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South African Breeders



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




chef jackie cameronHartford House Head Chef Jackie Cameron
(Patrick Royal/Hartford House)

As weekends go, and with a history of almost a century of achievement involving the Summerhill and Hartford properties, this one will take some beating. On Friday evening, 26 of our team attended the KZN Breeders Awards, and while you might say that having won a national Breeders’ Championship for the fourth time, this is just “small beer’ the truth is, very little beats recognition by your own peers, and the eight prizes awarded to our various Champions mean just as much this year as they did the first time we marched up to the stage almost thirty years ago.

So much for Friday. Sunday evening in Cape Town, our pride and joy, Hartford House, was recognised for an extraordinary achievement. The restaurant made the top ten in the nation, and significantly, it was the only one in KZN to receive this accolade. Embracing as this competition does, every restaurant in South Africa in all categories, this is one of those very rare achievements, particularly when you consider where we are : ten kilometres outside of the dustiest little dorp in the Midlands, at the southern most tip of what the civilized world likes to call the darkest continent, and yet, for the past six or seven years, Pietermaritzburg-bred and raised Jackie Cameron, a waif of just 26 years old, and her team have marched all the way to this very select podium. But it’s not only in the company that they’ve joined in receiving this recognition, it’s also in the quality of those that didn’t quite make the cut, that you begin to realise the immensity of what they’ve accomplished.

For all that, Jackie Cameron will be the first to acknowledge that she’s galvanised a great team around her, not only in the kitchen but in the front of house, and it’s the sum of all these things, and the wonderful ambiance of old Hartford that has brought together an irresistible combination. Putting all of this into context, we should recall the other “victories” which this little team has gained in recent years.

When Jackie Cameron joined us some seven years ago, she was just out of cookery school, yet she was old enough even then to recognise the need to train the people around her, in particular those from the previously disadvantaged community. Instantly, she recruited two ladies who’d been serving as casual cleaners in the horse operation, and taught them to clean dishes. She then taught them to clean vegetables, to make bread and then to cook, pretty much in that order, and three years ago, a third generation Zulu lady with only six years of education behind her, accompanied Jackie Cameron to a world culinary exhibition in Zurich as South Africa’s representative. Just last year, another, with only five years at school, made it to a similar exhibition in Prague, while our Zulu Traditional Dancing team, who’d never set foot beyond the confines of Mooi River ten years ago, made it to the World Championship in Tokyo in 2006, where they finished third.

Last year, in Hong Kong, they finished second in the world, and they’ll be on their way shortly to the United States to go and lift the world crown. Wonderful stories about a wonderful part of the world.

From one champion team to another, we salute you Hartford House!



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.




tobie_spies_john_kramerTobie Spies and John Kramer
(Photo : Grant Norval)

In the life of any racehorse breeding establishment, the judging of a farm’s stock by independent experts is always a signal event. Wednesday was such a day.

Every producer has a different approach to the way he raises his horses, and it’s a well-documented fact that at Summerhill, more than most, Mother Nature plays a primary role. While some have been preparing their horses for this event for several months now, our way is to leave them out in our “organic” environment for as long as possible, avoiding the stress of incarceration and human intervention, and asking the elements and the wonderful world we live in, to continue their good work in shaping the futures of our horses.

While the old saying that there are “different strokes for different folks” was never more appropriate than it is in the horse business, the reality is the way we do it works for Summerhill, manifesting itself as patently as anyone could hope for in four consecutive Breeders’ Championships. That’s not to say that we’re right and everyone else is wrong; it’s simply that, in the model we follow, it seems to be the best way to proceed.

Every new crop of youngsters brings new challenges, and whenever there are the progeny of new stallions, there is new excitement. That said, we usually deal with the first stock of a debutant stallion on the basis of entering just a few of them for the showcase National Sales, preferring to keep a good number back for the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, where we can work closely with them, and understand their individual idiosyncrasies. This way we get to know how they respond to the making- and-breaking process, how quickly they learn, how they handle the rigours of exercise and being ridden, what their temperaments are like, what sort of actions they have, how durable they are and whether the mating which has produced that particular individual, is worth pursuing in future. The Ready To Run has been a great instrument in advancing Summerhill’s cause over the years, and has been a grand educational lesson for all of us.

