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Summerhill Stallion Day : A bit of History

Summerhill Stallion Day
(Photos : Michael Nefdt)

The Summerhill Stallion Day was a rousing success, with visitors from across the whole racing world. Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France, Turkey , Germany, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the length and breadth of South Africa. In the end, we fed more than 700 people, and we’re almost frightened to look at the booze bill this morning!

The new horses, Mullins Bay, Stronghold and Ravishing were at their brilliant best, and the business undertaken by our stallions booking department through the afternoon was a testament to their class. We know the times are supposedly tough across the economic spectra of the world, but you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about if you’d attended the auction. South Africans have long been known for their generosity, but yesterday the world was here, and they opened their hearts and emptied their pockets in no uncertain manner. This has long been one of the best parties in racing, but Sunday was a spectacle for everyone, and those who won the bidding duels will have their names carved forever upon the bricks at the Al Maktoum School Of Excellence, which will be a work in progress by the time of next year’s Stallion Day. We have some ambitious plans for this school.

Those that honoured the day by putting up their hands for this very worthy cause were:

Horse                  Advertised Price   Auction Price    Buyer

Albarahin            R10 000                 R5 000            Invermooi Stud
Cataloochee       R20 000                  R22 000         Dr. Jim Hay
Hobb Alwahtan  R12 000                  R18 000         Jo de Nys
Kahal                  R50 000                  R55 000         Chips Pennells
Malhub                R20 000                 R20 000          Koos de Klerk
Muhtafal             R60 000                  R110 000       Dr. Jim Hay
Mullins Bay         R30 000                 R42 000          Ronnie Napier
Ravishing            R10 000                 R20 000          Barry Clements
Solskjaer            R20 000                 R32 000          Robert Harrison
Stronghold          R40 000                 R42 000          Chips Pennells
Way West           R16 000                 R20 000          Rupert Plersch
                                                          R386 000

1 x 3L magnum Waterford Cab Sauv (2004) R13 000   Fitri Hay

Total Raised                                            R399 000

In the event, with just one exception, the stallions all made at least their service fees and in some instances, considerably more, a tribute to their quality and a statement on the atmosphere that marked the occasion. By some stretch, this was the biggest price ever for a mangnum of Waterford Cab.

For the record, Stallion Day’s equivalent of Man of the Match, or Underbidder of the Day, went to Highlands Farm’s Mike Sharkey who had a crack at both the Muhtafal, the Kahal services, and then underbid on the Waterford Cabernet. He, Marsh Shirtliff and  Jet Master’s Devines were all here to celebrate their big day at the Vodacom Durban July where Pocket Power and Dancer’s Daughter chalked up the first deadheat in 41 years.



BIG BROWN and KENT DESORMEAUX cruise to Victory in Preakness

Kent Desormeaux and Big Brown (Jason Szenes/European Pressphoto Agency)

Joe Drape of The New York Times reports that the first time Kent Desormeaux came to this venerable old racetrack, he was a kid from the bayou, barely removed from Louisiana bush track match races where boys like him, as part of their early lessons, rode against horses strapped with bags of rocks, or a rooster, and sometimes a monkey. He was the Cajun Kid, who won nine riding titles in Maryland and still holds a single-season record for victories here — 599 of them in 1989.

Now Desormeaux, 38, is a Hall of Fame jockey, a hard-knocks one. He moved his wife and childhood sweetheart, Sonia; and his two boys, Joshua, now 15, and Jacob, 9; to New York from California two years ago. Desormeaux had gone sour out West and needed to be reminded what it felt like to be on a good horse.

As the sun dimmed here Saturday, and he was peeking under one shoulder and then the other, looking for somebody — anybody — to come and get him, Desormeaux knew that he was on a great horse, not a good one. Big Brown had floated him around the track; they had maybe an eighth of a mile to go and, lord, if Desormeaux did not feel his colt had sprouted wings.

“I looked between my legs, under my arms, and they were eight back,” he said. “I just stopped riding and reeled him in and made sure he didn’t pull himself up.”

The chart is going to say Big Brown soared to a five-and-a-quarter-length victory in the 133rd running of the Preakness Stakes. Anyone who watched the big bay colt with a celestial stride here or on television knows he could have won by 12 lengths. The performance will not make folks forget about the injury the filly Eight Belles sustained moments after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and led to her euthanization on the racetrack.

After a tragedy-free afternoon, however, the sport of horse racing will welcome the talk of Big Brown perhaps becoming the 12th Triple Crown champion, and the first since Affirmed in 1978, over the next three weeks.

“This is the best horse I’ve ever ridden — I’ve said it,” said Desormeaux, an ebullient man who has won the Kentucky Derby three times and, in 1998, pulled into Belmont as the pilot of Real Quiet with a chance to capture the Triple Crown. “The important thing is we get to move into the next town and he’s going back to the barn with only using a half a tank.”

Horse enthusiasts have plenty to be excited about as Big Brown joins Majestic Prince (1969), Seattle Slew (1977) and Smarty Jones (2004) as the only colts who headed to the Belmont Stakes undefeated and trying for the Triple Crown. Only Seattle Slew managed to cement that piece of sports immortality.

For Desormeaux, however, nosing Big Brown into the starting gate at that grand old racetrack on Long Island three weeks from now, for the mile-and-a-half Test of the Champion, will not be about how he has successfully revived a career or how he potentially may find a measure of redemption.

