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RICHARD MAPONYA : Spirit of African Entrepreneurship

richard maponya and shemaghRichard Maponya and Shemagh
(Realtime/Maponya Mall/Summerhill)


A new book on remarkable achievement has just been released, and interestingly, Richard Branson wrote the foreword. In it, he says “that across Africa, the spirit of entrepreneurship is very much alive, leaving me constantly amazed by the incredible energy and determination and innovation coming from entrepreneurs across the continent”.

Acknowledging Pliny The Elder’s Latin statement : ex Africa semper aliquid novi, (out of Africa there is always something new), the Nigerian born author, Moki Miqura identifies sixteen dynamic and outstandingly daring African men, who’ve built sustainable enterprises which can be benchmarked alongside the best in the world. The author tells us that these men have worked ingeniously within the context of the historical, economic and political climates of their respective countries; manoeuvred their way through hostile business environments, antagonistic governments, repressive systems, personal poverty and even a lack of education, to be counted among some of the world’s most formidable giants of business.

One of these sixteen achievers is South Africa’s Richard Maponya, who against all odds and obstacles presented by the apartheid government, is today one of the most celebrated and respected entrepreneurs in South Africa. Maponya succeeded in achieving many firsts in South Africa. He was the first person to open a dairy shop and milk delivery service in Soweto. He also brought the township its first grocery store which grew into a lucrative chain of eight Soweto-based discount supermarkets, making him (at one time) the single largest employer in Soweto.

In 2007 Richard’s long-lived dream finally came true when he opened Maponya Mall, the country’s first mega-mall to be built in a township. His simple statement on his latest achievement is “Sowetans deserve the best”, and in his recent acquisition of Shemagh (by Malhub out of the Northern Guest mare Dress Code) at November’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale, we’d like to think that Richard Maponya, in his own right, deserves the best. Well done, Michael Azzie, for bringing this struggle icon back into the game.

The Power of the Positive


It’s been a helluva year for Summerhill. New records at the races, new benchmarks for the trade, and a brand new Breeder’s Championship, for the fourth consecutive year. You’d think we’d be quite pleased with ourselves, and we’d be kidding if we didn’t admit to feeling a bit lucky.

Yet this is the time to give credit where credit is due. As a business, we‘re more dependent on people than most. Mainly because we started with nothing, and without relationships, we’d have ended with nothing. We owe everything to the people around us. Our customers, those that keep their horses with us, and those that support our sales. Our suppliers, our advisers, our bankers. Our trainers, our jockeys, our agents. Those that promote our sport in the media, and the fellows that lay on the show. The fans in the stands, and the punters at the rail. To our colleagues, the breeders, who kept us at our game, and played it the way it should be. Thank you. We re proud to call you our friends.

And then finally, to our own team, and the horses they’ve raised. You’ve set new standards in the way things are done. Encore for your dedication, your integrity and your decency, and as much as anything, your ingenuity. You’re the reason we get up in the mornings.



kzn breeders awardsTeam Summerhill
(Photo : Gold Circle)

Anything we ever achieve at Summerhill is always the product of many people’s contributions, and in this case, as we’ve so often said before, we must start by remembering that we work with one of the best teams in the world. Besides the expertise of those who’ve had the opportunity to work abroad at the management level, there are those among our Zulus, from the people who clean the stables all the way to the upper echelons of those who make the place tick, that have had their hands in this scrum. It’s an appropriate time then, to remember we’re privileged to work with the Zulus here, some of the most gifted stockmen in the world. Their contribution has been immense.

Besides, there’s hardly a horse bred on this farm that doesn’t involve co-ownership, and so we must congratulate all of those people that were associated with the breeding and raising of Friday night’s winners, either in partnership or on their own. Here we mention the names of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai; the late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum; Mike and Marty Meredith; Peter Brown, Dr Barry and Liz Clements, Robert Lynch, Stephen Gill and Angus Gold. All of them had a hand in these achievements, and our guys are standing at attention acknowledging their part.

Sprinter of the Year – Rebel King

KZN Stallion of the Year – Muhtafal

Stayer of the Year – Galant Gagnant

Breeding Achievement of the Year – Summerhill Stud

Three Year Old Colt – Imbongi

Stallion Prospect – Labeeb

Middle Distance Female – Outcome

Outstanding Older Female - Outcome

Well done.



Tempest de Frederickz : Another celebration of a different kind

old hartford house postcard

Sunday witnessed another gathering of Hartford connected people, this time the 90th birthday of Tempest de Frederickz, (who was born Ellis in 1918). The Ellis family acquired Hartford as long ago as 1939, and they lived here until early 1990, when the Gosses took over.

During that time, Raymond Ellis Snr manifested his all-conquering racing operation on the farm, and proceeded as an owner/breeder to outstrip the achievements of any of his kind in all of history. From this property, the Ellises bred, raised and trained the winners of every major race on the South African racing calendar, and enjoyed the recognition from no less an author than Sir Mordaunt Milner, as ranking with the all-time elite of the private breeding and racing game. They’re the only South Africans in history to enjoy mention in the same breath as the Aga Khan, Lord Derby and the Sheikh’s Maktoum in English racing, Coolmore in Ireland, France’s Boussac and Italy’s Tesio, and America’s Hancocks and Phippses.

Besides being sterling breeders, the Ellis family were richly endowed when it came to the arts, and Tempest was reputedly a fine musician, while Graeme Ellises’ “The Duck Pond: Midnight” reveals his prowess.


