term perspective of the breeding standpoint, the best horse wins. And, fortunately for many of us, in the last 30 years, the business itself has become much more of a meritocracy. If you have the best idea, you will be heard, maybe even funded. And the wealth in the business is spread out much more democratically; if you come up with the right horse, you will get paid, no matter who you are, because the best horse wins.

That, as I see it, is the essential landscape we are working in: these are the conditions in which we all operate - and I, for one, am grateful that we can work in a business, a real business, too, in which you don’t have to put a tie on to go to work every day. Being a big-money business, there is a fair amount of greed and chicanery to be found, but there is also a very serious demand for advice and assistance in the creation or discovery of the superior Thoroughbred. That’s where we all - the speakers at this symposium - come in.

For the rest of Bill’s address, visit TDN at

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News



thoroughbred nicks
thoroughbred nicks

(Photo : Horse Magazine/Thoroughbred Heritage)


by Alan Porter 

Alan Porter of TrueNicks responds to the Tony Morris article on nicking.

It would be fair to say that Tony Morris has been the doyen of British commentators on breeding since I was a school boy, a statement that is put into perspective by the fact that I’m now well on the way into my sixth decade.

Consequently, I would be second to none in my regard for his knowledge of breeding and racing history, but I do have to disagree with his recent column “The Debatable Importance Of The Nick”, where he refers to nicking as “a flawed concept” that has become “the new Figure System, a nonsense foisted on an industry whose gullibility remains much as it was when Bruce Lowe presented fiction as fact over a century ago”.

Before there is a chorus of “He would say that, wouldnʼt he?” I will make it clear that Iʼm not an unbiased observer.

Along with Byron Rogers, Iʼm co-designer of the , and with The Blood-Horse Publications in America, we are co-owners of the TrueNicks programme. With that bias now declared, it must be further stated that if there wasnʼt clear and compelling evidence for itʼs value, this nick rating system at least, would not have seen the light of day.

I havenʼt worked in the industry quite as long as Tony, but Iʼve been aware of nicks and the potential usefulness of an opportunity based nicking programme for many, many years.

As an eminent turf historian, it is no surprise to see Tony raise the crosses of Bend Or with Macaroni mares and Phalaris on Chaucer mares as examples of nicks, but it is surprising to see him then dismiss their significance as a product of propinquity (or to put it another way, the cross did well because it was tried a lot, and in these specific cases, tried a lot with high-class material). At this point, weʼd have to counter by saying that it takes a lot more than frequency, even with the best material, to make a successful nick.

If propinquity were the sole requirement, then the Buckpasser / Bold Ruler cross would have been a stellar combination, the mighty Buckpasser retiring to Claiborne Farm, where Bold Ruler held court as North Americaʼs dominant sire. Well, Buckpasser did sire 1,000 Guineas heroine Quick as Lightning out of a mare by Bold Ruler, but it took 33 foals on the cross to get her, one other Stakes winner and a bunch of complete nonentities.

Evaluating the cross from a statistical viewpoint, it was a profound “anti-nick” with Buckpasser siring 16% Stakes winners to starters out of all other mares and Bold Ruler mares producing 10% Stakes winners to all other stallions, while the Buckpasser / Bold Ruler cross resulted in 8% Stakes winners to starters. In fact, the cross produced 0.42 (or less than half) as many Stakes winners as one would have expected on the basis of what the main protagonists did when covered by other sires and broodmare sires.

It is impossible to conduct the same precise analysis on the Bend Or / Macaroni or Phalaris / Chaucer crosses, but it is still easy enough to form a conclusion as to whether or not a true affinity existed. The book Racehorse Breeding Theories suggests that Bend Or sired about 25% of his foals out of mares by Macaroni.

Using Great Thoroughbred Sires of the World as a guide, Bend Or sired 19 horses that would now be the equivalent of Stakes winners. Nine of these (48%) were out of mares by Macaroni, including seven of the top ten. Remove the horses that Bend Or sired out of Macaroni mares from his record and there would be no Ormonde who, as Tony says, was greatest runner of the 19th century, nor Bona Vista, the male line ancestor of Phalaris. With a strike-rate getting on for twice that of opportunity and the quality of the best foals bred on the cross, there is not much doubt that Bend Or / Macaroni qualifies as a genuine positive nick.

Moving on to Bona Vistaʼs great-grandson, Phalaris, Racehorse Breeding Theories suggests that around 15% of his offspring were out of Chaucer mares. Yet the cross produced eleven of the 36 Phalaris offspring that would be regarded equivalent to Stakes winners, which is 30%, or twice as many as might have been expected.

Granted, he did get Derby and 2,000 Guineas victor Manna, and the Oaks heroine Chatelaine, out of non-Chaucer mares, but take out Fairway, Pharos, Fair Isle, Colorado, Caerleon, Sickle, and Pharamond II (all out of Chaucer mares), youʼd be left with Plantago, Warden of the Marshes and Museum – good horses in their day, but scarcely names that echo down the corridors of time – as the best of the rest of his get. In fact, if you remove the horses he sired out of mares by Chaucer, you might even conclude that the influence of Phalaris on the breed would be negligible.

In the case of the modern nick of Sadlerʼs Wells / Darshaan, it is possible to be very precise. Taking the percentage of Stakes winners sired by

Sadlerʼs Wells out of all other mares and the percentage of Stakes winners produced by the Darshaan mares with offspring by Sadlerʼs Wells when bred to all other stallions, we find that the Sadlerʼs Wells / Darshaan cross produced 4.5 times the percentage of Stakes winners as the individuals concerned did when bred to all other mates.

While the trio of crosses mentioned above are some of the best-known nicks, there are in fact any number of sire / broodmare crosses that have demonstrably outperformed opportunity, producing a considerably higher proportion of Stakes winners, than have the same sires and broodmare sires when bred to all other sires and broodmare sires.

That is not a theory, just a plain statement of fact.

Tony also casts doubt on the genetic basis for nicks, stating that, “No parent transmits the same set of genes at every mating”. While that is undoubtedly true, it is also clear that for example, a son or daughter of Sadlerʼs Wells out of a mare by Darshaan will have a potential gene pool, which in the immediate generations is a minimum of 75% identical to that owned by High Chaparral, Ebadiyla, Yesterday, Islington, et al, and therefore much more likely to inherit similar beneficial gene-groupings than the offspring of Sadlerʼs Wells, with, for example, Habitat or Alleged. Given the various forms of genetic interaction potentially caused by epistasis, polymorphisms, ex-expression and other factors that do not correspond to a simpleMendelianmodel, it would take very few genes (or more probably genegroups) to be passed on relatively consistently from the sire and broodmare sire for positive factors for athletic performance to inherited with considerable frequency (and when we consider that the Sadlerʼs Wells / Darshaan cross has produced better than 24% Stakes winners to runners from no less than 110 starters, it is a pretty logical supposition). With regard to crosses involving sirelines and broodmare sirelines, it is clear that the specific genetic contribution from the initial ancestor is likely to decrease with every generation removed.

