Viewing entries in
Racing Knowledge Tools


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.

1 Comment

HEAR THE DRUMS hits 25th Career Victory

hear the drums horse
hear the drums horse

Hear The Drums

(Photo : Summerhill Stud) 


Our memories this Tuesday morning are not quite as sharp as we’d like them to be, but we seem to recall that it was somewhere in the Tale of Two Cities that Charles Dickens wrote of “the worst of times, and the best of times”, quoting a man on his way to the guillotine.

History is bound to judge the current economic times among the toughest in history, so good news, though rare, is always welcome. On Friday last, a R42,000 graduate of the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, Hear The Drums, chalked up his 25th career victory, making him South Africa’s winning most racehorse of the past 30 years. That he’s on his way to earning his second million is a tribute to a horse who knows no bounds when it comes to courage, soundness, and, of necessity, class.

What a tribute to his trainer, “Choppies” McLachlan as well, and of course to his indomitable owners, Peter and Gail Fabricius, long-time clients of Summerhill and some of our most ardent Ready To Run supporters. Their association with this farm has already yielded three Eastern Cape Horses Of The Year in Brigadier Parker, Hear The Drums, and Paris Perfect (who made the world sit up with his third place in the richest race on earth, the Dubai World Cup, in March).

Peter has a knack when it comes to the buying of horseflesh which goes beyond the norm, and he’s forged an association of trust with Summerhill which leads him instinctively to the acquisition of horses on the whim of a phone call. He and Gail know how to win, but critically, they also know how lose, and the Eastern Cape is more than fortunate to have them among their most ardent backers. No surprise they’ve been Owners Of The Year more often than not in recent years.

summerhill ready to run
summerhill ready to run


1 Comment


worlds greatest rating agency
worlds greatest rating agency

Timeform 121

Timeform’s Black Book issued this past week, carries an illuminating statement on one of South Africa’s(and certainly Summerhill’s) favourite sons.

IMBONGI (SAF) close-coupled horse: very smart performer: won Grade 2s at Turffontein and Greyville (2) in 2008: excellent efforts in Grade 1s at Clairwood after, notably when ¾ length second to Dancer’s Daughter in Gold Challenge: as good as ever this year, winning John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June by 1 ¾lengths from Huntdown, travelling strongly to lead 2f out: creditable third to Aqlaam in Summer Mile at Ascot next time, staying on and nearest finish: stays 9f, at least as effective at 7f: acts on good to firm ground. M F de Kock, South Africa”.”

This is what Timeform had to say in arriving at his 121 rating, which incidentally places him in the same racing class as MULLINS BAY, SOLSKJAER, ADMIRE MAIN and STRONGHOLD, and a few pounds adrift of AP ARROW.His boss needs to be left undisturbed while attempting to attend both the British Open and the first of the England / Australia cricket tests, so we’ll only catch up with Mike de Kock when these things are behind him on IMBONGI’s plans for the Arlington Million.

john bovington memorial criterion stakes video
john bovington memorial criterion stakes video
ascot summer mile audio
ascot summer mile audio

Click above to experience Imbongi’s last two runs in the

John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes and Ascot Summer Mile Stakes

IMBONGI : Arlington Million charge for The Warrior

mike de kock and imbongi
mike de kock and imbongi

Mike de Kock and the warrior Imbongi

(Photo : John Lewis/DRC)

“Mike de Kock considering Arlington Million for Imbongi”

Following Imbongi’s fighting third in Saturday’s Summer Mile Stakes at Ascot, Mike de Kock is now considering an Arlington Million charge for the African Warrior.

Imbongi had made a successful British debut in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3) at Newmarket over seven furlongs just two weeks ago, and followed that performance with Saturday’s Ascot Group Two third, being beaten only a length by Aqlaam who is rated 117 and is rumored to be heading for the Breeders’ Cup.

“That was a world-class run,” said trainer Mike de Kock. “We’re considering the Arlington Million next for Imbongi.”


imbongi summer mile challenger
imbongi summer mile challenger


(Photo : Summerhill/HKJC)


The Summer Mile Stakes has always been a good race, as it provides an opportunity for the best milers in Europe to maintain their sharpness while they’re waiting for the next big Group One challenge later in the season. We doubt though, that the race has ever attracted the quality of contenders that line-up on Saturday at 2:50 pm (that’s English time, of course, which means 3:50pm here).