Tonight, if you will walk beyond that lonely tree
And stand quite still, perhaps you’ll see
Cloud shadows spun by moonlight; cool
Breezes lulling sleepy flowers;
Three ducks splashing silver in the pool
To while away the evening hours;
And at the water’s moon-kissed brink,
Two sleepy cranes that sit and think
Of summers spent in unknown lands,
And waves that lap on silver sands.

By Graham Ellis - 1943
Written at Hartford



SOUTH AFRICA : Unshakeable, Untameable, Unbeatable


“Click image above to view full screen”

As the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale approached, we repeatedly spoke of our unshakeable belief in the courage and foresight of our fellow South Africans.

There were many who might’ve felt we were overly optimistic. But overcoming adversity is not new to our countrymen. We’ve had to deal with major crises in the past, and we know what it takes.

While the outcome of the Sale exceeded our expectations, it was just another great case of South Africa at work. People looking forward, knowing that next year is next year, that there’ll still be Julys, Mets and Summer Cups to be won.

People with vision, with guts and a love of our game. Like few others anywhere.

Racing people appreciating good horses, fine horsemanship and relishing the challenge. For the lion’s share of the spoils at next year’s “Emperors Cup”. For a million and a half.

So from the Number One Farm in South Africa to the Number One Nation on Earth, Thank You.



Ladies Supreme in a Men's World

erin_georgiou_lindy_taberer_gaynor_rupertErin Georgiou, Lindy Taberer and Gaynor Rupert

If ever there was a society of patriarchs, it was the old South Africa. The home, the workplace and the social milieu, for centuries on end, have witnessed the dominance of the male species, and while South Africa’s constitution has altered the status of women in law at least, and there has been genuine progress made since the democratization of this country in 1994, we’re still steadfastly a country that believes that businesses should be run by males, that the bread-winner should be male, and that parties are really for men.

Amazingly, in another world which on a global scale is largely dominated by the achievements of men, South Africa is the antithesis when it comes to the breeding and racing of horses. Ladies of the formidable ilk of Bridget Oppenheimer, Mary Slack and Sabine Plattner have long strutted at the top end of South African racing stage, and latterly, the rising star is Gaynor Rupert. Her Drakenstein Stud, which has to be one of the most picturesque operations in the world, sitting as it does in the lee of the great mountains that envelop the Franschhoek Valley, is not only breeding good horses, but it sends out a stream of good winners, and increasingly they’re being prepared and trained on the farm itself.

Erin Georgiou recently sent us the above photograph, which simply extends the lineage of ladies who constitute the force in our ranks. Her husband Tony, has served on the boards of many a racing entity, and they breed from a selective, high quality band of mares which they keep on various farms around the country. Alongside her is Lindy Taberer, proprietor of the renowned Avontuur Stud, and an owner of a previous Rothmans July winner in Right Prerogative, while Gaynor makes up the trio.

It’s very obvious from what the photograph tells us, that these ladies have been very well kept. No doubt, their husbands played a significant role!




view_from_30000ftView from 30000ft
(Photo : Glen Jeffrys)

Any result that moved into positive territory within a few days of “Black Monday”, the world’s toughest day in financial markets in more than 70 years, was bound to provoke interest. But a racehorse sale posting a 48% increase over two prior years which were both more than 40% up on their predecessors, was quite something, “defying gravity” as Mala Mala’s Mike Rattray put it. That was the Emperor’s Palace Ready to Run Sale, 2nd November 2008.

In our own 30 years in the game, we’ve never known such generosity from the marketplace, with e-mails and SMS’s coming in every few minutes for a couple of days. Inevitably, as is the case with the head of any organisation, much of the credit has been laid at my personal door, yet as we’ve so often pointed out in the past, Summerhill’s is a uniquely team effort, where the space created by others doing their jobs especially well, makes it possible for the rest of us to focus intensely on the job at hand.

And of course, this was a job that did require an intensity of an unusual kind, but we were helped in our purpose by an unusually smart draft of horses; by the skills of an unusually talented team of horsemen, and by a nation whose countrymen are endowed with gifts of unusual courage and farsightedness, who know that there’s an end to this financial madness, and that next year there’ll still be big races to be won, and a World Cup to prepare for.

Yet here we were dealing in animals at the top end of the luxury goods business, and any result of this magnitude is a landmark of the trade. So it’s time again for our team at Summerhill to take another bow. It’s amazing what you can achieve when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.



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.






The KwaZulu-Natal Owners and Trainers Awards for the 2007/2008 racing season were held at a Dinner Dance occasion at Greyville after the day-night meeting on Saturday.

The evening was co-hosted by Graeme Hawkins and James Goodman and was well attended by trainers, owners and other members of the racing fraternity.

David Thiselton writes that the Horse of the Year was awarded to Imbongi, who was trained by the Trainer of the Year, Mike de Kock, and bred by the Breeder of the Year, Summerhill Stud. Imbongi’s second stint in KZN followed his surprise win in the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas but he then proved himself a top class horse, Mike de Kock having said during the season that the Russian Revival chestnut improved tremendously with gelding.

He won the Grade 2 KZN Guineas in brilliant fashion after being squeezed not much more than 100m from home and then became the first three-year-old of the season to beat older horses when landing the Grade 2 Drill Hall Stakes over 1 400m against a star-studded field that included the likes of Pocket Power.