However, one of the most surprising things we discovered when calibrating TrueNicks on a population of over 100,000 horses, is the correlation between Stakes success and a high-nick rating does not significantly decrease with distance removed.

It is likely what is reflected is not individual genetic contribution, but the tendency for sire lines to have similar affinities. This might be best expressed by a simple analogy with algebra.

If sire A does well with mares by both B and C, there are good chances that B and C might well have shared affinities, thus a stallion bred on a cross of A and B, might do well with mares by C, and a stallion bred on a cross of A and C might do well with mares by B. Therefore if we look at the strike-rate of all Sadlerʼs Wells sons with mares by Darshaan we find that the strike-rate is still well in excess of 10% Stakes winners to starters, even though it involves some less than stellar Sadlerʼs Wells sons, such as King of Kings and Entrepreneur (in fact, the cross has done more than five times as well as would have been expected, taking into account frequency and class).

Moving from nicks to nick ratings : Tony calls the concept of a nick (and presumably, by association, a broader sire line/broodmare sire line affinity) a theory. In fact an opportunity-based nick rating is no more a theory than is a ruler. It is simply a measure of what has happened when a sire or sireline has been crossed by mares by a broodmare sire or from broodmare sireline.

Tony concludes by urging breeders to “concentrate on the practical rather than the theoretical if they are serious about producing high-quality racehorses”.

Tony and I are not without some common ground. Where we concur is that the problems start when people begin to try and breed nick ratings rather than racehorses.

The nick, which itself should be subject to intelligent interpretation regarding the quality and type of Stakes winners produced, is but one component of a successful mating. From a pedigree standpoint, along with consideration of potentially beneficial inbreeding and line breeding (which again can be now often statistically evaluated), it helps create a short-list of potential sires, but there are a myriad of other factors that enter the equation, among them potential aptitude, conformation, temperament and, more often than not, commercial factors. There are times when one compelling element, or a number of elements lead us to chose a cross that is not necessarily particularly highly-rated, but at least that decision can be made with full possession of the relevant information.

That some sires and sirelines cross more successfully with certain broodmare sires and broodmare sirelines – and vice versa – is not a theory, but a simple and easily demonstrated fact. An opportunity-based nick rating simply acknowledges that fact, and reflects the degree of success relative to frequency of attempts and class of material used.

Extract from European Bloodstock News


the thoroughbred nick
the thoroughbred nick

(Photo : Thoroughbred Heritage / Famous Racehorses)


By Tony Morris 

A few months ago there were lively exchanges on the internet involving different parties who professed to have the best data on nicks. And as these were commercial operations, seeking to sell their data, it was not so surprising that the arguments became heated; vitriol was being tossed around in the manner lately so tediously dispensed by Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg.

The political party leaders have struggled to sell their philosophies and policies to an understandably cynical public who have become no more enlightened as they have sought to rubbish one another’s ideas. The electorate made up its mind earlier this month by going for the apparently least worst option.

Just who won the argument between the nicks merchants is unclear, but to this observer it hardly mattered. Am I supposed to care about whose version of a flawed concept acquired the most adherents? Nicks have become the new Figure System,  nonsense foisted on an industry whose gullibility remains much as it was when Bruce Lowe presented fiction as fact over a century ago.

The trouble is that in the uncertain world of Thoroughbred breeding everyone wants to be able to believe in something. People don’t want to accept the random nature of genetic inheritance and are susceptible to any theory that a smart salesman can make seem plausible. There are those who still adhere to Lowe’s ludicrous ideas; dosage continues to exercise a pernicious influence on some; advocates of deep linebreeding still have their followers; and the notion of nicks has been so strongly promoted as reality that new converts readily buy into it on a daily basis.

What is a nick? It is generally understood to be an affinity between two unrelated individuals – most often, but not exclusively, a sire and broodmare sire – recognized through a higher rate of success than expectancy. There are a couple of examples from history, which always tend to be cited as proofs of the phenomenon, one each from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The earlier of those examples concerned a pair of Derby winners, the 1880 hero Bend Or and Macaroni, successful in 1863. Examine the records, and it is hard to deny that they did terribly well together, the former as sire, the latter as broodmare sire.

Between them they delivered the best horse of the nineteenth century in unbeaten Ormonde, a son of Bend Or out of Macaroni’s daughter Lily Agnes, and he was one of a number of high-class performers bred to the same pattern.

In the 1920’s there came another prominent instance, involving Phalaris and Chaucer, again as respectively sire and broodmare sire. Among those who advertised that cross as a powerful nick were the brothers Pharos and Fairway, both important sires as well as superior runners, Classic winners Colorado and Fair Isle, Pharamond and Sickle, not quite top-notchers on the racecourse but important as sires in North America, and the Eclipse Stakes winner Caerleon. The alliance proclaimed itself as a sure-fire recipe for success.

And of course, in our own time nobody can have failed to notice how well Sadler’s Wells seemed to have been matched with daughters of Darshaan, and indeed with daughters of Darshaan’s sire, Shirley Heights. The combination clicked early, was soon picked up as a formula for producing a high-class runner, and breeders were not slow to make it a highly fashionable cross. It worked on a regular basis, and by doing so it proved significant in promoting the idea of nicks as a viable plan for delivering success.

People will believe what they want to believe, especially if they feel in need of a belief system, and it can certainly be argued that the examples cited above tend to suggest that nicks do occur. It is not a theory that may be as readily dismissed as Bruce Lowe’s family numbers, for instance.

But it still has its own element of hocus-pocus. I recall a discussion on nicks – specifically those involving Bend Or and Macaroni and Phalaris and Chaucer – with one of my early mentors, Humphrey Finney, an eminent stud manager with a profound knowledge of pedigrees, who wound up as boss of Fasig-Tipton, and whose memory is now preserved in the name of the sales pavilion at Saratoga. Finney pooh poohed the idea of nicks and had one word to account for the success of those crosses – propinquity.

It was a fair point in both cases. The first Duke of Westminster was the owner of Bend Or, and his broodmare band included some of the best-bred daughters of Macaroni; evidence for the supposed nick came exclusively from products of the Duke’s Eaton Stud. But would the Duke have recognised a special affinity there, something to be exploited for all it was worth? Hardly.