The first three past the post in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes (Gr.1), Paco Boy, Cesare and Aqlaam, line up again here, and so Imbongi will really have his work cut out if he’s to feature in the money. According to Racing Post, he’s in with something of a squeak, as the fourth highest rated horse in the field. Paco Boy and Cesare each have a Racing Post rating of 135, Aqlaam 134, and Imbongi 133, which means there’s not much in it, if ratings matter. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t others in the field, but it certainly seems, on current form, these are the chief protagonists.

What the race will certainly do, is tell us where Imbongi sits in the pantheon of the worlds best milers, because this just about represents the best form in the world this year. From all accounts, he’s well and ready to run, so for South Africa’s sake, let’s keep everything crossed.

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 :


catmandu and outcome for vodacom july
catmandu and outcome for vodacom july

Catmandu and Outcome

(Photo : Gold Circle/Summerhill)

“Thandolwami, Catmandu and Outcome -The Summerhill Soldiers”

Earlier this week, you read our piece on Thandolwami, and Craig Eudey’s remarks on his chances. One thing you’ve got to give Craig, he’s true to the saying “you cant get a good man down” and we know from our own discussions with him, he’s as bullish as anyone could be, taking on a horse of Pocket Power’s potency.

We have two other horses in the field however, and Outcome’strainer, MichaelMiller, is on record as saying that wherever River Jetez finshes, Outcome will be all over her. We had River Jetez’ trainer, Mike Bass and his wife Carol here over the weekend, and Mike thinks she has a live chance of lifting the silver. So if Mike Miller’s right, and Mike Bass is right, this could just turn out the Year of the Filly.

Our other representative, Catmandu, comes to Durban under the tutelage of AndreKirsten. He has to be one of the unluckiest horses in training, as he has a number of Group One performances under his belt, yet he remains a maiden as far as Feature race victories are concerned. Last year, we fancied him to kill in the July, expecting him to run right on the money, but he looked a somewhat tired horse in the finish, after a long and arduous campaign.

His form this year has been a little more in-and-out, yet if he gets his lines right, he’s a runner, no doubt about it. We spoke to Andre Kirsten this morning and he reported that Catmandu arrived in good shape in Durban yesterday, and with the weight difference this year, he must have a shout.

So who will win the Vodacom Durban July

vodacom durban july logo
vodacom durban july logo

“David Thiselton lays down his Vodacom Durban July selections”

With July Fever building to what promises to be a massive crescendo come Vodacom Durban July Raceday tomorrow; trainers, jockey and owners alike will be feeling the “butterflies”.

Top turf writer David Thiselton reports that Mike Bass, the experienced three-time July winning trainer of the great Pocket Power, who is ruling favourite, would probably have slept well, knowing he has done all he can, while the Fayd’Herbe brothers, jockey Bernard and assistant trainer Robert, will be united in spirit as they approach the final hurdle of the mighty horse’s winter campaign.

The Bass yard has two strings to its bow this July as Pocket Power’s full-sister, River Jetez, is said by the trainer to be twice the horse she was last year.

Pocket Power has had a better preparation than ever for this year’s big race and seems to be as good as ever despite his age. He and his sister could well fight out the finish, although River Jetez’s draw of 15 is a concern for supporters.

Big City Life has been described by his trainer Glen Kotzen as a “freak”, who gets better and better all the time.

Big City Life is a three-year-old and is 1,5kg under sufferance, but the form of his only meeting with Pocket Power suggests he has a great chance.

Kapil can beat Pocket Power too if the form of their last meeting is taken literally, although there is a question mark over whether he will stay the 2 200m. It should also be borne in mind that Pocket Power usually does just enough to win no matter the weight he’s carrying.

Our Giant also has a stamina doubt, but with that doubt in mind could not have asked for a better draw than two.

Tropical Empire is trained by Duncan Howells, whose knowledge of big race preparations was influenced by the great trainer, David Payne.

Duncan Howells has won two Grade 1 races with similarly priced horses and Tropical Empire’s draw of one is ideal for his style of running, which is to come with a flying finish.

Thandolwami is a similar type of horse to Tropical Empire and has also drawn well, so he should be running on strongly at the finish.

However, with both Tropical Empire and Thandolwami, it should be borne in mind that only the top six numbered horses are in the handicap i.e. fairly weighted according to their merit rating. The rest are under sufferance.

Smart Banker showed at the July gallops that he will be suited to Greyville. He has improved tremendously this season and is a definite contender, although Charles Laird’s stable jockey, Anton Marcus, switched to Our Giant after Smart Banker was allocated a wide draw.