He then beat Pocket Power again when finishing second to Dancer’s Daughter in the Grade I Gold Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood, a race that was billed “the Race of the Season”.

was also crowned Champion three-year-old colt, while his groom, Goodman Bhuku, was named Groom of The Year.

The announcement of the Sean Tarry-trained Wendywood as the Champion three-year-old filly was accompanied by some sadness as the Grade I Woolavington winner died of colic recently after her amazing career of just three runs, culminating in a respectable effort in the Vodacom Durban July. Assistant trainer, Deshone Steyn, received the award on Sean Tarry’s behalf. |

Champion two-year-old filly went to the Grade I Thekwini Fillies Stakes winner, the Duncan Howells-trained Gypsy’s Warning, and Champion two-year-old colt went to the Grade I Premier’s Champion Stakes winner, the Mike de Kock-trained Rocks Off.

Mike De Kock also scooped both the Champion Older Horse and Champion Stayer awards, with Canon Gold Cup winner Thundering Star, and the Champion Sprinter Award with SA Fillies Sprint winner, Rat Burana.

The Mike Miller-trained Garden Province winner, Outcome, won the Champion Older Female award.

Mike de Kock’s Award for Champion Trainer was, unbeknown to many, a close shave as he only had a single winner more than the perennial winner of the award, Dennis Drier, on KZN racetracks.

Brandon Lerena was Champion Apprentice for the third year running while Champion jockey went to the evergreen Robbie Hill.

Markus Jooste was Champion owner while Moga Pillay won the Anita Akal Award, which honours those who go beyond their call of duty in serving the horseracing industry.

Mike de Kock’s
many awards were received by his assistant John Buckler, as the maestro trainer is currently in the US preparing Eagle Mountain for the Breeders’ Cup.



EAGLE MOUNTAIN bound for Breeders' Cup

mike de kockMike de Kock
(John Lewis)

charl pretoriusCharl Pretorius Freeracer Mike de Kock is set to write another new chapter in the history books by becoming the first South African to saddle a runner at the US Breeders’ Cup World Championships meeting at Santa Anita near Los Angeles, California, on 25 October.

Mike de Kock announced on Monday, 6 October, that Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s four-year-old, a Group 3 winner in his comeback run last week, will be entered for and pointed at the 2008 Breeders Cup Turf over 2400m.

Eagle Mountain
, a son of Rock Of Gibraltar, won last Friday’s Group 3 Nayef Joel Stakes over 1600m after a year’s layoff, setting a track record. Mike de Kock said: “This was a meritorious win considering that he (Eagle Mountain) came back from a serious pelvic injury and over a trip too short. He is at a high level of fitness and is eligible for the Breeders Cup. I consulted with Sheikh Mohammed and we made a decision to pencil his name in when entries fall due on 14 October. With three weeks to go, we will be focusing fully on the race in his preparation.

Previous winners of the illustrious Breeders Cup Turf include In The Wings, Daylami, Fantastic Light and High Chaparral.




mullins bay stallion

Mullins Bay
(John Lewis)

To the delight of all the connections as well as the insurers, Lloyds of London, MULLINS BAY and STRONGHOLD have had their first mares tested in foal. Both of the new “boys” on the block have settled into their new role as “superstud” exceptionally well and Greig Muir and his stallion team report that they are doing a sterling job!

MULLINS BAY has impressed all who have laid eyes on him and has been very well supported. Amongst his visitors are Garden Verse (dam of IMBONGI and SPRING GARLAND), Nordic Air (dam of ICY AIR), BRIDAL PATHS (Thekweni Fillies Stakes winner and sister to PICK SIX) and DIGNIFY (Golden Slipper winner and sister to J&B Met winner, ANGUS) to name just a few. He has had support from around the country with mare’s being sent not only by the local Natal studs, but also from the Eastern and Western Cape.

STRONGHOLD is proving exceptionally fertile as he has had a 100% strike rate to date with all of his mares tested in foal. The first of his ‘harem’ confirmed in foal was Deceptive Charm, a royally bred filly by KINGMAMBO out of a stakes winning SADLER’S WELLS mare. STRONGHOLD will be visited by a number of ‘foreigners’ this season as Modraj, a MACHIAVELLIAN mare out of a sister to Urban Sea (dam of non other than the great GALILEO), has been booked to him as well as Nadira (a NASHWAN mare out of a full sister to KAHAL) Also heading his way in the not too distant future will be Choice Field, the dam of G1 Gomma Gomma winner PICK SIX.

These exciting new editions to the Summerhill stallion barn are booking up fast so to avoid disappointment give Linda Norval a call on +27 33 2631314.



SOUTH AFRICA - An Epic Day In History

jacob zuma
Jacob Zuma

South Africans awoke this week not only to the arrival of spring, but to the news that our President, Thabo Mbeki, had resigned his post as the Head Of State. We tend to greet these things in this country as major upheavals, but it so happens that on the same weekend Israel changed its Prime Minister prematurely, and Gordon Brown, head of arguably the world’s oldest and greatest democracy, Great Britain, faces the possibility of an early demise at his own Labour Party conference. Let’s not forget either, Brown took over when Tony Blair had to go ahead of his time!