In 1998, many believe Desormeaux got Real Quiet beat in the Belmont Stakes. Desormeaux moved his colt early on the turn and kicked off to a four-length lead only to be caught at the wire by Victory Gallop. It took an interminable photo finish to figure out that Desormeaux and Real Quiet lost by a nostril.

Instead, Big Brown’s victory today will be one for Sonia, Joshua and especially his youngest son, Jacob, to savor. Jacob was born with Usher Syndrome, a degenerative disease that affects his hearing and will eventually take his eyesight.

With the help of a cochlear implant, Jacob certainly heard the crowd of 112,222 crackle as Big Brown galloped this overmatched field of 11 rivals into submission over 1 3/16 miles.

What he saw was truly remarkable as Big Brown tracked from third place behind Gayego and Riley Tucker through three quarters of a mile in a rapid 1 minute 10.48 seconds, and then inhaled them.

Then as horse and rider hit the far turn, it was over, and they crossed the wire in 1:54.80. As Desormeaux put it, “I said, ‘bye, bye,’ ” before deciding that was not even enough of a description. “Whoooooooooo!”

Neither his fellow jockeys nor trainers cared to argue with that description. Not Julien Leparoux, who rode Macho Again to second place. “We just got beat by a monster,” he said. “He might just be a Triple Crown winner. This is the best second place I’ve ever had.”

Not Graham Motion, the trainer of the third-place finisher, Icabad Crane.

Big Brown’s a very, very good horse,” he said. “He’s the real deal. It’s exciting for the game.”

Big Brown, a son of Boundary out of the mare Mien, is indeed a new star for a game that desperately needs one. He was the champion of $2 bettors who made him the odds-on favorite and raked in a $2.40 return. The colt brought home the $600,000 first-place check for his owners, International Equine Acquisitions and Holdings and Paul Pompa Jr.

It pretty much looked like small change after they announced in the postrace celebration that they had sold Big Brown’s stallion rights to Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. They did not disclose the price, but a person with knowledge of the deal said it topped $50 million.

Sad perhaps for horse racing fans is that Big Brown will not race as a 4-year-old and perhaps will not step on a racetrack again after the Belmont.

None of this dampened the enthusiasm of Desormeaux. The Cajun Kid is now a New York man. When he uprooted his family to revive his career, it meant making sure Jacob had specialists and educators ready to help him negotiate a difficult future.

On Saturday, Jacob rooted his father home and fell into the arms of his mother and brother as soon as Big Brown crossed the finish line. He has now seen his father and Big Brown win the Derby and the Preakness. No matter what happens in three weeks in New York, that is enough for Desormeaux. He does not know how long Jacob will have his sight.

“I know he saw this one,” he said, “that’s all I know.”




Breathtaking Autumn at Summerhill and Hartford

It’s already May 16th, and we can’t remember a year in the almost thirty years we’ve been here, where the frost has come this late. We’ve seen just tinges of it on the odd morning, but there’s not yet been a proper frost, and we can’t remember an autumn of this glory in all the time we’ve been here. Summerhill and Hartford are resplendent in the burgundys, golds, the maizy hues and emerald greens, and the horses are thriving on what’s left of the pre-winter weather.

Of course, for our overseas readers, remember this part of the world celebrates winter in great style, as we have big blue skies virtually from the beginning of April through to mid September, with very little moisture to speak of, and while our evenings are cool, and sometimes below zero, the days are spectacular.

Photos by Nick Goss  



Art Of War, Umngazi, Imbongi, Thandolwami



SUMMERHILL STUD - Changing of the Seasons

                                                                             (Photo by Cheryl Goss)

Have you ever been to Summerhill in autumn? For that matter, have you ever been to Summerhill? If you haven’t, remember what the famous writer, adventurer and raconteur, Sir Clement Freud once said of the property which encompasses Hartford House, now one of the nation’s top boutique hotels. He said that if you owned a broodmare and didn’t house her at Summerhill, it would be “downright sinful”. As for Hartford House, Sir Clement described it as undoubtedly “one of South Africa’s most gracious homes”.

We’re entering one of the loveliest phases of the year now, the trees are beginning to turn, the golds and burgundies grow by the day, while the emerald hue of newly cultivated pastures is patchworked wherever there is good ground for horses. The sight of the sun’s rays glinting through the spray of the irrigators in the late afternoons is something to behold, while the clarity of the early mornings comes hand in hand with the crispness that heralds the autumn.

The marvels of these times sparks the enthusiasm of anyone with a camera on the farm, and these images exemplify why Gary Player described it as “Africa’s most beautiful stud farm”. They’re not the only ones who think so though, as Hartford House is always busy April and May, with visitors who love to be surprised. 

Click here to view more photos of the changing season in our Photo Gallery



SUMMERHILL STUD : Fine wine and good company under the Oak Tree


Click here to view more photos.

Summerhill Stud - Last thursday we again hosted some of our International Clients; mare owners Stuart and Adele Silvey from the UK, Andrew Yuen from Hong Kong, and Commander John and Anne Ford also from the UK.

John and Anne Ford are long-time partners of Summerhill Stud and are annual visitors to Hartford House, as are Stuart and Adele Silvey.

Andrew Yuen, in addition to his breeding programme with us, has horses in training with Basil Marcus including the colt, Governator (Fard x Kiss Me Once) who has had 3 wins and 7 places to date.

Peter Gibson, CEO of the SA Equine Trade Council, also joined us, fresh from attending the Veterinary congress held in the Kruger Park. He gave us a report back on the status and management of African Horse Sickness (AHS) and of movement controls in and out of the country.

Posted by Linda Norval