Macaroni was, rather like Primera, renowned chiefly for his daughters. He did get a winner of the Gr1 2,000 Guineas in Macgregor, but that one was an exception to the rule that defined him as principally a sire of notable fillies. Unsurprisingly, many breeders fancied that Macaroni would excel as a broodmare sire, and he duly did. It was understandable that the Duke would elect to put his Macaroni mares to Bend Or when the latter went to stud; what better notion could he have for enhancing the prospects of his young stallion?

Examine the record and a few pertinent facts emerge.

Yes, Bend Or’s record as a sire did seem to deteriorate as the supply of Macaroni mares dried up, but one of his best sons, as runner and sire, came late in Radium, who had no Macaroni connection. It is also apparent that Macaroni’s reputation as a broodmare sire by no means depended on links with Bend Or; he clicked with sires from a wide variety of backgrounds.

It was a similar story with Phalaris and Chaucer, both products of the Derby family’s Stanley Stud. Yes, it is an undoubted fact that they thrived in combination, as the examples mentioned above clearly demonstrate. But it was not as though Phalaris owed all of his success at stud to daughters of Chaucer; he had plenty of high-class representatives with no Chaucer connection.

As for Chaucer’s record as a broodmare sire, his own best daughter – on the racecourse as well as at stud – was Selene, who delivered Pharamond and Sickle to matings with Phalaris, but whose undying fame was assured by the great Hyperion, her son by Gainsborough.

Coming right up to date, who can doubt that Sadler’s Wells has been a great sire, with or without his products from daughters of Darshaan? And is not Darshaan an outstanding broodmare sire per se? It is not just what his daughters have produced in combination with Sadler’s Wells that have made him a success in that role.

My point is that, even in cases such as these, which have resulted in numerous successes, the notion of the nick is not a concept warranting confidence in its reality. No parent transmits the same set of genes at every mating, and on that basis alone there are plenty of reasons for doubting the theory.

While research is ongoing and there is still much to learn, geneticists are currently among the doubters on the subject of nicks. All they will say at present is that if nicks exist, they are far less common than is widely credited.

And that makes all the recent rowing – between parties who take no account of how genes behave – over a phenomenon of dubious existence, nothing but an unseemly and futile exercise.

Nicks are not the be-all and end-all of breeding, as some with data to sell would have us believe. Not content with trying to persuade us of effective links between sire and broodmare sire, they suggest affinities between certain sire lines, and every big winner supposedly emerges as the outcome of a pattern discernible in its pedigree and therefore suggestive of emulation.

While I can see plenty of reasons why a breeder might want to drill for oil where oil has previously been found, it is wise to remember that every horse is an individual rather than a conformist to a theory that some salesmen choose to peddle. Good horses, like bad horses and indifferent horses, spring from all manner of backgrounds, and genetics – which you may translate as pedigree – contributes no more than about 35 per cent to performance in any case.

Breeders are well advised to concentrate on the practical rather than the theoretical if they are serious about producing high-quality racehorses.

Part 2 follows later in the week.

Extract from European Bloodstock News


artificial insemination
artificial insemination

Artificial Insemination

(Photo : eHow/Delaware)


Would the introduction of Artificial Insemination (A.I.)improve overall fertility in the Thoroughbred herd? Would A.I. cause a narrowing of the Thoroughbred gene pool?

Pro-A.I. supporters will state that A.I. improves fertility rates and that it does not narrow the gene pool.

New research conducted by Arrowfield Group’s pedigree analyst, Peter Jenkins - using the Australian Standardbred industry as a model - has uncovered some interesting results. Jenkins’ research shows that overall fertility, as manifested in the live foal rate, diminished with the use of A.I. and that there has been a significant narrowing of the gene pool since its widespread introduction into the Standardbred industry. 

The use of the Australian Standardbred industry as a model to study the effects of A.I. carried strong credibility due to identical geographical and climatic conditions and a common pool of veterinary expertise.

In 1994 the live foal rate for Thoroughbreds in Australia was 63.4%, trailing by 6.4% the Standardbred rate of 69.8%. However, by 2008 the Thoroughbred live foal rate had risen to 67.0%, eclipsing the Standardbred rate of 61.3% by 5.7%. Interestingly, the very first year that imported frozen or chilled semen was used on more than 100 Standardbred mares – 1998 – was the very year that the Standardbred live foal rate fell below that of the Thoroughbreds. The evidence indicates that there is no overall fertility benefit to be gained by allowing A.I. usage within the Thoroughbred industry.

It is also evident, as seen by the comparative study of the top 20 most popular stallions in the Standardbred code, in both the pre-A.I. and current era, that stallion numbers in the Standardbred industry have been reduced by more than half with the most popular stallions serving vastly more mares. Disturbingly, the top 5 Standardbred sires averaged 341 mares served per season (incl. chilled semen services in NZ) and the top 20 sires covered 42% of the total broodmares bred not just in Australia but in Australia and NZ combined. This compares with 15.8% of mares bred being covered by the top 20 stallions in the pre-A.I. Standardbred era. It would therefore be very difficult to argue that a similar pattern would not develop if A.I. were introduced in Thoroughbreds.

“In fact, if the Australian Thoroughbred industry was overlaid with the Standardbred model, we could see the top 20 Thoroughbred stallions ‘covering’ over 550 mares annually on average” said Peter Jenkins.

“This reduction of stallion numbers and the enlarged books served by the most popular sires (as evident in the Standardbred industry) would logically result in a significant genetic narrowing which, using sirelines as a marker, is confirmed by our research” added Jenkins. 

Further, given that overall genetic narrowing in the Standardbred code is tempered somewhat by mainly colonial damlines, the impact of A.I. on the Thoroughbred code is liable to be more dramatic in terms of genetic narrowing due to the high numbers and the very strong commercial impact imported mares have enjoyed in Australian Thoroughbred breeding in recent years.


longfields and foal post image
longfields and foal post image

Longfields and foal

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


A case brought against stud book authorities in the federal high court of Australia by a past chairman of the Sydney Turf Club, Bruce McHugh, for the right to practice artificial insemination on his mares, has brought this decades-long debate back into the spotlight.

Let me say at the outset, in the short term, the practice of artificial insemination would be extremely beneficial to Summerhill Stud from a financial perspective, because two thirds of the broodmare population of South Africa resides so far away from us as to make travel inconvenient. We’re reminded regularly by our colleagues in the Western Cape, that if our stallions were standing there, they would be massively popular.