The machinations surrounding the recall of Mr. Mbeki reached a climax last week on the 12th September, with the pronouncement of his judgment in Jacob Zuma’s corruption case by Mick Goss’ one-time legal colleague, Judge Chris Nicholson. Yet, in the wake of the ANC’s upheaval of their internal politics at Polokwane last November, the death-knell for the President had already sounded, and while he’s done a manful task in bringing together the impossible in Zimbabwe and a few other places in Africa, back at home, from the time of Polokwane onwards, he really was a “lame-duck” president.

His speech announcing his resignation was nothing if it was not dignified, and he spoke as a proud and very loyal South African. As we bid him farewell, we need to acknowledge the fact that it was he that gave us our modern economy, and projected South Africa (and Africa) onto a world stage that had begun to consider this continent as something of a lost cause.


No other continent better illustrates the importance of leadership in determining the future of a society than Africa does. For decades, the continent was saddled with ineffective and unethical leaders who stunted its development. Civil wars and regional conflicts – like those that occurred in the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone – led to millions of deaths and created unstable environments in which development simply could not take place. Billions of dollars in foreign aid, oil revenues, and tax collection were siphoned out of the country into Swiss bank accounts instead of being used to develop the continent.

Leadership is the most fundamental thing to get right for Africa. Once Africa got its leadership right, the continent could start to make progress in leaps and bounds.

The despotic and corrupt political leaders that Africa was famous for have largely moved on, allowing a new face of leadership to emerge in Africa. While by no means perfect, leaders such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, John Kufuor in Ghana, Abdoulaye Wade in Senegal, Paul Kagame in Rwanda, Umaru Yar’Adua in Nigeria and Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania are in an entirely new class than those of the past. This new breed of leaders genuinely seems to have the best interest of their people at heart, as opposed to simply amassing personal fortunes or pursuing their own agendas.

South Africans in general are aware that our own generation have their own crosses to bear, none more so than the man destined for the presidency, Jacob Zuma. However, he’s there to do the bidding of the ruling party, and it would appear that with the events at Polokwane and the recall of President Mbeki, there’s a new urgency in their midst, and that whoever leads from now on will do their bidding. Jacob Zuma himself is known to us at Summerhill as a man of presence, personality and charisma, and while he has a few holes to plug in his public record, he might just be the guy we need right now to bring some stability to the ranks of the ruling party, whose fractures have left the country in a state of political limbo and uncertainty.

That said, new democracies generally take 14-15 years to bed themselves down, and its not uncommon for ruling entities to be tipped out at that stage. We’re just about there now, and this is when constitutions count and the rule of law and the independence of a judiciary matter and when the value of a free press comes home to its citizens. Those things are fundamental to life in this country, and those are the reasons we can look forward with great optimism to our future.

As far as the horse game is concerned, we’ve never been better positioned as a nation than we are right now, and with the help of a few of our overseas friends, and the talents of our horsemen, we’ve still got some heights to scale.

(extracts from The Good News – FNB)




 A few of Cheryl’s photographs

 “The frustrations of trying to get the Boss. Where’ve they been?”

We’ve often heard Mick say that Summerhill’s not about one man or one family; it’s about the collective whole, and the deep diversity of talents that make the place tick. It’s also a place with a broader range of interests than the horses for which we’re trying so hard to establish a reputation. Vuma Feeds is a purveyor of the finest horse feeds in Africa to several corners of the world; Goss & Co Insurance Brokers writes South Africa’s second largest premium in horse insurance, with underwriting facilities at Lloyds of London for more than 50 years; and Hartford House has been described as “the resolution of all South African safaris”, such is its renown in the hospitality trade.

Its well-known that Hartford is Cheryl’s “baby”, and this week the Gosses have been away on their own “safari”, attending a gathering of the Land Of Legends, a grouping of the leading hospitality properties in KwaZulu Natal, founded by the Gosses, the Rattrays at Fugitives Drift, and the Poynton’s of Cleopatra. It now also comprises Phinda Private Game Reserve, which is part of the world’s most diverse safari group, C.C.Africa; Rocktail Bay, the gem in Wilderness Safaris KwaZulu Natal crown; Hotel Izulu on the North Coast, and Three Trees at Spioenkop.

This quarter’s meeting of the Land Of Legends took place at Phinda, surely one of the finest wild sanctuaries anywhere, combining as it does the “big five” territory of the Kruger Park environs with the wetland attractions of the Okavango Delta. There are seven different ecosystems in Phinda, so it’s not only the diversity of the animals it attracts, but also its vegetation. Those that run it have seen to it that its camps and lodges are equally varied, which means that a return visit to Phinda is always full of surprises and new expectations.

Before the Gosses got to Phinda, they took three nights at a private bush lodge in Hhluhluwe, the flagship (with Mfolozi) in the vast assembly of reserves under the management of KwaZulu Natal Conservation Services. Taking a lodge of this sort means the whole eight bed stilted camp, where suspended wooden walkways connect the thatched accommodation, and you have a dedicated cook and game guide entirely at your disposal. For what you get, it’s surprisingly affordable.

Yathi the chef, has been known to the family for many years during their visits to Hluhluwe, and he’s a cook capable of holding his own in the best culinary establishments, while Xolani Mkwanaze is an extraordinary man in the bush, deeply knowledgeable and resourcefully instinctive.