We’ve often proclaimed the virtues of South Africa’s horsemen, and we point to the achievements of our jockeys, trainers and breeders on the international circuit as evidence of this. In Hong Kong, where the pursuit of the jockeys’ title is something every self-respecting rider in the world will take on at some point in his career, the Jockeys’ Championship has been in South African hands for seventeen of the past eighteen seasons (think Basil Marcus, Dougie White, Felix Coetzee, Robbie Fradd and Bartie Leisher), while the likes of trainers Mike de Kock and Herman Brown in Dubai, Patrick Shaw in Singapore and David Ferraris and Tony Millard in Hong Kong have illustrated the validity of this statement time and again. Of course, often enough they’re doing it with South African-bred horses, and that says something about the establishments that produced them.

We’re no less blessed in the quality of the intellectuals that bestride our game, and in the judges that are sent to the farms to cast their eyes over our yearlings. John Kramer, who’s been around since Methusalah, is as astute as anyone we know, with a far-sighted vision which is right nine times out of ten, when it comes to his expectations of what a horse will look like down the road. His assistant is the celebrated ex trainer, Tobie Spies, who in his day as an active conditioner of racehorses, was as hard-working a man as we knew at the sales.

There wasn’t a horse in the catalogue Tobie wouldn’t look at every sale he attended, and then he’d short-list his favourites and make sure, when the hammer fell in his favour, that it represented good value. Twice in the first four runnings of the old Bloodline Million, he managed to pull the needles out of the proverbial haystack.

The judges were more than complimentary about the draft in general, and they warmed particularly to the first progeny of Solskjaer and Cataloochee, each of whom claimed two of the top horses in the draft on points. In fact, the bulk of their horses earned “8’s” and above, and you couldn’t get off to a better start with a first crop sire than that. All three of the Hobb Alwahtans entered scored well, too, and so we’ll be looking to a good sale from these “freshmen”.

Besides a liberal sprinkling from our stalwarts, Kahal and Muhtafal in the line-up, we have a quality entry from some of the world’s best young stallions in Street Cry, Johannesburg, Shamardal and the old war horse, Royal Academy. Four of these are fillies from some exceptional families, and are bound to be on the list of anyone with a “collectors” taste for a good horse and a bit of serious pedigree, especially in these risk-averse times when downside seems to count so much.



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!



YEATS : Finest Stayer of Recent Times

yeats and mick kinaneYeats with Mick Kinane aboard

For the third consecutive year YEATS brother of Summerhill stallion, SOLSKJAER, has won the coveted Cartier Champion Stayer.

Few horses have succeeded in capturing the affection of an admiring Flat-racing public like Yeats has done in recent times, but then only one other horse in history has managed to clinch the Gold Cup at Ascot on three successive occasions. Yeats joined fellow staying legend Sagaro in completing a hat-trick in the Royal Ascot showpiece in June ,and the Sadler’s Wells seven-year-old is rewarded with a third consecutive Cartier Champion Stayer Award.

With four Gr.1 victories under his belt before this year, Yeats was already established as the finest stayer of recent times. He made five starts in 2008, opening his campaign with a second successive win in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in April. True greatness then beckoned, and Yeats embraced it with a devastating five length defeat of Geordieland at Royal Ascot that saw him join the hitherto peerless Sagaro. A second Goodwood Cup was added as Yeats sauntered across the line seven lengths clear of Tungsten Strike.

Yeats suffered a reversal at Longchamp in the Gr.1 Prix du Cadran on 4th October as he finished a below par fifth to Spanish raider Bannaby. The great horse put that rival in his place on final start of the campaign when returning to Longchamp for the Prix Royal-Oak on 26th October. In a strong renewal of the Gr.1 contest, Yeats held the previous year’s winner Allegretto by a length and a half, with Bannaby back in fourth. Rather than a life at stud, Yeats seems set to return in 2009 when his adoring public will be willing him to a record fourth Gold Cup and perhaps another Cartier Racing Award.



STEINHOFF SUMMER CUP - Final Field Announced

summer_cupMike de Kock, Craig Eudey and Charles Laird
(Steinhoff Summer Cup/The Age/John Lewis/Summerhill)

Charl Pretorius Mike de Kock and Charles Laird could have a big say in the outcome of this year’s R2 million Steinhoff International Summer Cup to be run over 2000m at Turffontein on Saturday 29 November.

