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Lesotho Racing


sangoma and lettuceCelebrating a successful first crop

The Irish, the English, the Australians and the Argentineans are all well known for their close identity with horses in general, and with racing in particular. Yet there can be few nations anywhere whose culture is more deeply linked to the horse, and the use of the horse, than that of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The full expression of the Basotho people’s obsession with horses could be no more evident than in their Monarch, King Letsie III’s “detour” to Summerhill this morning, enroute from Maseru to Johannesburg. Anyone familiar with the route will tell you there are much quicker ways of reaching Johannesburg from the Mountain Kingdom, yet His Majesty just had to see his new SOLSKJAER foal, and his new broodmare acquisition.

In fine form, His Majesty and his entourage were guests of the team at lunch, and there’s nothing that makes the Royal heart more jovial than a discussion about horses.

Nobody is more conscious of the impact which the global financial turmoil is having on the world, than we are. Long before its onset, and against the backdrop of spiralling food costs, we embarked on a programme to encourage our people to be as self-sufficient as possible. The first fruits of the new campaign are just being harvested, and nobody’s done better than Ida Nkabinde (one of nine from this family in the service of Summerhill) who arrived with these freshly cut lettuces, all organically produced, of course.

For those who don’t know, Ida is also one of our resident “Sangomas” (traditional healers,) and it seems some of the ancestors were alongside her in this endeavour. Eat your heart out Woolworths!


Have you ever been to Summerhill?

Our Zulu Dance Troupe performing on Stallion Day
(Summerhill Stud)

There are those who’ll tell you it’s one of the rare places on earth.

That it has a soul so deep and so spectacularly surprising. That its originality and its history are defining dimensions.

That for all its “busyness”, it also has its sanctuaries, hideouts and nesting places for our wild friends and their natural habitats. Places we look after by leaving them strictly alone.

And then there are things we never let go, like .

For those of our pals with the frenetic timetables, of the civilized, increasingly crowded and belligerent world, who “visit” us for their daily rush of racing’s news, views and the business of breeding, we’ve installed the most advanced therapy in the technological world.

Many will tell you that if you’ve never been to Summerhill, you’ve hardly been anywhere. Imagine the stories you could tell if you had. And while you can never beat the real thing in the real world, the virtual one will do for now.

It’s a little known fact that following the alarming events which ensued in South Africa in the latter part of 1989, with the collapse of the Rand on the default of the nation’s international debt repayments, that the enterprise of this business initiated a delegation to England to attract people into racing and breeding in South Africa.

Such a success was the visit that among those who were lured to the southernmost tip of what our civilized neighbours to the north call the “darkest continent”, were the Maktoum family, whose association with this farm celebrates 20 years next March.

Besides the horses belonging to Dubai Rulers, Summerhill has become home to more than 300 thoroughbreds belonging to friends and investors spanning seven time zones, including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Dubai (of course), Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Monaco, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It’s remarkable what you can achieve when you’re desperate, and today it’s a source of pride at the farm to know that this is the largest concentration of foreign owned thoroughbreds on any one property, anywhere in the world.

You’d sometimes have to ask yourself (if not pinch yourself) what it is that attracts these people into keeping their horses here so far from their homes, and it’s probably an answer that lies in the long history of the province of KwaZulu Natal. Let’s not forget that the Zulus who populated this area almost 1300 years ago, fought tooth and nail, in the first instance to amalgamate their own nation, and thereafter to preserve the territory they owned, against all odds. In the early 1800’s with the influx of European migrants principally from Britain and Holland (in the form of the Boers,) dominion over what was seen as some of the finest and most productive farm land in the world suddenly become an issue, to the extent that three nations (the British, the Boers and the Zulus) witnessed the greatest moments in their respective military histories within two hours of Summerhill.

The great battles of Isandlwana and Hlobane, Rorke’s Drift, Colenso, Majuba and Spioenkop sit deep in the breasts of these people, while its an intriguing fact of history that the greatest Englishman of all-time, Winston Churchill and the greatest African of all time, Nelson Mandela, were both captured within half an hour of Summerhill in 1899 and 1961 respectively. Don’t forget though, the liberator of India, Mohandas Ghandi, spent 22 years in this province, and that he turned up the battle of Spioenkop as a stretcher bearer in a scrap he had nothing to do with.