A trip of this sort is a soul-restoring escape in its own right, and reconnecting with the earth and the animals we’re so lucky to live among in South Africa is a secret narrative in the Goss family. Cheryl took some photographs while they were there, as she felt they reminded her of some of their family, friends and the team that works here. The gallery tells the story! She thought one of the primates bore a close resemblance to the Chairman of the Land Of Legends at the end of a long meeting. But don’t tell anyone she said that – it could compromise our salary reviews, come February!

On to Rocktail Bay, where Wilderness Safaris have established a beautiful venue just behind the spectacular dunes which are a trademark of the Maputaland Coast. This is a private world, where you venture hundreds of kilometers to the north and the south along broad sweeping beaches without seeing a soul. Miles and miles of pristine sand, coral heads and rocky shelves, and abundant marine life. If you’re there at the right time of year, Maputaland is the nesting place of the mysterious and very rare Leatherback Turtle, as well as his equally intriguing cousin, the Loggerhead. Like Phinda, the guiding and hospitality at Wilderness Safaris is up there with the best in the world, and those of us that live in this phenomenally diverse province need to visit these places as a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.

The Land Of Legends is a compendium of properties spanning the cultural, historical and environmental heritage of seven landscapes in one, and there is no experience in all of Africa quite as authentic. The Bush, the Battlefields, the Berg, the Beach and the Buzz are what make KwaZulu Natal tick, and with the three top culinary establishments in the province (two of which, including our own Hartford House, rank in the top ten in the nation) among them, this has to be a must-do for any would-be traveller.



Is the breed getting weaker? Part 2

stallion and mare(Cheryl Goss)

The Real issues: horsemanship and the horses

While there may be compelling reasons from the perspective of risk and value for the early retirement of horses, and the reduction in the number of starts they undertake, we have some other observations to offer on the subject, gleaned from our own experiences and the opinions of some of our more esteemed colleagues in the game. These include:

  • The business of breeding in the first half of the last century was the preserve of proper horseman, steeped in the tradition of producing and raising animals, in particular those of the equine species. The game has changed. Whereas the welfare and development of the Thoroughbred rested in the initial two and a half centuries, in the hands of the British aristocracy and subsequently in those of people who could afford to do it for the love of the game, rather than for its commercial benefits laterally, the business has been hijacked by “venture capitalists”. While there have been obvious benefits accruing from this turn of events, especially regarding the value of horses and the viability of the businesses producing them, it may have had an impact on the type of horse we produce and in particular, his durability.
  • When the motive behind the sport was the competition involved in beating your colleague, the intent behind breeding a racehorse was the production of an animal that could run faster for longer than the next one. That’s changed dramatically, and today, it seems that the greater influence in the minds of the breeders is largely what the progeny will yield in the sales ring.
  • Besides increasing the dearth in the availability of quality horsemen these days (many have left our ranks for other attractions in the economic environment), there are other considerations that compromise the soundness of an animal, including the urgent need to develop as big and precocious a product by the time the horse gets to the sales. The commercial imperatives are such that just about everything else that matters in the development of the athlete is forgotten in the process, and so, when it’s all taken its course, we’re left with the hope that besides being the “business” when an animal gets to auction, it still has the ability to run on top of it.
  • Financial considerations have also brought about the dispersal of the great thoroughbred families that used to comprise the private studs of the big owner-breeders of their era, so that the luxury of developing these families in a “closed herd” environment has all but disappeared. In the South African context, there are just a handful of people still in a position to produce horses for the sake of the sport of racing, and here we speak of people like Bridget Oppenheimer, Gaynor & Johann Rupert and Sabine Plattner among very few others.

Rewind three or four decades, and the scene was distinctly different. In our own district alone, we recall the great private breeding establishments of the Ellises (the most successful owner-breeders of their era right here at Hartford which, for those who are not familiar with it, forms part of the greater Summerhill estate), the Labistours, who dominated the Durban July in the 50’s from their Dagbreek Stud in Nottingham Road, Joyce Tatham’s Springfield Stud and Harry Barnett’s Springvale Stud. There were several others besides the Oppenheimers in other regions including the Armitages’ Rathvale Stud in the Eastern Transvaal, but the times they’re a changing.

Today we’re down to just a handful of these noble people, as we’ve said. Every other establishment has to make a profit, and increasingly, the principles involved in producing a sound, durable athlete are being compromised in the interests of the outcome in the sales ring.

  • Claiborne Farm is one of the most distinguished American breeding establishments, and it’s been in the hands of the Hancock family for four generations. One of the late, great “Bull” Hancocks sons, Arthur (owner of Stone Farm in Kentucky, and the breeder of two Kentucky Derby winners) proffers the view that overbreeding (the practice of committing hundreds of mares to a stallion in a single season) is also having its impact, though how precisely this comes about is not entirely clear to us. Presumably what he means is that the bigger a stallion’s book, the less the quality of the mares, and while that’s logical, those mares would’ve been sent to other stallions otherwise, and we guess that whether or not they produce sound progeny depends on whether or not they were wisely mated. The end result would be the same, all things being equal, whether they went to one stallion or were dispersed among a number of stallions, as the number of resultant progeny, give or take a few from a fertility perspective, would be very similar.
  • The biggest impact on American breeding however, must flow from their medication policies. Distinct from most countries of the world, certain states permit liberal pre-race medication of horses aimed at either masking or reducing “soreness”, or staunching bleeding, with the result that breeders who use horses that have been treated in this way for stud purposes, are bound to be perpetuating in their progeny whatever weaknesses those horses suffered from during their racing careers.