The two trainers, who fought out last season’s National Trainers’ Championship, will saddle seven of the 18 runners who contest the Grade 1 race on the standside track. Mike de Kock sends out Equal Image, Galant Gagnant, Rudra and Autumn Frost, while Charles Laird runs Likeithot, Smart Banker and Senor Versace.

Charles Laird’s runners have been in rampant form of late and Likeithot won the Charity Mile November Handicap while Smart Banker prevailed in the Victory Moon Handicap, both Grade 2 events. At this point Charles Laird has not declared his three jockeys but it is likely that stable rider Anton Marcus will take Smart Banker.

Rudra contested both those races and finished third in the Charity Mile and second in the Victory Moon but he meets both runners on 2kg better terms in the Summer Cup. There has been a change in riding arrangements with Kevin Shea taking Rudra while Anthony Delpech, who rode the four-year-old son of Parade Leader in his last two starts, is now up on Galant Gagnant.

Thandolwami was the fastest finisher in the Charity Mile where he split Likeithot and Rudra. He will be best suited to this distance but while he meets Likeithot on 1.5kg better terms, Craig Eudey’s runner is 0.5kg worse off with Rudra. Raymond Danielson retains the ride.

Gliding High was another who finished strongly in the Charity Mile to claim fifth spot, and Richard Fourie makes the trip from Cape Town to ride Brian Wiid’s runner.

Also in the lineup are Gommagomma Challenge first and second, Eddington and She’s On Fire respectively. Piere Strydom has stayed with Dominic Zaki’s runner while Weichong Marwing, who has won on the mare on two occasions, takes the ride on Ormond Ferraris charge.

Geoff Woodruff will be represented by Aluminium and Prince Asad. With champion jockey Mark Khan taking the ride on Aluminium, he does appear to be the stable elect although on form he is well held by both Smart Banker and Rudra.

The draw for barrier positions will take place at a function at Turffontein Racecourse on Wednesday at 7.30pm, and will be shown live on Tellytrack.

Final field for the R2 million Steinhoff International Summer Cup (G1) to be run 2000m at Turffontein on Saturday 29 November.

1-EDDINGTON (D Zaki) P Strydom 60.0 - 108
2-EQUAL IMAGE (M F De Kock) A Fortune 60.0 - 107
3-SHE’S ON FIRE (O A Ferraris) W Marwing 60.0 - 107
4-LIKEITHOT (C Laird) …………… 58.5 - 104
5-ALUMINIUM (G V Woodruff) M Khan 57.5 - 103
6-GALANT GAGNANT (M F De Kock) A Delpech 57.0 - 102
7-RUDRA (M F De Kock) K Shea 56.5 - 101
8-THANDOLWAMI (C Eudey) R Danielson 56.0 - 100
9-URABAMBA (R R Sage) K Neisius 56.0 - 100
10-PRINCE ASAD (G V Woodruff) J Geroudis 56.0 - 99
11-SMART BANKER (C Laird) …………… 55.5 - 99
12-MEMBRADO (S G Tarry) G Lerena 55.5 - 98
13-GLIDING HIGH (B O Wiid) R Fourie 55.0 - 98
14-SPEED FOR GOLD (D R Drier) D David 55.0 - 98
15-FORK LIGHTENING (S G Tarry) …………… 55.0 - 97
16-DYNAMITE MIKE (K Naidoo) R Hill 54.5 - 96

*Summerhill runners in bold




Tokyo welcomes the World at 32nd ARC

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges presents “New Strategies for new Global Challenges”
(Photo : Asian Racing Conference)

The 32nd Asian Racing Conference in Tokyo officially got underway with a lavish Opening Ceremony providing the fireworks on Monday evening.

The conference has returned to Japan in style after a 23-year absence, with the ceremony spearheading what should be four days packed with debate and deliberation during six plenary sessions and three selective sessions that will further galvanize thoroughbred racing in Asia - and the rest of the world.

The ARC has grown leaps and bounds, with a delegation of 850 from 33 countries and regions taking part in the highly anticipated meetings this week.