However, apart from the remarks made by our old friend and Australian visionary, John Messara, about the anti-competitive impact of a ruling in favour of artificial insemination, they’re other far-reaching consequences, which neither Mr McHugh nor anyone else connected with the case appear to have thought through. It follows that if we could access these mares by the simple delivery of semen straws on the overnight plane to Cape Town, we’d open up new markets.

John Messara piece from The Mercury

Messara warns artificial insemination “would be lunacy”

Arrowfiled Stud chief John Messara, in his 1st public comment on the controversial Artificial Insemination (AI) litigation begun last week in Australia’s Federal Court, stated the “consequences of the introduction of AI would be different to those which are contemplated by its proponent Bruce McHugh” (former leading bookmaker and Sydney Turf Club chairman)

Messara emphasised that “rather than creating more competition, it would concentrate stallion power in the hands of the few farms who control the proven stallions at the top of the list.”

He explained: “To date, conception by natural means has placed a lid on the number of mares each stallion can serve, but if that lid is lifted through AI the consequences could be dire for the industry. With breeders flocking to proven horses, huge numbers of mares would be inseminated by a small number of the most commercially desirable stallions and in this way there would be less competition, rather that more competition among stallion owners.

Gene pool

So while the stallion fees might reduce to accommodate the much larger books, the revenue of the big farms would increase substantially and that would lead to bigger profits, increased concentration of industry power and reduction of competition.”

Messara also noted: “Then you have the impact on the gene pool. The few thousand mares that comprise the active band in Australia will be served by a handful of stallions; logic dictates that AI would be harmful to the diversity of the breed.”

Messara also stated: “Of course, if AI were ever to be introduced into thoroughbreds in Australia, horses produced by means of AI and their progeny would not be regarded as thoroughbreds in other parts of the world and would not be able to compete internationally and would therefore be useless for breeding purposes internationally as well. This has the capacity to destroy the commercial viability of the thoroughbred industry in our country.”

Messara concluded: “AI is not without its advantages in reducing the transmission of disease and assisting sub-fertile breeding stock, but the disadvantages far outweigh the possible benefits and I believe it would be lunacy to introduce AI into Australia.”

Common to most horsemen’s thoughts though, will be the fact that at any stallion farm, the stallion barn is the soul of the stud. Personally, I’m reviled at the thought of collecting semen from a stallion in an artificial vagina, on the back of a wooden horse. That’s the emotional response.

That said, as we understand Mr McHugh’s case, it is based on the fact that the restraints against artificial insemination, constitute an unfair trade practice. He has an argument of course, and there’s a possibility the court might rule in his favour.

However, unless they give some thought to what could then occur down the road, not only in relation to the narrowing of the gene pool, but to the general value of our bloodstock, the outcome could be too “ghastly to contemplate”, as a once-misguided president of South Africa so infamously said.

But if the argument that it’s an unfair trade practice is to hold up, then surely it must follow that the transfer of embryos, or for that matter, the cloning of thoroughbreds, should be permitted. Embryo transfer would enable production through surrogate mothers of a replication, in any one year, of a stream of brothers and sisters conceived on the same mating by the same stallion, from the same foundation mare. That could conceivably mean that a breeder with a “blue hen” in his stud, could take six or seven brothers and sisters from the same mare to the sales in the same year.

Equally, through cloning, he could take any number of identical siblings to a sale, and in a single renewal of a Durban July, for example, there could, quite bizarrely, be as many as six of precisely the same animal replicated in the field.

To us, that would destroy the sport as we know it. Simple as that.

Mr McHugh is reputedly a leading bookmaker. We’d be interested to see how he’d mark that one up on his odds board.

From a purely South African perspective, there has long been envy among breeders of the “shuttle” concept, and the fact that our counterparts in the Antipodes have enjoyed liberal access to some of the best horses standing in the northern hemisphere. The truth though, as we pen this note, is that the Australian Dollar represents six Rands and some change, while there is only another Rand in it in matching that to the US Dollar. This means Australian breeders are able to afford, (using their own currency), access to these stallions when they’re standing in their own backyard.

But you have to ask yourself, as a South African breeder, what our market can afford in the way of northern hemisphere stallions, in the hypothetical event that access would mean the importation of semen straws. For the sake of convenience, I’m going to assume that R100 000 is a reasonable fee to pay for a top stallion, notwithstanding the fact that some of our horses in this country command more. I speak as a commercial breeder acutely aware of the risks involved, and knowing that even at R200 000 a pop, our own stallions (like their top-end counterparts abroad) can still throw a disappointing foal. Convert R100 000 to US Dollars and you get of the order of 12 000 – 13 000 dollars. Then cast your eye across the spectrum of stallions in the United States that stand in this bracket, and you’ll be disappointed.

The truth is, our own top-of-the-range stallions are better value, because you get a highly proven animal locally for R100 000, while in the United States you may fluke a first or second season sire for that (which is pure speculation, as we know), but if you’re looking at the proven ranks, all you’re likely to get is a disappointment.


breeding made simpler
breeding made simpler


(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


For three hundred years, the welfare of the thoroughbred and the shaping of the breed has rested in the hands of the British aristocracy. In more recent times, it’s been hijacked by venture capitalists, and while that has catapulted breeding from what was originally a sporting preoccupation into an international business, it hasn’t necessarily been good for the advancement of the thoroughbred as an animal.

Commercial imperatives have witnessed an emphasis on the sales ring in the selection process, instead of the racecourse. We are in the business of “running”, and unless our focus is on the production of a runner, we’re going to fall short on the real purpose of our business and that is producing better athletes.

One of the marvellous imponderables in producing a racehorse, is the unknown of the outcome, given that we’re dealing with a hybrid, comprising strains of animals whose histories have been forged in different places, from different forebears in different eras. When breeders make their plans for a mating season, they dip their hands into the well of genetic imponderables, and unless they’re intimately connected with their horses (or have someone at their disposal who is), the outcome is often less certain than the spin of a wheel. Until now, this has left the instinctively talented horseman who knows his stock and its anecdotal history, with a distinct advantage.

In recent decades, scientists have been hard at work trying to track the genome of the racehorse, with implications for human health as well as horse breeding. At last, it seems progress has been made, and while this will not detract from the role of the artist, nor provide certainty in the outcome, what it will do is aid us in identifying the course and origins of beneficial and non- beneficial genes.

At around the same time that parallel progress has been made in the sphere of seed technology, scientists in America have advanced the cause of the horse. Alan Harmon reports…

The genome of the domestic horse has been completely sequenced. This has important Implications for better horse breeding and for studies of human health. The International Horse Genome Project’s work was done by the genomesequencing centre of the Broad Instituteof the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, in collaboration with an international team of researchers that included scientists at the University of California, Davis. “This gives us specific sequence information, which we can apply to identify the genes for specific traits in the horse,” geneticist Dr Cecilia Penedo of UC Davis told the journal Science. Dr Penedo supplied DNA from Arabian horses and Quarter Horses and worked on a horse linkage map, which identified genetic markers for various traits across the horse chromosomes.