There is little doubt that with the passage of time, this must have a deleterious impact on the breed, and it’s probably the single most important feature, in American breeding at least, in weakening the end product. Of course, American blood is sort after the world over, and so there’s bound to be an impact in other areas of the globe as a consequence of this policy.

Americans are going to have to concentrate increasingly on addressing this issue if they’re to maintain their position as purveyors of quality bloodstock to the rest of the world, and of course in the production of horses capable of competing on the international stage, free of medication, on an on-going basis.

Back to South Africa, where in Summerhill’s real world, we hold the view that the demands of the commercial marketplace are the one factor that’s bound to impact on the soundness of our horses to a greater degree than any other. We undertake several thousand mating recommendations every year for prospective breeders and their mares prior to a breeding season, and the one question we’re asked more regularly by our correspondents than any other, is what they’re likely to get for the resultant foal when it gets to the sales.

Mercifully, in our own deliberations on these things, we very seldom involve ourselves in what the foal is likely to make in the sales ring, but rather what sort of animal we’re likely to produce as a result of the mating. Our thoughts, as much by design as anything, revolve around the issue of producing a racehorse, and we’d like to think (perhaps naively) that in producing a horse of proper athletic proportions, we’re likely to get both a sound animal and one that will run for its owner when it gets to the racecourse, and that question, properly answered, should take care of the results in the sale ring. It obviously doesn’t entirely though, as we seem to battle to crack the “million” mark for our yearlings.

That said, we’re doing well enough, and we sleep without conscience in the wake of a sale, knowing our horses represent value to those who’ve bought them, and that they have a more than even chance of turning out well when their big day comes first-time at the track.

The Breeders’ log tells the rest of the story.



NATIONAL COLOUR flies the National Flag

sean tarry kevin shea national colourNational Colour with Sean Tarry and Kevin Shea
(Sean Tarry Racing Stables)

In a recent article about the lack of success of British trainers in European Group One races this season, Philip Freedman, Chairman of the British Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and Flat Pattern Panel, alluded to the considerable success chalked up by South African runners in international events in the past few years, and the fact that there were new discoveries being made every day about the quality of horses produced in countries that were hitherto considered to be back-waters. There is a growing recognition of the virtues of horses bred in this country, but anything less than that would’ve amounted to a case of people keeping their heads in the sands.

It’s inescapably true that from relatively small beginnings, South African-trained horses have left an indelible mark on the affairs of international racing in the past few years, principally in Dubai, Hong Kong & Singapore, but by no means limited to these regions. South African breds have posted Gr.1 wins in Australia, the United States, and on Saturday came perilously close to achieving the same distinction in the United Kingdom. While it was by no means the first narrow shave experienced by a South African runner in England in Group One company (remember Irridescence just a year ago)?, National Colour’s phenomenal effort in the Gr.1 Nunthorpe Stakes (which was originally scheduled for York, but with the water-logging at that course, staged at Newmarket), was not only a testimony to her exceptional talents, but also to a tale of courage and endurance).

A trailblazer in the sprint division in her native land, National Colour carried the hopes of the nation when she went abroad in 2007 and blitzed a competitive field in her first outing in Dubai. She was then scheduled for the big sprint on World Cup night, but stumbled in the starting stalls and chipped her knees, putting a premature end to an ambitious programme. Culminating with France’s biggest sprint on the first Sunday in October.

She has had to recover from fairly invasive surgery in order to get her life back on the road again, and she gave notice of her intentions with an excellent fifth in the July Cup last month. However, Newmarket would not be the chosen course for a filly of her phenomenal speed, as the last furlong on that famous trip is uphill, and, in our view, defeats much of the object where a display of raw speed is the intention of a competitive event.

Her natural speed took her well clear in the early stages of the race, only to be blunted as she climbed the hill at the death, where the incline stopped what would’ve been a match-winning effort on other courses. In the end she went down just a half length, gallant to the last stride.

For our money, we can’t wait to see her in her next assignment in the Prix de l’Abbaye, on “Arc” day at Longchamp, the first Sunday in October. Provided she gets good ground (and that’s a big “provided”, as the Arc meeting is often characterized by softness,) it will take a world beater to head her on what is fair, flat and speed favouring when the going’s on top. Those that watched Avontuur’s resident, VAR, blitz his field from end-to-end a few years backs, can take this off the memory shelf and smoke it, if they want.

Meanwhile, nobody’s displayed more patience and deserves more commendation than the owner/trainer combination of Chris van Niekerk and Sean Tarry, and they carry the wishes of everyone at Summerhill for Saturday’s effort.



International Jockeys' Challenge... South Africa vs The World

south african horse racingInternational Jockeys’ Challenge

Freeracer reports that Frankie Dettori and Mick Kinane, two of the biggest names in horseracing, are among the six international jockeys who will clash with South Africa’s top riders in the International Jockeys’ Challenge at the Steinhoff International Summer Cup race meeting at Turffontein Racecourse in Johannesburg on Saturday 29 November.

The international team contains champions from several countries including the UK, France and Australia. The full team is Frankie Dettori (England), Mick Kinane (Ireland), Ryan Moore (England), Damien Oliver (Australia), Srinath Surender (India) and Christophe Soumillon (France).