Ruling champion trainer Mike De Kock has three youngsters in the race.

Zirconeum and Forest Path have stamina doubts and their very wide draws won’t help. Bouquet-Garni will need a strong pace as he is a big, galloping type and might not have the turn of foot required off a slower pace.

Outcome has won ten times at Greyville. Any rainfall will be bad news for her. She looks capable of staying the distance and her form makes her one of the best outsiders.

Likeithot has popped up at big prices in big races before and his July gallop last week suggested he should peak at the right time for this race.

Buy And Sell is loaded with ability but is not too reliable and his form appears to be declining slightly.

Catmandu is capable of producing a devastating finish so could be an outside contender if close enough at the top of the straight.

London Guest enjoys this track and does just enough when he wins, so there is some hope for him in his first attempt in this company.

Aluminium has been supported in the betting but as a resolute galloper does not look suited to Greyville.

The rest can’t be fancied on form.

The selection is Pocket Power to beat home Big City Life and River Jetez, with Kapil and Our Giant next best.

Tropical Empire - The Duncan Howells Strike

Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire
Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire

Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire

(Photos : Gold Circle)

“First Vodacom Durban July runner for Duncan Howells”

If the Duncan Howells-trained Tropical Empire strikes victory in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July, he will become the first KZN-trained victor since the 1995 win by the Pat Shaw-trained Teal.

David Thiselton writes that Duncan Howells believes that he would know just half of what he knows about racehorses if it wasn’t for the influence of David Payne.

Duncan Howells, who has his first runner in the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday in the form of Tropical Empire, spent many years as David Payne’s assistant. “David was exceptional at preparing horses for big races,” said Howells. “One of the things he taught me was not to push the horse over the edge.”

Duncan Howells’ two Group 1 winners to date had similar betting odds when winning their respective big races as Tropical Empire’s current July price of 13-1.

In May’s Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m, Tropical Empire finished second beating Durban July second favourite River Jetez by a head. He will face her on 3kg better terms on Saturday.

In his last start he easily won the Betting World 1900 (Gr2).

“He’s fit and his blood picture is perfect. We have done everything we can.” said Duncan Howells yesterday.

Speaking about Tropical Empire’s pole position draw, Duncan Howells said “He’s a slight horse and from this draw won’t be knocked around.

“I’ve watched video replays of past Julys and the horses on the rail never turn for home more than five lengths back. There are no horses going backwards at that stage and he has a helluva turn of foot.”

He added that luck in running always played a part in the Vodacom July. Of the dangers Howells said, “I can’t have Kapil and I can’t have River Jetez from that draw. I think we’ve only got Pocket Power to beat.”

Duncan Howells says that Tropical Empire is not feisty, despite still being an entire, and is easy to work with. “He likes to lead the string out in the mornings and gets quite upset if he isn’t in front.”

With the wait after the hard work being a tense time for July connections, Duncan Howells says “I wish Saturday would arrive.”

Tropical Empire is an Australian-bred bay horse by Second Empire and is owned “Chips” Pennels and his wife Elma, together with Gary Westwater and Johan Meyer. Pennels’ only previous July runner was Tandaga, who finished eleventh in 1980.

Mike de Kock predicts Top 6 Vodacom July Battle

mike de kock and zirconeum
mike de kock and zirconeum

Mike de Kock

(Photo : Tab Online/Phumelela/Vodacom Durban July)

“Zirconeum, Bouquet-Garni and Forest Path - The MDK Attack”

The 2009 renewal of the Vodacom Durban July “will be fought out by the top six horses in the betting and the rest will live hoping and probably die hoping” so believes trainer Mike de Kock who has three three-year-olds in the race, and none of them are in the top six in the betting.

David Thiselton writes that Mike de Kock reports all three of his runners to be very well but lamented his bad luck with the draws.

Zirconeum, a Jallad filly, is drawn 19 and will be ridden by Anthony Delpech.

Bouquet-Garni, a Strike Smartly gelding out of a Fort Wood mare, is drawn 14 and will be ridden by MJ Byleveld.

Forest Path, a Fort Wood gelding, is drawn 20 and will be ridden by Warren Kennedy.

Interestingly, all three of Mike de Kock’s charges are Grade 1 winners.

There are only six other Grade 1 winners in the field of 20, Pocket Power, Our Giant, Buy And Sell, Smart Banker, Big City Life and Outcome.