The ceremony was highlighted by a bit of ancient Japanese theatre, a flag-bearing procession of the 22 member nations of the Asian Racing Federation - which spread its wings to two new members earlier on Monday to the Saigon Racing Club from Vietnam and the Jockey Club of Russia - and a speech from the honourable Shigeru Ishiba, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries which oversees the Japan Racing Association.

For daily reports, audio and photos visit :




japan globeJapan Grand Slam
(Photo : Emanuele Vezzaro)

There are several outstanding features of a visit to any of the Yoshida farms. Firstly, each of the brothers operates an independent breeding entity, all fiercely competitive. At the same time, Shadai Stallion Station is a co-operative venture between the three brothers, and amazingly every one of the top ten slots on the Japanese sires log is occupied by a Shadai stallion. Now that beats both Coolmore and Summerhill for national stallion dominance!

Just as remarkable in my opinion though, is the fact that very few of the 48 resident stallions at Shadai, are imported (in stark contrast to a decade ago) and they’re unsurprisingly strongly represented by descendants of the phenomenal SUNDAY SILENCE.

But what absolutely fascinated me was the size of these beasts. There’s a new “size” in vogue in Australia these days, where just about every stallion somehow measures 16.1hh, but they’re “midget” by comparison. I must’ve seen twenty of Shadai’s most fashionable horses, and the bulk of them are tending more in the direction of 17hh, which tells us this is more of a trend than a coincidence, considering that they represent many of Japanese racing’s Champions of the recent past.

Now SUNDAY SILENCE was a good sized horse, but he was nowhere near 17hh, so it seems in their attempt to compliment his rather light frame and his own lack of skeletal bulk, the super-sire was bred to some seriously big mares. This point is born out by the fact that the only two mares I inspected, both Champion race fillies by SUNDAY SILENCE, were big strong-boned individuals.

And if the success of this pattern of breeding has now manifested itself into an irreversible fashion, it seems to me that in the same way as cattle breeders have had to find cows capable of producing ever larger calves, horse breeders (in Japan at least) will need to develop a sort of super-mare with the capacity to carry foals exceeding 70kgs at birth. Otherwise their reproductive organs are likely to be seriously compromised, with a corresponding reduction in breeding longevity.

900 hectares 1300 hectares
1200 horses 800 horses
400 broodmares 340 broodmares
80 daughters of SUNDAY SILENCE 32 daughters of NORTHERN GUEST
48 stallions 16 stallions under management
300 horses in pre-training 170 horses in pre-training
Three 8-900 metre covered tracks and three all-weather tracks Two 14- 2500 metre grass and two 1600 metre sand tracks, all uncovered
400 staff members 360 staff
Purchase/imports all feed requirements Manufactures/grows the bulk of its own through Vuma Horse Feeds
Insures certain of its bloodstock abroad Insures all horses through in-house brokerage, Goss & Co
50,000 visitors annually 30,000 visitors to Summerhill, Hartford, Vuma
Northern Horse Park (theme park) featuring horses of many kinds, tours etc including three restaurants Hartford House featuring 15-suite boutique hotel and leading national restaurant.
Hall of Fame shrine commemorating the achievement of the late Zenya Yoshida and Shadai Champions. Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence in planning stages, incorporating commemorative theatre with Hall of Fame and schooling facilities.


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sunday silenceSunday Silence

One of the great rewards of an involvement in the art of racehorse breeding is the places it takes you to and the people you meet.

In our travels, Cheryl and I have visited most of the great farms in the major breeding countries of the world, but the one place which had eluded us thus far, was Japan. So the invitation from the Asian Racing Federation to manage one of their Plenary sessions, was a welcome opportunity to complete the cycle.

In August, our son Chris completed a two and a half year stint at the home of Japan’s Champion Breeders, Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm, so that was the obvious target of our initial intentions. The Yoshida family are third generation legends of the Japanese breeding scene, though the man largely credited with propelling the country into the forefront of international competition was the current team’s father, Zenya. His prominence arose from his anticipation of the internationalisation of racing and was based on his intrepid forays into the Keeneland yearling market, where he purchased his famous foundation stallion, NORTHERN TASTE (by Northern Dancer) a French Group One winner of the Prix de la Foret, and eleven times Champion Sire of Japan.