Italian-born Frankie Dettori has become a legend in his own lifetime and is the most famous jockey in the world. He is the retained rider for Godolphin, the banner under which the rulers of Dubai race, and has won virtually every major race in the world including the Epsom Derby, the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the USA, the Japan Cup and the Arc de Triomphe.

Like Frankie Dettori, Irish-born Mick Kinane has long been regarded as one of the best jockeys on the planet and has won the Irish Jockeys’ Championship a record 13 times. He, too, has won major races in a string of countries including the Epsom Derby twice, the Arc de Triomphe, the Belmont Stakes and the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous race,

Ryan Moore was champion apprentice in the UK in 2003 and went on to clinch the British Jockeys’ Championship in 2006, when he booted home 180 winners. Injury put paid to his chances of retaining the title last year, but he currently holds a commanding lead in the race for this year’s UK jockeys’ title.

Belgium-born Christophe Soumillon has been a dominant figure in French racing for years. He was champion apprentice there in 1999 and won the French Jockeys’ Championship in 2003 with 207 winners. His major successes include the Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Dubai Duty Free and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England.

Srinath Surender has won the jockeys’ title in India no fewer than five times and has won virtually all the major races in that country. He has ridden over 900 winners from 2800 rides, including some 40 successes in Macau.

Damien Oliver is a household name in Australia and has won 80 Group 1 races, including the Melbourne Cup  twice, four Caulfield Cups, two Cox Plates and a Golden Slipper to complete the Grand Slam of Australian Racing. He has won the Melbourne Jockeys’ Premiership on seven occasions and ridden with success in New Zealand, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland and England.

The international riders will compete against South Africa’s best jockeys in a thrilling four-race challenge on Steinhoff Summer Cup day. It will be the first international jockeys’ contest in South Africa in some 20 years and JSE-listed Phumelela, which operates horseracing and/or tote betting in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces, is proud to have been able to secure such a formidable international team.

The riders to represent South Africa will be selected in the near future. Phumelela has asked the National Horseracing Authority, an autonomous national body that is responsible for ensuring that all races are run according to the rules of horseracing, to choose the team.

There will be a draw for mounts in each of the challenge races and the runners will be seeded beforehand in order to equalise the chances of the two teams as much as is possible.

The International Jockeys’ Challenge will be one of the highlights of a glorious afternoon of horseracing action on 29 November. The R2-million Steinhoff Summer Cup, one of the most famous races on the South African racing calendar, is the headline event and is certain to produce a memorable battle between many of the best thoroughbreds in the country.

Several other major races will also be run and there’s no doubt that the afternoon will live up to its billing of “Joburg’s Golden Event”.

“We are excited with the big names we have secured for the international team and are grateful to the Racing Association for their assistance and support,” said Phumelela’s Group CEO Rian du Plessis.

Larry Wainstein, chairman of the Racing Association that represents the interests of racehorse owners in Phumelela in making the International Jockeys’ Challenge a reality and believe that the day will quickly become a mega event on Joburg’s sporting calendar.”

Derrik Matthew, Marketing Executive of Steinhoff International Group Services, said: “It is a privilege to be associated with the Summer Cup - an event which is more than 100 years old. With the initiatives undertaken and the commitment shown by all concerned we are excited that this event will receive the prestigious recognition it deserves and be established as an annual event not to be missed!”

The International Jockeys’ Challenge will incorporate several co-sponsors. Lufthansa has already come on board as the official carrier and will be flying the international jockeys to South Africa “Steinhoff is one of Lufthansa’s leading clients in South Africa and by co-sponsoring this prestigious event we are emphasising our commitment to this partnership” explains Gabriel Leupold, Director Southern Eastern Africa. “With Lufthansa’s extensive international route network feeding into our daily flights from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, we are ideal partners that can add value to the International Jockeys’ Challenge by flying in the jockeys”

Phumelela’s General Manager Marketing and Communications, Robert Garner, said the jockeys’ challenge would capture the imagination of horseracing fans and the general public alike.

“It’s South Africa versus the world and brings international horseracing to our shores, something that has been lacking for years,” said Robert Garner. “Our jockeys have been champions across the globe from Michael Roberts in the UK to Bartie Leisher, Basil Marcus and Douglas Whyte in Hong Kong, and we believe the whole country will get behind our jockeys on the big day.” regulations make it extremely difficult to stage an international horse race in South Africa currently, so instead we have gone for an international jockeys challenge. It should be a fabulous afternoon and we are delighted to be staging the event in conjunction with regions, said: “We are delighted to have been able to assist



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.



Hartford House does it again... Platinum Award for seven consecutive years

paula mckenzie with diners club wine list awardPaula McKenzie: Hartford House Assistant General Manager,
displays the Diners Club Wine List Award
(Lin Kayton)

While the culinary world continues to hail Hartford’s reputation as one of the best eateries in South Africa, we often forget that good food should always be accompanied by a fine bottle of wine.

Hartford House has long prided itself on its excellent wine list and on Wednesday it achieved something of a record for an establishment of its sort, with its seventh consecutive platinum award. In the end, great restaurants are a combination of ambience, imaginative cuisine, authentic service and the very best of wines, and Hartford has long ticked every one of these boxes.

Summerhill prides itself in its association with the outstanding standards Hartford House has set itself, and we all rise in salutation of yet another recognition. From one Champion team to another, well done.

Visit Hartford House’s website :



South African Racing Season... a Vintage One

south african horse racing

South African Racing
(Neil Gould/Corporate Sports)

The South African racing season that has just drawn to a close will be remembered as a vintage one, writes Nicola Hayward for Thoroughbred Internet.