His charges’ Grade 1 status would normally be enough for them to be in with a good chance but all three, even without their draws, have question marks over their heads and are consequently 40-1, 40-1 and 50-1 in the betting respectively.

Mike de Kock rated Zirconeum as probably his best chance.

The question marks about her are that she is firstly 1kg under sufferance on merit rated terms and secondly has a stamina doubt over her head.

She quickened very well in the Champions Challenge but was run out of the placings late on to finish fifth, two lengths behind Smart Banker. The run suggested she hadn’t stayed the tough Turffontein 2000m.

She meets Smart Banker on 4kg worse terms in the July, although the weight for age scale has risen 2kg for three-year-olds since then, effectively making her only 2kg worse off.

She recently won the Grade 1 Woolavington at Greyville easily over just 200m shorter than the July, but that was against her own age and sex.

Kevin Shea was asked immediately after the race whether she would stay the July trip and replied, “You can never tell but being trained by Mike de Kock there is a good chance she will.”

The last filly to win the July was the world class Mike de Kock-trained three-year-old, Ipi Tombe. She was a class above Zirconeum and didn’t have as difficult a draw to contend with. She did face a probable stronger overall field though.

Bouquet-Garni won this season’s Grade 1 SA Derby over 2400m.

Mike de Kock felt there would have to be a fast pace for him to feature. He is a big galloping type and might not have the immediate turn of foot that is an advantage at Greyville.

Forest Path won a Grade 1 over 1400m as a juvenile at Greyville and won the Grade 1 SA Classic over 1800m at Turffontein this year.

However, the Johannesburg three-year-old form is much maligned this season and this horse is also a highly strung type who often wastes energy with his pre-race antics.

Mike de Kock felt that the top three-year-old in the country, the Glen Kotzen-trained Big City Life, had a chance on Saturday.

“He proved himself by finishing just two lengths behind Pocket Power at weight for age terms and with the weight turnaround since he must have a chance.”

He said that all four of his runners in the Grade 1 Golden Horseshoe for two-year-olds over 1400m, Solid Choice, Musir, Mr. Crazy Boy and Storm Vanadiso were very talented.

If he had to side with one it would be Musir.

“He ran off the course last time and might otherwise have beaten Solid Choice.”

However, he warned that he was not discounting Solid Choice.

“If he can overcome his wide draw and get a good position he will be a big runner too.”

He felt that 1400m might still be a touch sharp for Mr. Crazy Boy.

Mike de Kock lamented the wide draw for Gilded Minaret in the Grade 1 Garden Province but said she was very well.

Equal Image always runs well on July day,” he added before saying that the day’s racing was very competitive and the yard was hoping for good runs with all their charges.

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.

1 Comment

TEAM POCKET POWER make the Pilgrimage

bike bass, carol bass and marsh shirtliff
bike bass, carol bass and marsh shirtliff

Mike Bass, Carol Bass and Marsh Shirtliff pictured awaiting their

famous Hartford salmon omelettes

(Photo : Leigh Willson)

Marsh Shirtliff is not a superstitious man, not as far as we know, yet he does know that there hasn’t been a July winner in the past twenty years whose connections have not made it to Summerhill for the July, or at the very least, for our Stallion Day on the Sunday afterwards. The trick is either to make it beforehand or to make sure you’ve accepted the invitation in advance for Stallion Day, otherwise you risk taking on history. So Marsh dragged Mike and Carol Bass to the farm on a spectacular Sunday morning, and they took up their lodgings in the Inkanyezi and Nhlanhla suites while the Bass stable was cleaning up in the big events in Cape Town.

Logic tell us Pocket Power is a shoe-in for the big race, but Mike Bass (and you’d better be listening, if you intend having an interest in the big event next Saturday) thinks River Jetez is twice the filly she was last season. Let’s not forget what a big race she ran in the 2008 Vodacom Durban July, and if she’s twice as good as that, Pocket Power himself will need to have made some improvement to keep her out. And that he undoubtedly has, having had a trouble free “prep” for the first time in his life.

Of course, with three of our own in the line-up, it would be uncharitable of us not to wish them everything of the best, but we really hope that if either of them fluff their lines, the gates will open for Thandolwami, Outcome or Catmandu.

hartford house website link
hartford house website link


1 Comment

Vodacom Durban July Gallops

vodacom durban july sangomaVodacom Durban July
“4 July 2009”

A festive Vodacom Durban July Gallops staged yesterday morning at Durban’s Greyville Racecourse brought out great weather, hot coffee and sticky buns but few sureties or revelations for the big race day.