Human health

UC Davis professor of animal science James Murray, who has worked with the Horse Genome Project since its inception in 1995, says having access to multiple genome sequences makes it easier to understand all genomes. “By looking at the horse genome, we can better understand human biology and human diseases,” he explains. The researchers noted that over 90 hereditary conditions affect both humans and horses, including infertility, inflammatory diseases and muscle disorders. Therefore the horse is an important model for improving the understanding of human diseases. The project found that the horse genome is somewhat larger than the dog genome and smaller than the human and cow genomes. They also discovered evidence that fewer chromosome rearrangements separate humans from horses than from dogs. The researchers were suprised to find the existence of an evolutionary new centromere on horse chromosome 11. Centromeres are key structural features of chromosomes that are necessary for the movement of chromosomes when cells divide, a function that ensures normal distribution of all genetic material to each daughter cell. This functional, but evolutionary immature, centomere may provide a model to study the functioning of centromeres.

Eliminating genetic conditions

Dr Penedo notes researchers can use the specific gene sequences to map traits in horses. She and graduate student Leah Brault are using this information to identify the cause of equine cerebellar abiotrophy, a genetic, neurological condition found almost exclusively in Arabian horses. Studies show that a horse can carry the gene for equine cerebellar abiotrophy and not be affected by it. However, if two horses carrying the gene are bred, there is a 25% likelihood the foal will manifest the condition, which causes serious nearological problems including head tremors and poor equilibrium.

Value In The Older Broodmare

Value In The Older Broodmare

Many buyers are prejudiced against buying old broodmares, believing that their progeny are somehow genetically lower in quality than their earlier siblings. Unlike stallions, who produce their sperm ‘on the run’, mares are born with all their eggs on board. In many cases, the quality of the sperm of old stallions can diminish, however a mare’s ova are not affected by the age of the mare.


summerhill stud evening
summerhill stud evening

“…it provides you with the satisfaction of knowing that a proper day’s work has been done.”

(Photo : Greig Muir)

Lest we should appear to have taken our fifth consecutive Breeders’ Championship for granted, allow us to quickly set your minds at rest. While it was obviously something of a fait accompli a good few months back, we have never forgotten the honour this premiership bestows on our farm. We remember every day, that in all of recorded history only six entities have aspired to the title, and without doubt, it’s the tightest held championship in all of racing, by the standards of any country anywhere.

We were never ambitious about the Breeders’ Championship, because as often as not, ambitions tend to disappoint, but what we were ambitious about were the standards we set for ourselves. Most times, if you do things the best you can, and you aspire to be world-class in all your endeavours, the rest takes care of itself, and while that wont necessarily materialise in titles, it provides you with the satisfaction of knowing that a proper day’s work has been done.

While we’re on the subject, it’s time for us to acknowledge the efforts of one of the great teams of the world. Great sacrifices have been made here in our 30 years in business, and great labour has been undertaken. Granted, Summerhill has done its best, within the limits of its resources to provide our team with opportunities to grow, including 32 international scholarships for our previously disadvantaged community, but the beneficiaries have more than compensated for that investment. They have developed a new sense of their own self-worth, and they’ve lifted the standards by which we operate to levels we never anticipated, and today, it’s time for all of us to lift our hats and salute.

It’s true, you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

south african thoroughbred breeders log 2009/2009
south african thoroughbred breeders log 2009/2009


summerhill stud grade one
summerhill stud grade one

“A Grade One victory, the Holy Grail of our sport”

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

“More Bulldust Part 6”

Extract from Summerhill Sires Brochure 2009-2010

When you see the full regalia of six “green” flags hoisted at the Summerhill Stallion barn, be sure there’s a celebration cooking.

That’s the sign of a Grade One victory, the Holy Grail of our sport. Qualifying for a Grade One is an unfailingly accurate gauge of class. You need it to get there, and you refine it by staying there.

In recent times, the “green” flags have been doing a lot of fluttering at Summerhill. A Gold Cup hero, a Flying Championship ace and a Garden Province queen.

And just to show that class is a way of life at Summerhill, dual Guineas victor Imbongi, Paris Perfect and Art of War have been blazing their own trails across the sands of Dubai. At the highest level.

What it all comes down to, is this. The best of land, the best of people, and the best of care. And there’s no such thing as a “minor” detail.

In fact, you could say it’s what makes Summerhill Summerhill.


If you’re not on the mailing list, or if you’d like to check that you are,

please email Marlene at for your copy

of the world’s number one Sires brochure.

Click below to read “Bulldust”

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

bulldust part 1
bulldust part 1
bulldust part 2
bulldust part 2
bulldust part 3
bulldust part 3
bulldust part 4
bulldust part 4
bulldust part 5
bulldust part 5


charles laird
charles laird

Please click above to enlarge

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


One of Summerhill’s most enduring and rewarding associations going back more than two decades, is with what is now known as the Charles Laird Racing Stable. With traditions stretching back almost eighty years in our case, and more than a century in theirs, our two families have a common respect and admiration for the sport of racing, and no family in a long and distinguished history of trainers in this country has bought more honour to their profession than the Lairds.

The names of Syd Garrett and Syd Laird, Charles and his cousins Alec and Dennis Drier have all created their own spaces in thoroughbred lore, and the latest saga in this great tradition is Charles’ first Championship as the nations leading trainer, which will be consummated with the close of racing’s business this calendar year at midnight on the 31st July. Already in an unassailable position, this is a championship we can already celebrate, and given the number of great horses that have passed to greatness between our respective organisations to greatness under Charles’ tutelage, Summerhill will not only be celebrating its own fifth consecutive Breeders Championship, but we’ll be remembering with considerable pleasure what Charles has achieved this year.

As dedicated and talented a horseman as this country has produced, he’s a stickler for planning and organisation and within the ranks of his business, there’s no such thing as a “minor” detail. Having to manage a string of its current proportions, is no mean feat, and Charles has surrounded himself with some serious professionals, all of whom who’ve contributed in no small way to the outcome we write of.

As we do so, we remember the names of Nhlavini, Rebel King, Bianconi, Pick Six, and Amphitheatre, among many, and a history of support at the sales and a parallel love of the game, and all we can say is, you’ve put the ghosts of last season well and truly behind you, old pal. We salute you and a remarkable team. We know what it takes ourselves, so from one champion team to another, well done.