Pocket Power won the Queen’s Plate G1 and J&B Met G1 double for the second successive year and then went on to dead heat with Dancer’s Daughter for first place in the G1 Vodacom Durban July. In so doing, he helped Jet Master to the title of Champion Sire for the second year.

Jet Master not only sired Pocket Power and his full sister - the G2-winning filly River Jetez (who was fourth in the Vodacom Durban July) - but also the top class sprinter JJ The Jet Plane, winner of his last five outings, three of which have been at Group One level. For this reason, his progeny finished with earnings of R14,437,903, nearly R5.5m ahead of Western Winter in second place.

Summerhill Stud was as mercurial in the manner in which it once again won the title of Champion Breeder. The team at Summerhill sent out 241 runners through the season for total stakes earnings of R15,835,423. Odessa Stud (D Cohen and sons) was runner up with stakes earned of R10,076,996. Imbongi (Russian Revival) was the top earner from Summerhill, who are also the breeders of the good filly Outcome, the ill-fated Emperor Napoleon and G3 winner Umngazi. Champion Freshman Sire honours went to the late Labeeb, who stood at Summerhill before his premature death two years ago.

In 2006/2007 the trainers’ title went down to the wire with a three-way tussle between Charles Laird, Geoff Woodruff and Mike de Kock. Geoff Woodruff prevailed and Charles Laird finished second. In mid-July, Charles Laird would have been forgiven for thinking that this year he had it in the bag, but Mike de Kock is ignored at one’s peril. Mike de Kock had a fine day on Champions’ Day at Clairwood on July 2: Zirconeum was runner-up in the G1 Thekwini Fillies Stakes and Rocks Off, an imported son of Orpen, won the G1 Premier’s Champion Stakes while Front House prevailed in the G2 Gold Circle Oaks. To cap it all, Winter Weather won the G2 Gold Circle Derby. In contrast, Charles Laird had a day he would rather forget: crack two-year-old colt Warm White Night was well beaten in the G1 Premier’s Champion Stakes and Our Giant faded in the G1 Champion’s Cup.

The trainers had to wait for the seventh race at the Vaal on the last day of the season before it became clear that Charles Laird would once again have to settle for the runner-up spot – by a margin of just R158,039 on total local earnings by Mike de Kock of R12,509,614. Third place went to young Cape-based trainer Justin Snaith with the other top Cape trainer Mike Bass in fourth. The performances of Justin Snaith and Mike Bass deserve mention since neither sent horses to any of the lucrative Highveld meetings – home base to both Mike de Kock and Charles Laird. Not only did Justin Snaith send out Dancer’s Daughter for four G1 wins in the season but he also conditioned dual G1 winner Russian Sage and Captain’s Lover winner of the G1 Cape Fillies Guineas. Mike Bass conditions Pocket Power and River Jetez, as well as the G1-winning filly Consensual and Bill Of Rights a G3 winner.

This is the fourth time that Mike de Kock has taken the trainers’ chamionship, but is perhaps the most impressive given his well-reported falling out with Team Valor, and the fact that he had such an outstanding season abroad, highlighted by Group wins for Archipenko in Dubai, Hong Kong and Great Britain. Unlike his competitors he did not have a real superstar in his local yard this year and it is testament to his canny ability with horses and the great team that he has collected around him that he was able to take the title. Some notable performers include Thundering Star, winner of the G1 Gold Cup at the start of the season, Archipenko, the G1-winning two-year-old Forest Path and G1 sprinting Brazilian-bred filly Rat Burana

Mike de Kock has done so much to put the South African racehorse on the international racing map. He had the courage to take Horse Chestnut to America and then to go to Dubai with his first small string when everyone at home said that he would fail. Because of his vision and the success of horses like Victory Moon, Ipi Tombe and Irridescence, the face of South African racing has changed and the international spotlight falls on the region far more often. Not only has the country exported some excellent horses but the horsemen that go with them are able to hold their own anywhere in the world – no one more so than the current champion trainer himself.



HOT off the Press

parade at the ekkaParade at the Ekka
(Patria Jannides)

Yes, even though he’s in Australia the boss is sending through articles for the blog. His judging experience was a very memorable and stimulating one and he reports that it was a valuable experience which he considers a privilege to have been part of. “The Royal Queensland Show is up there with the best in the world” he said.

He reported there were over 190 entries in the Thoroughbred classes alone and the “EkkA” is the biggest Thoroughbred show in the world. Among the talented people he shared the day with was fellow judge, Her Royal Highness Princess Teresa de Borbon of Spain (world expert on Arabian horses), who judged the non-Thoroughbred classes.

The Chief Steward was David Chester (CEO of Magic Millions) who was especially magnanimous in his praise of Summerhill as one of the world’s great breeding institutions, and for its ambassadorial role in international breeding and racing. Other luminaries were Terry Spargo, one of racing’s best known voices who called the World Cup in Dubai last year, and Bart Sinclair, Australia’s leading racing journalist and a celebrated international raconteur.

Ironically, the horse which won the Champion Thoroughbred Gelding, was a grey, Argentinian-bred son of Ringaro, by the name of Karacola. This horse once raced for Geoff Woodruff in South Africa, and made his way to Australia via a racing career in Hong Kong, where he raced for Tony Millard.