The greatest compliment to their father’s founding achievement, came when the three brothers Teruya, Katsumi and Heruya (in order of age) secured the American Champion SUNDAY SILENCE at a time when the Americans had pretty much spurned him, and if it was possible, SUNDAY SILENCE proceeded to outperform even NORTHERN TASTE, reshaping the affairs of Japanese and international breeding.

I remember a chat I had with “Terry” (Teruya) at this same conference in India in 1995, when he told me that the rise of Japanese breeding (and in particular Shadai Farm, which he’d inherited from his father) revolved around the acquisition of horses which had excelled at 2400m (which suits the local programme), when breeders around the world had largely rejected these horses for being too stamina oriented.

The Japanese don’t forget easily, and history reminded them that British and European breeding had thrived on the back of these very horses, so here was an opportunity which led to the purchase of SUNDAY SILENCE and the two “Arc” heroes, TONY BIN and CARROLL HOUSE, while REAL SHADAI and BRIAN’S TIME represented still more stamina from the ROBERTO line.

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evennessEvenness winning at Greyville with Kevin Shea aboard
(Photo : Gold Circle)

megan romeynMegan RomeynThe Summerhill flag was flying high at Greyville on Friday night as Mike Miller-trained Outcome, the Group One winning daughter of Summerhill sire, Muhtafal, recorded her ninth career win in the Dynasty Stakes over 1800m.

Shouldering a massive 61,5kgs, Outcome had to make up a lot of ground in the early stages of the race, which was led for the most part by an improving Crackerjack King. In the straight, however, Outcome kicked it up a gear and under the expertise of jockey Robbie Hill recorded a hard fought victory.

Outcome seems to relish the conditions at the Greyville track. It was here that she displayed one of her most impressive wins, when she came from a shocking draw and from the back of the field, to mow down her opposition in the Garden Province Stakes (Gr.1) on July Day.

The Mike de Kock-trained Argentinean filly, Evenness, owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, recorded her first win by taking the Spar Group Maiden Plate for Fillies and Mares over 1600m with jockey Kevin Shea at the helm. Competitive from the jump, Evenness eased into the lead and never looked bothered as she went to post winning by a half length.



When it comes to good men, it's hard to find one better.

sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoumHis Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
(Photo : Mike de Kock Racing)

My Wednesday diary was devoted to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and his right-hand man, Mohammed Khaleel, and my trip to what we would term the Ministry of Land and Development is characterised by a very smart car which arrives, as usual, 15 minutes ahead of time. You see, His Highness is a highly organised man, whose organisation is exceeded only by his hospitality and his open pleasure at welcoming a fellow horseman.

A meeting I expected to last just an hour was far beyond the third, and gathers breath again when it becomes apparent that we won’t be able to make dinner because of a midnight flight.

The talk is about horses, and there are many of them stretched across several time zones from Australia to the United States. And then, inevitably, because of his palpable love of a challenge, our talk settles on the Dubai Carnival which gets under way in the New Year.

It seems Sheikh Mohammed will be double fisted in 2009, with the formidable likes of ARCHIPENKO and EAGLE MOUNTAIN already proven in international competition this year; known Dubai entities ASIATIC BOY and HONOUR DEVIL and any number of new “kids”, including the Summerhill boys, IMBONGI and ART OF WAR.

Sitting in the shadow of a portrait of his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed al Maktoum, whom His Highness shares with Dubai’s current Rulers, the warmth, the humility and the sheer decency of this great friend and admirer of South Africa, is a beacon of any visit to the Emirate. In many respects, Sheikh Mohammed is a symbol of his family’s history, a man of tradition and custom, with a deep understanding of where he and his people have come from, as well as the modern businessman and administrator, whose Ministry is a facilitator of everything Dubai represents today.

Whatever the dictionary has in the way of adjectives, what’s happened in Dubai is beyond the book. It demands a new language.




dubai skylineDubai Skyline
(Photo: Joe Brokerhoff)

Where you’d be forgiven for believing, if it weren’t prescribed subject matter at every mealtime, that talk of plunging markets and financial destitude, were not just that: “talk”.

In the rudest of good health (at 8kgs trimmer than we last found him), and on a twelve week “wagon”, STRONGHOLD’s investor, Rupert Plersch was in great form with a sparkling new set of Jaguar wheels, while Herman Brown Jnr’s adherent, Terry Bowley shares Rupert’s fondness of South Africa.