P.S. The ghosts of last season emanated from a healthy lead going into the last month of the racing year, followed by a ding-dong battle with as formidable an opponent as the world could’ve produced, that of the Mike de Kock yard. The lead for the championship changed hands every successive weekend of the final month, punch for punch, race by race, at the final meeting of the year, to the very last event of the day.

The stuff of racing journalists and television, but not for the men who finished 2nd or 3rd. Goes to show though – you can’t get a top man down.


stronghold foal
stronghold foal

Please click the Stronghold Foal above to view photo gallery

We wrote a fortnight ago about the expectations that accompany the arrival of a new stallion on the farm. The consequences can be far-reaching and profound, but at the same time, they can be long-lasting and destructive. We know that most stallion prospects fail in their second careers, and the fact that only a select few succeed, is one of the principal reasons behind the nobility of the thoroughbred as a species.

The next stage of the acid test, of course, comes with the arrival of the first progeny of a new stallion, and this weekend was a double celebration for us. Last season we introduced two of the best young prospects to set foot at Summerhill, Mullins Bay and Stronghold, and we were greeted with the arrival on Sunday of a filly foal from each, and then shortly after that, with a second filly out of a Group-winning mare for Stronghold.

All three foals are exactly what you might’ve dreamed of in your expectations from these two stallions. Big, scopey and strong, the Mullins Bay is almost a picture replica of its sire, while the Strongholds are both chips off the old Danehill block. If this is what we can look forward to in the future, well then….. boom!


seattle slew documentary
seattle slew documentary

Click above to watch Seattle Slew

(Footage : YouTube)


The arrival at Summerhill of the best racing representative of Seattle Slew’s sire line ever to set foot on this continent, in the form of A P ARROW, revives memories of his famous grandfather.The very sale at which Seattle Slew was acquired is underway in America right now.We recall the fact Seattle Slew remains the only one of eleven American Triple Crown winners to have been sold at public auction.The Thoroughbred Daily News tells this story.

In history, only a select few horses have made it to the G1 Belmont Stakes following wins in the G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Preakness Stakes, with a chance to sweep racing’s Triple Crown. Of those, even fewer - 11 to be exact - have swept the cherished Triple. Only one of them has ever been offered and sold at public auction. That honour resides with 1977 Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew.

In the market for an early developing two-year-old to win Sunland Park’s Riley Allison Futurity, one of the richest juvenile races at the time, Karen and Mickey Taylor came upon a colt in the July catalogue that looked like he had the potential to fit the bill.

“My husband, Mickey, looked at the whole catalogue before he went to that year’s sale”, recalled Karen Taylor. “He dog-eared hip 128, a colt by Bold Reasoning out of My Charmer”.

“We liked Bold Reasoning because he was a relatively new sire, and the colt was a first foal out of the mare, and we really like first foals,” Karen continued. “We thought the colt would have plenty of speed from his sire.”

While the dark bay appeared to have plenty of potential on paper, the Taylors didn’t shy away from the fact that both the colt’s sire and dam were, at that time, still unproven. When it came to selecting young horses, the Taylors opted to focus on the physical element over the pedigree. And what was the Taylors’s impression the first time they saw hip 128 led out for inspection?

“The first time we met him, he didn’t just walk out of his stall, he burst out with energy and fire,” recalled Karen. “He had pizzazz, he was on his toes and he gave you this eye, that he had until the day he died, that would stop you in your tracks. Everybody noticed his eye. They always talk about the ‘eye of eagles” in a horse, and Slew had it. He had an eye that just could look into your soul.”

While the youngster had plenty of personality and charisma, certain aspects of his physical appearance caused many to look elsewhere. But not the Taylors. “He was well muscled, but he also had a very straight hind leg and, since Mickey was into Quarter Horses, that didn’t deter us,” explained Karen. Mickey added, “His straight leg probably turned off 90 percent of the people, because at that time, people thought a straight leg was just for sprinters. He was a big reason that many changed their philosophy aboutthose types of horses. In fact, A.P. Indy[by Seattle Slew] also has a very straight hind leg, and he went on to win the Belmont Stakes, too.”

But despite Slew’s conformational shortcomings, Karen was instantly sold on the big, awkward colt. “I liked him because he had short cannon bones and short pasterns,” Karen explained. “He turned out slightly in his right front, but he walked straight through it and had a terrific stride, so that didn’t bother us. I just fell in love with him the first time I saw him”.

“When we went to see Slew, Paul told us we were the only people who came back to look at him again,” said Karen. “In fact, we must have gone back five times. We had to go back several times, because he would always dance around and was on his toes”.

Mickey recalled, with vivid clarity, the moment Seattle Slew walked into the Fasig-Tipton pavilion the afternoon of July 19, 1975. On that occasion, Fasig-Tipton’s John Finney was the announcer, while Ralph Retler served as the auctioneer. “We were sitting on the left side of the pavilion, in about the eighth or ninth row, on fold-out chairs,” Mickey remarked. “There was only one other bidder—we could have been bidding against the reserve or the owner. I bid $15,500, then there was another bid from the other side, and I went to $16,500. To tell you the truth, I was probably going to stop at $15,500, but Karen gave me the elbow.” Karen quickly interjected, “I gave him two elbows. I was pretty determined to get him.”

They got Seattle Slew (Triple Crown Winning Champion) for $17,500.Shades of Jet Master a R15,000, on earnings now worth of the order of R80 million.

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al maktoum school of excellence link
al maktoum school of excellence link

Please click above to view a panorama of the

Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence worksite

(Tip : Use your mouse to pan left and right, tilt up and down and to zoom in and out…) 

“More Bulldust Part 5”

Extract from Summerhill Sires Brochure 2009-2010

A few years ago, on TV’s Business channel, we were asked how we measured the success of our business. Firstly, it’s the piece of wood that marks the end of 2200 metres on the First Saturday in July. Secondly, and just as importantly, it’s the homeruns of our people.

Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of the bottom line. We don’t give up on anybody; we believe in deathbed conversations. It’s part of the culture at Summerhill and it’s a policy that’s awarded thirty two scholarships to our people in the past thirteen years. To the best farms in the world.

It’s a policy that’s rewarded the energies of two young Zulu cooks in the Hartford kitchen, with national honours at cooking exhibitions in Zurich and Prague. And it’s a philosophy that’s made cultural ambassadors of our traditional dancers (all 35 of them) when they finished 3rd, then 2nd, at the World Traditional Dance Championships in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Second. In the whole darn world. We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give, and these are the things that get us up in the morning.