Top turf writer David Thiselton reports that every one of the 16 challengers that galloped strode out nicely and, unlike last year, none of them could be eliminated from calculations on the basis of a poor workout.

David’s analysis is as follows :

The three visually most impressive gallops were arguably Pocket Power, Our Giant and Outcome.

Pocket Power’s superiority to the rest of the field was evident as he powered down the straight, hard on the bit, head bowed and striding out well under big race jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe. Pocket Power put in a very similar gallop to last year, finishing just a half-a-length or so behind his companion, which on this occasion was Nevvay.

Our Giant quickened well at the top of the straight and strode out very well with his head down as did the course specialist Outcome.

Other eye-catching gallops were put up by Smart Banker, River Jetez and Thandolwami.

Smart Banker quickened clear of his companion impressively and stretched out well all the way to the line.

River Jetez worked with Consensual, who had thrashed her on the cinders at Milnerton in her final serious gallop before the J&B Met. However, on this occasion River Jetez, who lead the pair into the straight, pulled further and further away from Consensual down the straight in effortless fashion.

Thandolwami wasn’t asked to do much but looked comfortable as he stretched out down the straight. He worked in blinkers but Craig Eudey later decided, after consulting with jockey Raymond Danielson, that the blinkers would not be used in the big race. Raymond Danielson reported that Thandolwami had switched off very well in the running, but the blinkers had made him a touch keen before the workout had begun.

Tropical Empire also impressed and looked to be enjoying himself, while London Guest strode out well and did just enough, as is his tendency, to keep his companion at bay.

The least appealing of the gallops was that of Meteor Shower, who was left in his companion, Diamond Quest’s, wake. He clearly does not have natural speed, but will stay every inch of the 2200m.

Likeithot did not stride out quite as well as his stable companions, but did little wrong, while Cape Town and Buy And Sell put up very good work.

Thundering Jet quickened well to join his companion Golden Parachute before the pair strode out well together to the line.

The three-year-olds, Big City Life, Forest Path and Zirconeum, all strode out well, but might have lost some fans simply because their youthful frames stood out when compared to the older horses. However, this is where the gallops can be misleading and a glance at the formbook, at least in the cases of Big City Life and Zirconeum, would restore confidence.

Kapil paraded in front of the grandstand. He jarred up in the Gold Challenge but has responded extremely well to treatment and is 100% sound. He is in full work on the sand but Stan Elley did not want to risk a grass workout.

Bouquet-Garni did not arrive at the course after refusing to load.

For those seeking a more definitive indication as to what the final result might be, the traditional Vodacom Durban July Gallops Sangoma was on hand to call on the ancestors for their predictions :

1st Number 3, 2nd Number 6, 3rd Number 7, 4th Number 17.

Imbongi to make European debut

“traditional poet of the Zulu or Xhosa people who composes poetry
in praise of a leader”
(Photo : HKJC/inkokhelo/Nicholas Goss/AfricanSkies)

News filtering in from the UK is that Imbongi is set to make his European debut at Newmarket’s July Course this Saturday afternoon, June 27. (16h25 our time on DSTV Channel232)

Following a string of fine efforts in Hong Kong and Dubai earlier in the year, Mike de Kock’s charge is one of 18 challengers entered for the £65,000 Group Three John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes to be run over seven-furlongs.

The South African fighter finished a staying-on sixth last time out in the Group One Champions Mile at Sha Tin on April 26. Imbongi had previously been fourth in two Group Two races at Nad Al Sheba and was narrowly denied on his seasonal debut at the same course in a valuable seven-furlong handicap, when he just failed to collar Hatta Fort.

In South Africa last year, the Summerhill-bred Imbongi proved himself to be one of the leading milers of his generation, starting with electrifying victories in the Grade Two Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein in March and the Grade Two KZN Guineas at Greyville in April before returning to Greyville in May to destroy five previous Grade One winners in the Grade Two Drill Hall Stakes, including South African “Horse of the Year, Pocket Power.

Mike de Kock revealed to Newmarket Racecourse correspondents : “Imbongi is an intended runner in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes as things stand. He worked on the Rowley Mile with Diana’s Choice two weeks ago and he took it well. I think that seven furlongs to a mile is his best trip and the forecast ground should be an advantage for him.”