What was it then, in the subconscious of these people that attracted them here, and continues to tug at the heartstrings of the many who are part of the Summerhill story these days? We guess it must have something to do with the splendour of our environment, one of the best climates in the world, and of course, the people who live and work here. The Zulus are some of the most enchanting, respectful and hard-working people in the world, and it’s a tribute to their creativity and their appreciation of the performing arts that our little dance troupe, which has already ranked second and third respectively in the World Traditional Championships in Tokyo and Hong Kong that they’re off to the United States towards the end of the year as cultural ambassadors for South Africa. This time, though, we think they could come home the World Champions.

Until we meet again.



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diane stenger race horse trainerDiane Stenger
(Summerhill Stud)

kerry jack summerhill bloodstock and racing managerKerry Jack Summerhill Bloodstock & Racing ManagerDorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) is a condition not uncommon in racehorses and causes upper airway obstruction and poor performance. It occurs when the soft palate (the rear roof of the mouth) moves up and over the airway and is similar to sleep apnoea (snoring) in people, where the palate billows in the airway and obstructs the airway during exhalation. Surgery is the conventional solution, but is costly, risky and often unsuccessful.

The Cornell Collar has been developed by an equine hospital in New York as a non-surgical solution - it straps around the horse’s neck with a small lifting mechanism under the throat which prevents the larynx from retracting backwards, thus preventing the occurrence of DDSP. It is a simple, inexpensive gadget and treadmill studies have shown that it is over 90% effective, more effective than any other treatment so far developed for the condition. This collar is licensed by racing authorities in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the US and now also South Africa.

Earlier this week Paradise Alley returned to the racecourse wearing the Cornell Collar and won impressively by 4,5 lengths for trainer Diane Stenger and owners Ronnie Napier, Dr Barry Clements, Len Konar and Summerhill Stud. After a promising start on the track, Paradise Alley was found to have DDSP and was unable to perform at her best.

Dr Barry Clements
discovered the Cornell Collar in Australia and thanks to the patience, persistence and ingenuity of her connections, this filly looks to be capable of fulfilling her maximum potential.

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Advisors to the King

greig muir and barry watsonGreig Muir and Barry Watson in the grounds of the Royal Palace, Maseru

Greig Muir and Barry Watson are at risk of ‘believing’ that they are indeed esteemed members of the Monarchy of the Basotho Nation, having just returned from what they describe as an “unbelievable” visit to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.

Greig tells us that the reception and hospitality shown by their host, His Majesty King Letsie III, was truly ‘out of this world’. (In fact, if rumours are to be believed, one of our intrepid travelers had the distinct honour of bunking in the self same suite that Her Majesty The Queen once occupied.)

Barry writes as follows,”We stayed at the Royal Palace in Maseru, and what a Palace. Everything was embroidered with the Royal Coat Of Arms, even the tea-cups and saucers were sealed with the Royal insignia. And on our departure, when questioned by His Majesty as to whether we enjoyed our stay, the reply was quite simple, “We have been fed and kept like Kings.” His Majesty had a good laugh at that.

The purpose of our visit was to assist His Majesty in converting the waste product produced by his poultry operation, ie. chicken litter, into an active ‘input’, or fertilizer, for his cropping operation. What a way to reduce pollution! For many years now, poultry producers in South Africa have capatilised on the idea of using chicken litter as a supplement in their cropping fertilizer programmes.

Although the idea of taking a waste output from one enterprise for use as a source input for another is not new, with ever escalating agricultural input costs this concept is gaining increased momentum. Dairy farmers are also now factoring in the value of their milking parlour slurry when calculating pasture fertilizer requirements.

Here at Summerhill, we have been following these principles for some time now. For the last fifteen years it has been common practice to put our winter bedding onto our summer pastures. After achieving positive results with this practice, and feeling quite clever about ourselves, we initiated a composting operation. Now this operation has not only helped in reducing our fertilizer bill, but for this year, has in part helped in eliminating it altogether.