Africa is the next place, the last frontier of opportunity. Take your hats off, if you will, to the learned countries of the north for their financial systems and their industries, but the final gift, and perhaps the most precious of all, will come from Africa. The corridors of civilization have become increasingly crowded and belligerent, and there will be a premium on countries that offer space, tranquility, and critically, the human touch.

When it comes to humanity, for all its paradoxes, Africa stands alone. It is the final bastion of untapped creativity, the front which reconnects us to our roots. Travel the world and return to Africa, and you’ll know that deep, within you, there resides an understanding that this is where we all began.

Long ago, our upbringing deprived us of the human touch, trapping us into a lopsided worship of money, and belongings and a spiritual wasteland. Africa has the talent, nay the genius, to reintroduce us to our ourselves. Talent hits the target no-one else can hit; genius hits the target no-one else can.

So what’s this all about? In our case, it’s the recognition of another gift we’ve gained from Africa. The realisation that there’s an interdependence between ourselves and all the other inhabitants of this earth. The trees, the animals, the insects, the air itself.

When it comes to horses, the Zulus, who’ve been tending their herds for millennia in these valleys, will stand their ground with best in the world. In our book, they are the best in the world. And the generosity of our benefactors of the past 20 years, Dubai’s Rulers, is what will take them to the next level.

This time next year, the Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence will be a reality. The first of its kind in Africa, and in its own way, the first of its kind anywhere.

It’s what South Africa deserves, and it’s the legacy Their Highnesses want to leave.

The opportunity is here; the time is now.

Hope may well be the music of the future. Faith is the courage to dance to it.


If you’re not on the mailing list, or if you’d like to check that you are,

please email Marlene at for your copy

of the world’s number one Sires brochure.

Click below to read “Bulldust”

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

bulldust part 1
bulldust part 1
bulldust part 2
bulldust part 2
bulldust part 3
bulldust part 3
bulldust part 5
bulldust part 5

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imbongi timeform 120
imbongi timeform 120

Imbongi joins the elite Timeform 120 club

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


It’s long been our belief that the greatest way to shape the breed positively, is to use the best racehorses as sires, and we’re on record recently as saying that our bunch is a Timeform 120. That means in order for a horse to get through the eye of the Summerhill needle, he has to impress the judges at the world’s most prestigious racing agency that he’s worthy of a 120, hence the presence in our barn of horses of the ilk of KAHAL, MULLINS BAY, SOLSKJAER, WAY WEST, STRONGHOLD, MALHUB, and now A P ARROW and ADMIRE MAIN. All of whom are 120’s or better, which entitles them to claim the mantle of being among the top ½% of racehorses worldwide.

The latest member of the club is the Summerhill-bred, Emperors Palace Ready to Run graduate IMBONGI, who earned this lofty status with his facile win in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3) at Newmarket in England.

While five consecutive Breeder’s Championships is enough to make any man proud, a performance of IMBONGI’s class against the best the world has to offer, given South Africa’s isolated history, is new turf for us and he joins PARIS PERFECT and ART OF WAR among Summerhill-raised horses to have performed with distinction at the elite international level this year.


AP ARROW and ADMIRE MAIN arrive at Summerhill

summerhill stud
summerhill stud

Please click above for a first glimpse of AP Arrow and Admire Main


If ever there was a moment in the farm’s history that is capable of altering the mainstream of events, it’s the arrival of a new stallion. Today could be epochal for us, as two of the most significant prospects set foot in their new paddocks for the first time. An awful lot has already been said about A P Arrow and Admire Main, so we’ll let the team do the talking, free of the influence of the boss, who’s hooked up in Mauritius – poor fellow!

Comments from the yard:

A P Arrow is one of the best looking horses ever to come to Summerhill”.

Stallion Manager, Greig Muir

Admire Main is wonderfully natured son of Sunday Silence, a pleasure to have in the barn”.

Stallion Manager, Greig Muir

“They are both really imposing horses – and the fact that they are both virtually free of Northern Dancer blood, and therefore ideal outcrosses, must make them even more appealing to breeders.”

Claire Curry, Mating Consultant, Juddmonte Farm, UK

“The A Team has landed!”

Heather Morkel, Business Manager

“Not one, but two, really exciting horses each with good looks and loads of presence. Lots to look forward to.”

Marlene Breed, Personal Assistant

“Both gorgeous horses, and they will do us hugely proud, fantastic to have them”.

Linda Norval, Stallion Admin Manager.

“Two very good looking stallions, I really think they will suit a lot of South African mares”.

Annet Becker, Broodmare Manager.

“Two well-bred, athletic horses with good action – if their foals look like them, we’ll be over the moon.”

Tarryn Liebenberg, Pre-training and Sales Manager.

“Two outstanding horses”.

Leigh Willson, Photographer


Summerhill Sires Video 2009 - 2010

summerhill stallions video
summerhill stallions video

Please click above to load video.

If you have a slow connection, please be patient.

Thank you.

Mick Goss presents the Summerhill Stud Stallions for the 2009 - 2010 season. The lineup includes AP Arrow, Admire Main, Malhub, Stronghold, Solskjaer, Ravishing, Kahal, Muhtafal, Mullins Bay and Way West.

Summerhill Stud : The Genuine Article
Summerhill Stud : The Genuine Article

For more information please visit :

THANDOLWAMI - The Horse with a Big Heart



(Photo : Gold Circle)

“Craig Eudey, Thandolwami and the Vodacom Durban July”

When Thandolwami lines up at the start of the 2009 Vodacom Durban July on Saturday, a significant achievement will be recorded against the name of his trainer Craig Eudey, as the four-year-old chestnut is from Craig Eudey’s first crop of horses as a trainer.

David Thiselton writes that Craig Eudey, who is based at Summerveld and was assistant to Alistair Gordon for some 26 years, chose the Summerhill-bred Thandolwami at the National Yearling Sales.

“I especially liked the way he walked,” he recalled.

The Woodborough gelding was the first horse he ever bought from the country’s top auction.

He initially thought Thandolwami would be a precocious sort, but the horse gets better and better as he gets older.

“When he won over 1200m as a two-year-old it was probably, in retrospect, only because he had more ability than the rest,” said Craig Eudey.

Carrie Radford, who is the yard assistant, has played a big part in Thandolwami’s success, as he had been a very headstrong and fractious sort as a youngster.

Jeff Lloyd won on him as a two-year-old and reckoned that without the hard work Carrie had put in to quieten him down he would have ended up a loony,” said Eudey. “We wouldn’t have had a horse without her patience.”

Carrie Radford spent many hours working the horse around the turn. This has the affect of settling a horse as when some see a straight course ahead of them they tend to want to tear away.

