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Northern Guest

Remembering Senor Santa


Remembering Senor Santa

Senor Santa made history in South Africa when he became the first top sprinter to earn over R1 million in 1990. He had Saturday’s Grade 2 sprint at Turffontein named in his honour.





In recessionary times, buyers are quick to retreat from their characteristic sense of enterprise, falling back on the tried-and-tested. Even then, they’re as fussy as all hell, discriminating rigidly between what’s hot and what’s not among the proven horses, with the likes of Visionaire in big demand, while old stalwarts like Kahal are stashed on the afterburner.



anton procter
anton procter

Anton Procter

(Photo : Summerhill Stud) 


Among the many congratulatory notes we’ve received recently, was one from ex-Summerhill GM, Anton Procter, a highly successful breeder in his own right in more recent times.  His note and our response tells it all, and reminds us of where we’ve come from, what we stand for and were we’re hoping to go to.

Note from Anton :

Dear Mick and the team,

I know this is a bit belated but just to say well done again on being the best breeders in South Africa.

Your other great achievement is to have Northern Guest as the champ broodmare sire. Not bad for a stud that had to sell firewood to pay the wages in the early days.

Proud to be a Summerhill old boy,

Best Wishes.

Anton Procter

Our response :

Proc, many thanks for your congratulatory note.  It’s especially welcome, coming from you and Judy, and many thanks for the reminder about the firewood. 

You were here throughout the formative years of Northern Guest’s career, and you will no doubt recall us tuning in to the BBC (for which you had the only signal in the district!) to listen to El Gran Senor’s Dewhurst and Derby runs.

His achievement of 8 Broodmare Sires titles (7 in a row) is apparently without precedent (according to Ada vd Bent) and I have little doubt that a good deal of the success we’ve enjoyed of late, is attributable to the foundations we laid together in those days, and the very considerable luck that came our way in the form of Northern Guest.

As always, our warmest regards,



northern guest stallion
northern guest stallion

Northern Guest

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

Please click photo to enlarge


The least heralded of last week’s National Championships was that of theleading Broodmare Sire for the past season, yet in Northern Guest’s eighth consecutive title, he went where no other South African Broodmare Sire has been, and he needs only one more championship to equal the world record held by Mr. Prospector in the United States.

Many chapters have been written about his influence on this farm and its affairs, not the least of which that his daughters have been major contributors to everything we’ve achieved here, including our fifth championship. That no other person or entity has ever won five consecutive Equus Awards in a single category says enough about that achievement, but it wouldn’t have happened were it not for the contributions of Northern Guest’s daughters.

That said, we should remember at times like this that he altered the commercial landscape in the stallion services trade, almost single-handedly redefining the territory and reshaping the terms of business, as well as the number of mares a stallion could handle in a season, forever.

Long before he became a national treasure, the news broke that his two world class Champion brothers, Try My Best and El Gran Senor, were both seriously low on fertility, and we still recall the day that Michael Watt, the then chairman of Britain’s greatest auction house, Tattersalls, wired us with the news and reminded us of the value of the asset we were sitting on.

By then, Northern Guest’s first foals were on the ground, and while we hardly needed the reminder, this was a welcome reinforcement of the belief that perhaps, very early in our lives at Summerhill, we’d gotten “lucky”. For all his influence as a pre-eminent sire of champion juveniles in his later life, his first crop were slow to register their merit, and by the time he’d come to his fourth season, he was all but written off. And then they came, Senor Santa, Northern Princess, Rip Curl, Gun Drift, Mystery Guest, Gentleman Jones, Royal Thunder, Picture Search, Another Minstrel, _ _ bang, bang,one after another. And he’d hardly begun to register the Classic horses that were to follow.

It was to be his distinction in the end that he should sire no fewer than six Grade One or Classic winning fillies (a portent of what was to become of them in the broodmare department, we guess,) and besides the later likes of Dance Every Dance, Golden Apple and Imperious Sue, who together with Angus made up (a pair ofJ&B Met winners, the one enduring memory which stands out, was the last great match race in South African history.