So can we do the same for the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but maybe we can assist in our own small way.”




SUMMERHILL’S 4TH CHAMPIONSHIP : Another ground-breaker.

team summerhill stud equus awardsMick and Cheryl Goss with (from top) Greig Muir, Michael Booysen, Velaphi Mbanjwa,
Linda Norval, Catherine Hartley, Siyabonga Mlaba, John Motaung, Kerry Jack,
Heather Morkel, Doug Couperthwaite, Marlene Breed and Tarryn Liebenberg
(JC Photographics)

When Summerhill first aspired to the coveted title of South Africa’s Champion Breeder, it became only the sixth entity in history to do so.

For the first time, the most tightly-held trophy in racing found its home on the eastern side of the Drakensberg, and in a sense, the centre of the universe moved a little to the right, if you’re thinking of horses. On Thursday evening at Emperors Palace, Summerhill was acknowledged as the first awardee to receive four consecutive Championships in any category, since the inception of the Equus Awards.

But what really was significant, was the number of people that shared in its celebration. Summerhill is not about one man or one family’s ambitions. It has raised generations, educated children, staffed other farms and opened the world to many who might not’ve known life otherwise. It’s a monument to hard work, sacrifice and innovation.

Besides those that earn their crust at Summerhill, on the podium we shared the joys of the Premiership with at least 300 others, those who work alongside us, and those who partnered us in the horses that took us there. Without them, we’d still be running for place money.

To show how much it meant to all of us, we painted the City of Gold in a colour which matched this morning’s sunrise, just to let them know the Summerhill team had been visiting.

After four consecutive visits, we’re getting to know our way around Jo’burg too. It’s one helluva town, if our memories serve us properly.

Remember this though, if you want to join the party, it’s never too late.

Just dial the Champions.



SOUTH AFRICAN JOCKEY ACADEMY hosts Korean and Lesotho Racing delegations

his majesty king letsie iii south african jockey academyManoeli C. Ntholi, His Majesty King Letsie III, Paul Gadsby, Patrick Salvage
(South African Jockey Academy)

Patrick Salvage from the South African Jockey Academy recently hosted high powered racing delegations from Korea and Lesotho, which included the King of Lesotho and the Vice-President of Korea.

The Korean Racing Association employ two South African riding masters and the Korean delegation’s visit was to determine how many Korean apprentices they would be sending to the Academy for training in 2009.

His Majesty King Letsie III, accompanied by the Lesotho Consulate General Mr Manoeli C. Ntholi, were on an exploratory visit with a view to the Academy training apprentices from Lesotho.

In his headmaster’s address, Patrick Salvage stated that “Hosting a Head of State was a great honour and we hope to see some apprentices from Lesotho next year.”



A Right Royal Festivity


His Majesty King Letsie III and Nelson Mandela
“Many, many more happy birthdays.”

Today marks the birthday of His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho, just a day before the celebrations of the birthday of South Africa’s own icon, Nelson Mandela. It is our tradition at Summerhill to fly six Summerhill flags on the flag poles outside the Stallion barn, as a celebration of a Graded Stakes victory, and right now our flags are clapping hands for OUTCOME’S big effort in the Garden Province Group One.

However, tomorrow, they will be replaced by six flags of the Republic of South Africa in acknowledgement of “Madiba’s” 90th birthday.

The entire Summerhill, Hartford House, Vuma and Goss & Co teams join me in wishing our two national celebrities many, many more happy birthdays.


Sibaya Broodmare Sale : A State Occasion... His Majesty Strikes

Chief Masupha Seeiso and His Majesty King Letsie III
(Heather Morkel)

There were not many highlights at the Sibaya Broodmare sale on Tuesday, but among the few were several connected with Summerhill. The first was Dr Jim Hay’s foray into the market, where he acquired several mares, including the top filly SPIRIT LEADER, in order to utilise the service he purchased at Summerhill’s Stallion Day on Sunday. The Scotsman dished out R300,000 for that one and also acquired a sister to three Group winners, including his trainer Herman Brown’s HOT RECEPTION.

An interesting “newcomer” was Andy Stronach of the American Champion breeder, Adena Springs, who bought four mares on the back of his attending the Summerhill Stallion Day, with a view to supporting the DANEHILL stallions on the farm. Andy came from nowhere toting a file full of Adena Springs pedigrees, which he was hoping to offload on South Africans, and he went home with four new acquisitions. Never at a loss for new ideas, Adena Springs are planning to service a clutch of mares to Southern Hemisphere time and run a special sale in the USA, with a view to enabling breeders from our half of the world to buy into some of their top families, carrying foals to our time.

Finally, Lesotho’s King Letsie III once again exhibited his great passion for horses in acquiring a beautifully-bred daughter of AL MUFTI, following a protracted duel with Mary Slack. We all know Mary has a taste for quality and that is probably the best compliment anyone could pay to ARABIAN MAGIC, who has come home now for a date with one of the Summerhill stallions. The show moved yesterday to the Hallmark Dispersal Sale in Mooi River.


Part 6. The Vodacom Durban July : Africa's Greatest Sporting Event

“All that you see in the magnificence of Hartford House and its environs is defined by the indefinable, and this is Cheryl Goss’ God-given talent for creating the unimaginable.”
(Summerhill Stud/Hartford House/Waterford Wine Estate)

Does anyone out there know the thrill and the magnitude of having a “July” winner? People from all over the world are swarming through Summerhill at the moment, and by Sunday evening we’ll have hosted visitors form Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Dubai and Australia in the East, and the UK, the USA and Germany in the West. And then we have our local guests from Lesotho, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the whole of South Africa.

What a privilege to see these people, and what a tribute to the horses. That said, visitors don’t come to Summerhill just to see the horses; they can do that anywhere. They come to see their heroes, and in the quality of the “men” in the stallion barn right now, there’s plenty of opportunity to indulge their worship.

At Hartford this evening there’s a gathering of the game’s cognoscenti, here to acknowledge their reverence for this great race. And then there are those who’ve come to pay homage to Cheryl Goss, as she celebrates her 60th birthday. She’s in the best shape of her life, and that’s a signal she’s been well “kept”, or so the boss keeps reminding us!

All that you see in the magnificence of Hartford House and its environs is defined by the indefinable, and this is Cheryl’s God-given talent for creating the unimaginable. The entire Summerhill, Hartford and Vuma teams join us in wishing her “long life”.

With us for the weekend are Kevin and Heather Arnold and Gareth Robertson of the Waterford Wines team, who have acquired the rights to sponsor our pre-July dinner, July Day at the races and our annual Stallion Day. Our association with Waterford goes back many years, and our pride in the relationship revolves around the fact that, like us, they do things properly.

Waterford has for some time been known as one of the world’s great red wine producers, and Kevin has only recently released his “magnum opus”. The Jem. Yet for all the international recognition of their reds, since the 2004 vintage, they’ve released two of the very best Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs the country has known.

What a pleasure to have these guys with us to share their secrets and their expertise.



Part 3. The Vodacom Durban July : Africa's Greatest Sporting Event

Welcome to our Ranch
(Nicholas Goss)

Back at the Summerhill ranch, there is feverish activity. Hartford House is filling to the brim with a collection of people from all over the world, some deeply passionate about horses, others carrying a nagging curiosity that goes back to some connectivity in their early childhoods. Either way, all of them are whipped up in the atmosphere of Saturday’s race, and by raceday, Hartford will be filled with people from around the world.

South Africa’s newest “big buyer”, Dr Jim Hay and his entourage fly in on Friday, Peter Yip, famed for his connection with the Hong Kong Breeders Club gets here Saturday morning, Barry Clements and his wife Liz arrive from Perth on Thursday, and Rupert Plersch is on his way from Germany. His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho arrives on Friday mid-morning when he’ll be inspecting his horses on the farm, and the afternoon sees the arrival of Kevin and Heather Arnold, internationally famed for their excellent wines at Waterford Wine Estate.

The Irish are nothing if they’re not great “marketers” and at the command of the likes of her great pal, Coolmore’s John Magnier and the “Margaret Thatcher” of Irish breeding, Eimear Mulhern (yes, daughter of the late Charlie Haughey, ex Prime Minister of Ireland,) we have Ireland’s most recognized industry representative, Elaine Lawler, also arriving Saturday.

Now this girl’s not just Irish racing’s ambassador, but she’s also famous for another feature. And she’s not called “Legs” for nothing!

That’s not the lot though. We also have the Chairman of the Western Australian Breeders, John Andrew and CEO Veronica Jackson-Smith; the Chairman of the Singapore Turf Club Mr. Tan Guong Ching; the Chairman and Committee of the Korean Turf Authority and a Japanese TV crew delegated to film the Stallion Day as part of the promotion of November’s Asian Racing Conference, the biggest of its kind in the world.



Stallion Day Approaches

Cataloochee looks on as the preparations begin
(John Lewis/Grant Norval)

Folk on the farm are used to all kinds of unusual things happening and life in our particular part of the Midlands is far from dull. Although the Vodacom July creates a lot of excitement in the racing world, the annual Summerhill Stallion Day which takes place the day after, creates its own special atmosphere.

Tomorrow the marquee will be erected and some of our equine friends will get a bit of a shock when they see some interesting rearrangements to their living quarters. The to-ing and fro-ing between the stallion barn, the hotel and the stud office has to be seen to be believed. Everything is being made ready for the arrival of some of the most important people in our industry. A unique aspect of this year’s Stallion Day is that we will be joined by several of our stallion owners, who have jetted in from around the world.

His Majesty King Letsie from Lesotho and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa (who is visiting the country at the moment) are expected to join us for the day, together with international guests from as far afield as Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Australia, America and many parts of Africa and Europe.






Greetings from His Majesty King Letsie III

His Majesty King Letsie III
(Heather Morkel)

Who would have thought that a Head of State could find the time to express his wishes for the outcome of a horse race?

But then, whoever said that the Gold Challenge was just another horse race?

Such is the extent of the interest and the hype for Saturday’s ‘Big One’, that His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho took time out of a hectic schedule to express his solidarity with Imbongi and his connections for his date with the stars.

Catch all the action at 4:05 pm tomorrow. Tune in to Tellytrack on DSTV channel 232, and you’ll get the whole show.


IMBONGI : A performance fit for a King

In a fashion not far removed from the aftermath of his Guineas victory, Imbongi’s “fireworks” in the Drill Hall Stakes on Friday evening elicited any number of congratulatory responses from all over the world. Not to demean any of those who where generous enough to share their praises and congratulations with us, one source which really touched us in the light of his commitments to his state duties, was His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho.

His Majesty’s call came early Monday whilst we were away at the Indaba International Travel Show, and so our contact came later on, but being the avid racing fan that he is, Lesotho’s current monarch had not only watched the race, but expressed his awe at Imbongi’s performance.

The Ruling family’s connectivity with racing goes back several generations to the original King Moshoeshoe l, who is credited with galvanizing the Basotho nation into what it is today. The abaSotho, as they were otherwise known, from what started out as a collection of refugees drawn from the broader spectrum of Southern African clans, all fleeing from what was known as the ‘Mfecene’, a series of tribal wars whose origins lay principally in the disturbances which commenced in modern day Kwa Zulu Natal, under King Shaka. The BaSotho today are as influential and respected among African nations as any, and among their curiosities are a centuries old involvement with horses. The Basotho pony is a breed of its own, and it is as adept in its agility, honed on the game and animal paths of the Mountain Kingdom, as any horse anywhere. Many a Springbok polo player has sat astride such a pony!

His Majesty has a National Emblem two year old filly in training with Dennis Drier at present, and when we last knew her on our own tracks, she looked a capable sort. While the last known runner in the Royal colours, Zagie, winner of the Van Riebeck Day Handicap at Bloemfontein, was owned and trained by King Letsie’s father, King Moshoeshoe II himself, Jockey Club records reveal that His Majesty had six winners in the 1963-64 season, including Prince Fox, a horse of some talent.

Unsurprisingly, there is considerable anticipation at the palace in Maseru at the racecourse debut of the two year old, Uzimi (National Emblem ex Beauty Queen by Jallad).

Uzimi (National Emblem ex Beauty Queen by Jallad)