Thandolwami’s owners, James Roberts, Louis Bernhardi, Neil Butcher, George Griesel, Max McConnell, Stuart McGregor and Craig Eudey himself, are all having their first July runner with the exception of Stuart McGregor. He owned Gleaming Sky, who ran ninth in the 1998 July.

All of the connections were at the July final field and draw ceremony last Thursday.

“It was nerve-wracking because with just five horses left we hadn’t come out of the hat and draws 19 and 20 still hadn’t been allocated,” said Eudey.

As it happened he was thrilled with Thandolwami’s draw of seven.

The horse is known for his strong finishing run so being able to relax from early on, as he should be able to do from that draw, is the best scenario for him.

This is the first time the six-time winner has cracked a good draw in a big race.

His best achievements to date have been a narrow second to Likeithot in the Grade 2 November Handicap over 1600m, and third behind Smart Banker and Aluminium in the Grade 1 Summer Cup, both races having taken place at Turffontein from draws 15 and 16 respectively.

Thandolwami’s worst trait at the races is that he takes a while to get going in the straight and his flying finishes have proven to have come just a touch too late in top company, although he did record the fastest 400m to finish time against the top miler Imbongi in last season’s KZN Guineas.

“When he does decide to accelerate there are not too many who can go with him. There will have been bigger upsets than Thandolwami winning the July.”

Thandolwami was looking in very good condition after a light canter at Summerveld on Sunday.

The new yard that Craig Eudey has recently moved to has indoor stables and they have thus not had to blanket him. There is no evidence of winter in his shiny coat.

At 15-3 hands, Thandolwami, has matured into a straight forward sort of a horse personality wise.

“Thandolwami has a good temperament and is kind in nature, not nasty at all,” said Carrie Radford. “He is playful and, like most better horses, is proud of himself. He can lead or follow, but if he sees a horse ahead of him on the training tracks he wants to catch it. He takes his big heart to the races and will always try his hardest to win.”

London Guest chasing Durban July History

London Guest
London Guest

London Guest

(Photo : Gold Circle)


If Vodacom Durban July challenger, London Guest, wins the big race on Saturday, he will become the first horse to ever follow in the footsteps of both his sire and grandsire as a winner of Africa’s greatest horserace.

David Thiselton writes that London Guest’s sire, London News, trained by Alec Laird, won the July in 1996 and was himself the son of a previous winner, the 1987 winner Bush Telegraph, who was trained by Bert Abercrombie.

There have been a few July winning progeny of previous winners but the sequence has never before reached a third generation.

In 1911 Nobleman became the first and only ever two-year-old winner of the July and it was also the first time the progeny of a previous winner had won the race. His mother, Peerless, had won in 1903. Nobleman was ridden by Alec Laird, the father of record-breaking seven-time winning July trainer Syd Laird and grandfather of current trainers Alec and Charles Laird, who have each won one July.

In 1915 Winnipeg became the first horse sired by a previous winner, 1909 winner King’s Favourite.

In 1951 the winner Gay Jane was the daughter of 1941 winner Sadri II.

The following year one of the July’s most revered winner’s, the Hartford-bred (Summerhill) Mowgli, was the son of 1940 winner, Kipling.

C’est Si Bon, winner in 1954, put Sadri II into the record books as the only July winner to have sired two winners of South Africa’s premier horse race.




John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes Gr3

(Photo : Daily Mail)

“IMBONGI takes England’s biggest race of the weekend”

All week, Mike de Kock has been tipping Imbongi as the horse who thrived most since his string arrived in the UK. When Imbongi had done and dusted the Criterion Stakes (Gr.3) in facile fashion his pilot, Kevin Shea dismounted with the announcement that this was just the beginning. He felt the horse could step up from here, and while he was non-committal about where he would go in the next month or so, knowing Mike de Kock, he’s likely to make the progression to Group 2 level, and then cast his eyes towards something like the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr.1) at Ascot in September.

Like so many others in Mike de Kock’s yard, Imbongi really battled in Dubai, and was nowhere near his best, but Saturday he put all the ghosts away, and his form at last, approached the spectacles South African racegoers became accustomed to in his dual Guineas sagas and his demolition of four Grade One winners, including Horse of The Year, Pocket Power, in last year’s Drill Hall Stakes (Gr.2).

Don’t forget though, this was a horse that was turned out of the ring unsold at the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, and it took a man of Ronnie Napier’s decades in racing to recognise his potential on a frosty Saturday morning at the Summerhill gallops. So much for the unwanted child!

P.S. There was a double celebration in this one. Imbongi’s was the first winner from Sheikh Mohammed’s newly acquired Abingden Place yard, Mike’s English headquarters. If it weren’t for the Sheikh’s enterprise and his love of the game, we’d not’ve been in England.

john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link
john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link

Watch the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3)



(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

Two things happened yesterday. The first was the draw for the R3.5 million Vodacom Durban July, “Africa’s Biggest Horse Race”, and the second yesterday afternoon, was the jewel in the crown of Royal Ascot, The Gold Cup.

We’ll start with the latter, as it constituted a new record. The imperious Yeats cantered away to his 4th consecutive victory in one of the world’s most famous horseraces. We know of no archy event on any calendar anywhere in which one horse has been so utterly dominant, and the fact that Royal Ascot witnessed it’s biggest crowd ever, is testimony to the belief that they came to worship him.

Of course, from a Summerhill perspective, the noteworthy feature of Yeat’s victory is that he is a 3/4 brother to our resident stallion, Solskjaer, who might even have been more talented were it not for the cruelty of injury. This is not a time though for comparisons as any 4 time winner of a race of this stature deserves his time in the sun, perhaps forever. As television’s John McCririck ventures, no other horse will ever do it again.

The finest compliment Solskjaer could pay to his younger brother, was in posting the highest average at the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales in April, where he not only secured the top Filly of the Sale, but out-pointed the Champion Sires Jet Master, Western Winter and Fort Wood, with his first crop.

And now for the July. The draw for any big race is a critical issue and so yesterday was a critical day for local owners, trainers and jockeys connected with the Vodacom July. For the past 3 years, Summerhill has had as many as 25% of the runners engaged, and while we’re not quite there this year, we will still have 3 in the Post Parade for the big one. Amazingly they drew 7, 8 and 9 - Thandolwami, Catmandu and Outcome), and while they’re not dominating the betting by any stretch, any one of these horses is capable of an upset on his or her day.

More on the July in the next few weeks.

vodacom durban july field linkClick above to view the
final field and draw for the 2009 Vodacom Durban July