These are two extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs, whose enterprise has lured them to a far away land in search of a world that has not only brought financial reward, but a way of life that has opened their lives to the broader reaches of the earth.




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.




A MONSTER FOAL, if ever there was one!

mare and foal

Snooty Lady with her 69kg colt foal by Kahal
(Grant Norval)

Just a month ago, we penned the story about a foal weighing in at 67kgs, expressing our amazement at the size of this youngster by Solskjaer, who’d left his mother somewhat battered and bruised (and still recovering). Last Friday evening witnessed a “topper”, with J&B Met hero, Angus sister, Snooty Lady, clocking up a 69kg monster in the form of a colt foal by current No.1 sire, Kahal.

We’ve never seen foals this size, and it’s pretty much across the board that we’re seeing greater skeletal structure in those produced here. While its not always a good thing (because of the damage it can do to the mare’s reproductive tract), 99.9% of these foalings pass without incident, and we guess it’s a tribute to the organic farming practices we instituted some years ago at Summerhill, as we’ve seen a 5-6 kg increase in the average foal weights on the property.

Last Friday evening’s addition is a three-quarter brother to Joey Ramsden’s outstanding galloper, Lostintranslation, who died sadly at the height of his powers during the KZN’s winter season this year.

Hopefully, this fellow will pick up where his illustrious older brother left off. The mare is owned in partnership with Messers Rodney Thorpe and Roger Zeeman, stalwarts of this family from day one through their celebrated broodmare, Nobely Known (by Royal Prerogrative).



Mike de Kock on Breeders' Cup Map with EAGLE MOUNTAIN

eagle mountain and kevin sheaEagle Mountain and Kevin Shea at Santa Anita
(Harry How/Getty)

South African trainer Mike de Kock will saddle his first Breeders’ Cup starter Saturday, but it won’t be any of the horses he expected earlier in the year would make it to championship weekend reports the Thoroughbred Daily News.

“I had three others that I was planning to come here with and things didn’t turn out that way, Mike de Kock said. “[G2 UAE Derby winner] Honour Devil (Arg) (Honour and Glory) was going to come out for the Dirt Mile; [G1 Dubai World Cup runner-up] Asiatic Boy (Arg) (Not For Sale {Arg}) maybe for the Classic. But they just didn’t do well in England. They had really tough campaigns in Dubai. We took them to England and their coats never got good, they never ate well, never worked well. You can’t flog a dead horse, you know. You don’t want to come here just to be a number.”

Meanwhile, while his stablemates were excelling in Dubai, G1 Turf hopeful Eagle Mountain (GB) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire}) was spending a year on the sidelines recovering from a fractured pelvis. The four-year-old, who was second in last year’s G1 Epsom Derby and G1 Champion Stakes and third in the G1 Irish Derby, seemed a longshot to make it to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup. But he proved he was back in top shape in his comeback effort, winning Newmarket’s one-mile October 3 G3 Joel Stakes in course-record time in his only start this term.

“We didn’t think we were on target for the Breeders’ Cup, but his last one showed that he was,” Mike de Kock explained. “So we were able to switch plans. We were lucky that we had a backup with this horse.” The trainer is not concerned that Eagle Mountain’s light campaign will hurt him Saturday. “He’s got a good five or six months of hard work under the belt,” Mike de Kock said. “He’s done a lot of miles. He’s ready for it.”

Catch all the Breeders’ Cup action on Tellytrack, DSTV channel 232.



The World is Watching.


Eamonn Cullen
(Heather Morkel/Barun Patro)

It’s always interesting (and often flattering) to know that, at the southernmost tip of what the civilized world calls the “Darkest Continent”, there’s something which may intrigue those in supposedly more civilized climes. We’ve noticed from those that visit our website, that auction companies of the eminence of Keeneland in the United States, Inglis and Magic Millions in Australia and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (obviously in Ireland), are regular visitors, curious as to how we go about marketing the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale.

One of the principal cogs in the Irish wheel, Marketing Manager Eamonn Cullen, confessed yesterday that he visits us twice a week for his “fix” on what we’re up to, and he’s been genuinely generous in his admiration.

While we think we’re making a fair job of it, there are always new depths to plumb and new lessons to be learnt, and if any of our readers have any ideas for us, we’d be more than delighted to hear from you.






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.