One New Years Day, 1989, his November Handicap (Gr.1) winning daughter, Northern Princess got up in the dying strides to deny the perennial Champion Sprinter, Senor Santa for the biggest match prize in history. The “grudge” behind the race was the elimination of “The Senor” from South Africa’s richest mile event on the grounds of his brilliance as a sprinter and the unlikely fact he would stay the mile, yet all the race did was to prove once and for all, that the mile was well within his compass, a point he made so emphatically in the First National Bank Stakes (Gr.1) a year later over the gruelling 1600m at Turffontein.

Not only did Northern Guest provide this farm with the profile all emerging operations would dream of, but such was the demand to visit his court, they came from every corner of the Southern African continent, and around us sprang up any number of new boarding farms, several of which are part of the enduring fabric of KwaZulu-Natal today. It’s arguable that Northern Guest did more for the creation of employment in this part of the thoroughbred world in his era than any collection of human beings did, and it’s a fact that there’s little on this farm today that was erected in his time, that he didn’t contribute to in one way or another.

The fact is, for as long as there are races to be run and victories to be won, in our lifetime at least, his name will live on in the best pedigrees of the day.

As it was in those days when he passed the Farm office on his way to his paddock at the end of the driveway, with his characteristic limp garnered in his younger days on Vincent O’Brien’s Ballydoyle gallops, the farm management are standing in salute. Our hats are off!


northern guest stallion
northern guest stallion

Northern Guest

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


We need to take ourselves back to 1983, to a little known farm in the Midlands which was just beginning to shake its limbs trying desperately to make its mark. There wasn’t much to speak of at Summerhill in those days, other than lots of enthusiasm, plenty perspiration, and some daunting challenges. One of those was the acquisition of a stallion, and the story of Northern Guest is one of the great sagas not only of our history, but in the pantheons of South African stallions.

Obscure in so many respects on his arrival, including the fact that he was half-crippled and unraced, Northern Guest nonetheless bought one of the great pedigrees of the world to Mooi River, and he proceeded to anoint himself as the king not only of our district, but of the country as a whole. He single-handedly reshaped the commercial stallion environment, and while we would’ve managed him very differently had we known then what we know now, he did what he did despite the judgement. This was a man who could rise above life’s obstacles, establishing himself as the treasured genetic prize of his time.

While several attempts to buy him from abroad were foiled by a variety of interventions, including in the case of a Japanese offer, the imposition of sanctions by their government on South Africa, Northern Guest left an indelible legacy on the affairs of breeding, not only at his home farm, but across the sub-continent.

While the monetary rewards of those offers were never to manifest themselves in the hands of his investors, in a sense we were otherwise lucky, and that was that he remained at Summerhill until his death at 25 in 2002. Our good fortune came in the form of his daughters, and the evidence lies in his eighth Broodmare Sires title last Friday, his seventh in a row. According to the European Bloodstock News, which covered this milestone in their Friday edition, his record in this department is without precedent in the annals of South African breeding, and it leaves him only one short of the greatest American Broodmare sire of all-time, Mr. Prospector.

At face value, ranking in the league of Mr. Prospector is worthy enough, but we shouldn’t forget that in all of southern hemisphere history, there was never a more successful son of the greatest stallion of them all, Northern Dancer. Yes, if you examine the facts, and you look at Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile or anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, there’s no son of Northern Dancer with his mark more pronounced on the affairs of the turf, than Northern Guest.

Look around you at Summerhill, and especially at the edifices which were erected during his tenure, and you won’t find a windowpane, a pebble in the tarmac or a piece of roof sheeting that he didn’t contribute to, and it’s probably fair to say that in the mares that travelled to his court from far and wide, he sustained a new generation of farms in our vicinity. He had the capacity to create employment in an area that desperately needed it to a degree few human beings have achieved.

As we did in those days when he passed the farm office on his way to his paddock, we’re all standing with our caps in our hands, remembering that in this fellow, we were properly blessed.

SUNDAY SILENCE : The Undying Legacy

Sunday Silence
(Photo : Jockey Site)

There’s a battle royal on the boil between the respective farms of the Yoshida brothers in Japan, Shadai Farm and Northern Farm for the Breeders’ Championship of the nation.

These two giants of the Japanese domestic breeding scene have been banging it out, hammer and tongs, for years now, with Northern Farm leading the march for five consecutive seasons. However, it seems this year, they have their hands full with brother Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai, who leads the list by a relatively comfortable margin at the time of writing. The last couple of weeks have witnessed something of a turnaround though, and this weekend’s Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was the best illustration of the saying “it’s never over till the fat lady sings”.

While the hot favourite for the event, the hitherto unbeaten Logi Universe (by Neo Universe, by Sunday Silence) went off a warm favourite, he had no answer for the closing rush of his paternal half-brother Unrivalled (also by Neo Universe) who prevailed by 1,5 lengths from another grandson of Sunday Silence (by Special Week,) Triumph March. Given his interminable dominance, it may have seemed surprising the third horse across the line Selun Wonder, was not descended in male line from the “Emperor” of Japanese stallions, but the “wonder” arises at the revelation: that his dam is by none other than, (you must have guessed it,) Sunday Silence himself. The first two across the line were both bred by Northern Farm, and strung together more than ¥180 million in the process. As a matter of curiosity, both descended from Northern Dancer-line mares, in the one case ex a daughter of Sadler’s Wells, the other a mare by Dancing Brave.

It’s perhaps something of a commentary on how slowly we occasionally react in this country to the obvious, that we have as yet no son of Sunday Silence in our stallion ranks, especially as the youngest of his remaining progeny at the races is now six years old. That’s something we intend to remedy at Summerhill, so we would advise our readers to keep on reading.

MALHUB : The Smouldering Gun


Let’s face it, we expected more from Malhub’s first crop. After all, he was the star son of the stallion of the moment, and Timeform rated him better than his own illustrious father.

But never mind, we’ve been there before. Those with memories, will recall that Northern Guest got off to an even slower start, but once they got going, he was unassailable.

The rumblings in January about Malhub’s second crop, are quietly developing into a roar. By mid year, he might well have joined his old foes, Johannesburg and Invincible Spirit, as a sire of note.

You’d have expected it of him though, wouldn’t you? He’s a son of Kingmambo, and with a record of first or second in four Group Ones, never beaten more than half a length, you’d be looking for an “explosion”.

View the Summerhill Draft
Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales

3-6 April 2009


Ode to a Great Grandsire

Northern GuestA Great Grandsire Northern GuestThe Breeder’s Championship was not the sole cause celebre on the property however. The season’s end also saw the chalking up of another record for a past member of our team in the Broodmare Sire’s Championship. To refer to Northern Guest simply as a “member” however, seriously downplays the spectacular role this star stallion played (and plays) in the affairs of this farm. If there ever was an idol here, he was it.

Senor SantaSix Gr1 Wins by Northern Guest’s Senor SantaAs an active stallion, he produced no fewer than 16 Grade One winners, he won numerous Championships at both the General Sires and Juvenile Sires levels, he was by some distance, to the point of his era, the most successful commercial stallion in history, and there’s not much on this farm today that he hasn’t left his mark on.

Securing a record sixth consecutive Broodmare Sires title then, whilst not entirely surprising, is another milestone in the path paved in gold, and it’s at times like this, when Summerhill itself is the beneficiary of its third consecutive Premiership, that we remember the contribution of this man and his daughters. No wonder we all used to bow when he passed by the Farm office in the mornings on his way to the paddock, people always remember him. Today, that sacred patch is occupied by another horse worthy of the title: Muhtafal.