“We had some poor ventilation in Dubai and some of the horses bled out there but he still showed a decent level of form, including when he finished in front of Vodka in a Group Two in March.”

“It wasn’t a bad performance in Hong Kong either, when he ran from quite far back. Alexandros was a neck behind him on that occasion and he went on to be second in the Lockinge Stakes, so we have some collateral form to work with.”

“Some of the top milers around ran in that race and he was too far out of his ground, but he still ran on well in the closing stages. We will hopefully start him off at Newmarket and then take his season from there.”

Imbongi looks set to face some tough opposition including Racer Forever, who got the better of King Of Dixie in a thrilling finish to last year’s race. Subsequent Group One winner Court Masterpiece was also narrowly denied in 2005 and the nine-year-old, now in the care of John Quinn after a spell at stud, could return to Newmarket following a fine third in a York conditions race on his first start for more than two years.

Ancien Regime may make his Godolphin debut following a progressive three-year-old campaign for Michael Jarvis that included victory in the Sprint on the Rowley Mile and a close sixth in the Group One Sprint Cup at Doncaster in September, while Huntdown, third in last year’s Group One Shadwell Middle Park Stakes, could also make his first appearance for Saeed bin Suroor, having previously been trained by John Gosden.

Other notable entries include Winker Watson, who enjoyed Group Two success on the July Course in the TNT July Stakes in 2007, last season’s Group One Stan James sponsored 1000 Guineas fifth Dream Eater, as well as Laa Rayb and Balthazaar’s Gift, who were third and fourth respectively in the Group Two Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October.

VODACOM DURBAN JULY : Final Field 2009

vodacom durban july logo



ap arrow dubaiA.P. Arrow
(Photo : AP Photo)

A glance at the number of publications that carried the news of A.P. Arrow’s importation to Summerhill and South Africa tells us that this is a big “item” horse in the real sense of “big”. Just about every worthwhile daily racing publication in the world covered his story, a veritable who’s who of the game. It takes a “heavy” to make newsworthy reading, and A.P.Arrow’s standing in the pantheon of racing was obvious from the popularity of his story. Here’s a list of the publications.

Thoroughbred Times
A.P. Arrow to stand in South Africa

Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

Tab Online
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

A.P.Arrow to stand in South Africa

Daily Racing Form

Gold Circle
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

SA Horseracing
Grade 2 Hero A P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

Breeding & Racing Magazine

Global News Blog
AP Arrow to stand in South Africa

Thoroughbred Internet
A.P.Arrow to stand stud in South Africa

Hatena Antenna

European Bloodstock News

Thoroughbred Daily News

Racing Post
Grade 2 hero A P Arrow to stud in South Africa

A.P. Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Horse Racing Nation
AP Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Mike de Kock Racing
A.P. Indy stallion comes to Summerhill

Thoroughbred Champions
Pioneering to Brazil, A.P. Arrow to South Africa

Breeding Racing
US Sire A.P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

CBS Sports
A.P. Arrow to stand in S.Africa

Daily News 2000 and Woolavington Stakes

(Photo : Gold Circle)


Those who read the Sporting Post will undoubtedly know by now that, come the big days, there’s always a drum banging for horses that know the taste of Africa’s finest horsefeed.

Saturday’s gathering of the best three-year-olds in the land, witnessed the renewal of the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1) and the Woolavington Stakes (Gr.1), an assembly of the best colts and fillies respectively and the principal trials for the sophomore generation aiming at the biggest horse race in Africa, the Vodacom Durban July.

There was nothing really surprising about the outcome of either, as the winners represented some of the best form of the season, with Big City Life taking the colt’s version, and Zirconeum, bred across the valley from Summerhill by our neighbours, Karen and Warwick Render at Bush Hill Stud, snatching the laurels in the fillies’ version.

What wasn’t surprising though, was that the first three home in the Daily News 2000 were all sustained by Vuma (Big City Life trained by Glen Kotzen, Dan De Lago (Charles Laird) and Captain Scott (Alec Laird) while Zirconeum, the little filly with the heart of a giant, was another feather in the already substantial cap of Mike de Kock.

No doubt, knowing the protagonists, these fellows will all march on to the Greyville track on the first Saturday in July to the Vodacom jingle.

1 Comment

MEDAGLIA D’ORO : A windfall for Sheikh Mohammed

Medaglia D’Oro
(Photo : Thoroughbred Times)

There’s been plenty of news of late of new property acquisitions by Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and then on Friday we were greeted by the announcement that he had purchased the “hottest” young stallion in the United States, Medaglia D’Oro. Those that attended the 2007 version of the Dubai World Cup will recall Medaglia D’Oro’s stirring battle in the closing stages of the world’s richest race when he succumbed, only just, to the persistent urgings of Pleasantly Perfect, and we can attest, following a recent visit there, to the fact that Medaglia D’Oro has let down into one of the most spectacular specimens of a young stallion imaginable.

Besides having spawned the highest rated filly (of any age) in the world right now in the form of Rachel Alexandra, (20 ¼ winner of the Kentucky Oaks (Gr.1) just over a month ago, and vanquisher of the colts in the second leg of the American Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1), Medaglia D’Oro rewarded Sheikh Mohammed’s boldness within a day, with yet another Grade One winner from his first crop in the shape of Gabby’s Golden Gal, who walked off with the laurels in the Acorn Stakes (Gr.1) at the Belmont meeting in New York.

Medaglia D’ Oro’s sire, El Prado, is something of an aberration as a stallion. A son of the thirteen time European Champion, Sadler’s Wells, he raced exclusively in Ireland on turf, and was a Grade One winner of the National Stakes as a two-year-old before his acquisition by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs (champion breeders of America and clients of Summerhill) where he was asked to embark on a career as a proven grass horse in a “dirty”country. El Prado warmed to his new career with relish, twice topping the American sires log, and it now looks as if he might make a third career for himself as a sire of sires. Everything about him suggested that success on the dirt tracks of the United States was an unlikely outcome to his career, yet it goes to show, there is little we can do to predict the future of stallions, besides educated guessing.

1 Comment

Classic double for the Becks at GAINESWAY FARM

(Photo : Stallion Register)

Just on twenty years ago, I was privy to a glimpse at an intimate connection at the Breeders’ Cup meeting of 1990 between local “el padrino”, Graham Beck, and the then founder not only of Gainesway Farm, but also of the Breeders’ Cup, John Gaines. Earlier that day, Buddy Bishop, renowned solicitor operating in Lexington, Kentucky, and legal counsel to what was then the principal opposition to Gainesway, the Hancock family’s famous Claiborne Farm, confided in me that a South African was rumoured to have purchased Gainesway. I was astonished, and dismissed it as conjecture. After all, this was the farm that housed the likes of Lyphard, Blushing Groom, Riverman, Vaguely Noble, Irish River, Cozzene, Afleet etc, and it was almost inconceivable that it should be a South African that had put up his hand for this iconic property, when all the world was there to compete for it.

It turned out that Buddy Bishop’s “intelligence” was spot-on, and that the enterprise of Graham Beck, the stuff of legend in South Africa, had indeed laid claim to one of the greatest titles in thoroughbred racing. I wrote about this property two weeks ago as a place of solace to me on the passing of my late mother, and today we can celebrate the fact that one of its resident stallions, Birdstone (who spoilt the party for Funny Cide in his quest for the American Triple Crown, by snatching the laurels in the final leg of the Belmont Stakes (Gr.1), has produced from his very first crop, two winners of separate legs of the Triple Crown.

The first and arguably the most famous leg, the Kentucky Derby (Gr.1) was taken in spectacular fashion by a 50-1 chance in the form of Mine That Bird (by Birdstone), who came from a shotgun position at the back of the field to land a storied victory by six, and who was the sole pursuer of the filly Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1) a fortnight later.

In the absence of the filly, Mine That Bird was made a certainty by the bettors for Saturday, and he looked home and hosed shortly after they turned into Belmont’s fabled straight, only to be swamped by two foes, one of whom was his paternal half-brother, Summer Bird, who came home to proclaim his sire, if not yet quite in the same league as Medaglia D’Oro as a commercial stallion, certainly every bit as serious a property in reality.

Birdstone is the son of a Kentucky Derby winner himself, the rather unattractive and poor legged Grindstone, he in turn by Unbridled and tracing back, (no alarms), to Mr. Prospector, whose stamp on the American classics is as indelible as any stallion in history. As for Birdstone, he’s not a big fellow (I would say he stands 15’3 at the most) and he’s what one might describe as a “plain brown job”. However, and particularly considering his ancestral belongings, he’s a clean legged horse, well balanced and displays the touch of class that separates the serious from the ordinary.


Watch the 2009 Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby