Viewing entries in

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.


summerhill tractor (michael nefdt)Organic Integrity
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

“Agricultural Eccentricity

We concluded our last episode on the “Mating Game” with the betrayal of a confidence, or put another way, with something of a presumption: declaring Lady Chryss O’ Reilly a kindred spirit. Truth is, the O’ Reilly’s don’t only have their breeding philosophies in common with us; they also share a deep-seated attachment to South Africa. Outside of Ireland, they have more homes here than anywhere else.

But for the best evidence of the value of what we had to say of our reliance on stockmanship as the optimal tool in the design of a mating, you need only look at the National Breeder’s Log, where Summerhill’s boldest pursuer is Lionel Cohen. A revered horseman if ever there was one, he’s another with something in common with the odd one among us: his computer illiteracy! Lionel’s Odessa Stud is nothing if it isn’t driven by a consummate professional, whose best advertisements most times have been bred the less conventional way, with stock of lesser commercial fashion.

In a world in which numbers are fundamental to championships, you might be forgiven for thinking the breeding of racehorses has become something of a production line, and while this is obviously true in many parts of the world, at Summerhill we still pride ourselves on the fact that with us, it remains an art. Talking of art, we quickly realised in our business model, that this was another pillar on which we could separate ourselves, by adopting a course that was off most radar screens. In episode two, “Defining The Job”, we spoke of the need to employ specialists in every division, and that most times in the horse breeding world, agriculture is a rather neglected area of activity.

It’s one thing getting the mating right, it’s another altogether sustaining the pregnancy in the healthiest and most productive circumstances, and then, post-delivery, providing an environment in which the foal is able to achieve its full genetic potential.

Our observations of the way things were being done on horse farms in most parts of the world (including here at home,) led us to the conclusion that, for the most part, this was an area where we could separate ourselves from the field. The first thing was to employ the best agriculturalist our money could buy, but in the process we needed to find someone who was still fresh and open to new ideas, unburdened by the baggage that so often besets a conservative community, when it comes to change.

The reason was, we were about to embark on an altogether untravelled road, and what we were about to do was in the nature of a revolution, certainly in the horse business.

Many of our lessons came by trial and error (we’ve paid the school fees!), but the one thing we’d learnt in our time at Summerhill, was that repeating mistakes was a costly business. So our powers of observation grew sharper each time we entered a cul-de-sac of no return, and in the fullness of time, not only did nature begin to reveal herself to us in all her glory, but the folly in trying to beat her became abundantly evident.

The end of World War II heralded the fertilizer revolution, coinciding with the development of serious tractor power. The new convention involved ploughing on a broad scale, and the application of fertilizers brought about a multiplying of yields on a scale hitherto unknown. Let’s not forget, the fertilizer business was born out of the explosives industry, which had to find a means of redeploying its products with the ending of hostilities. Agriculture provided the perfect place. What nobody told us, was that the regular pulverising of soils and its constant doctoring with synthetic stimulants was not a sustainable practice. Inevitably, we found our soils were beginning to resist the rigours of ploughing, and like a drug addict, they were drawing in ever-growing quantities of fertilizer, just to uphold the yields of years gone by.

And so we discovered what nature could do for us. We resorted to recycling our bedding through a composting plant, balancing of our soils through natural minerals and trace elements, and restoring the original integrity of the soil. No longer the impermeable, hard-baked crust that took a ripper to break it at the onset of the planting season; no more the outrageous quantities (at what cost?) of fertilizer, and countless applications of insecticides and herbicides. No, here we were, returning to our beginnings with composts, limes, rock phosphates, nitrogenous legumes, natural worm remedies and a “No’” sign across anything pretending to look like a toxic spray.

Cattle were introduced almost twenty years ago to combat the parasites that pervade the horse world, to pick up the ticks and convert the straw bedding into their own form of compost. The natural world is finely balanced by the variety in its multitude of species, and in the interplay between cattle and horses, there is something resembling the wildebeest and the zebra in the wilds. No wonder nature works.

If you’d come to Summerhill with a penotrometer six or seven years into this programme, and thrust it into a typical soil crust in winter, it might have gone, at best, some four inches down. Today, since the tilth or crumble of the soil has reverted to what nature originally intended, in many cases, the penotrometer will sink to the handle, almost a metre into the ground. Imagine the implications.

The earthworms are back, the dung beetles are peddling their trade, and instead of rushing away across its surface, water percolates down into what was once a parched earth, enhancing its retention and in its interaction with the new lungs of the soil, it promotes the existence of micro organisms. A new-found religion, it has to be said, and what a difference it’s made to life on the farm.

There are those that believe we must be sleeping with fairies at Summerhill, and that what we’re up to, boarders on what some regard as eccentric. If doing things differently means being eccentric, so be it. Truth is, eccentricity has always abounded where strength of character has abounded; the concentration of eccentricity in society has generally been proportional to the concentration of genius, mental vigour and moral courage. That so few dare to be eccentric these days, marks the chief danger of our time. But that suits us, because our “eccentricity” is obviously what sets us apart.

A recent estimate of the birthweights of foals at Summerhill reveals an average increase of between 5-6 kgs over those of less than a decade ago, while the incidence of loss through conventional disease has been stringently curtailed. The levels of natural immunity in our horse population, has been considerably enhanced, with one exception.

Two years ago we encountered the first occurrence of salmonella at Summerhill. Those who know it, will tell you it’s lethal. Yet, for all the wonders of modern medicine, and despite the application of the fanciest of drugs and the most stringent of bio-security measures to control the disease, it was only a resort to a natural remedy that restored us to normality.

Salmonella is a bacterial disease, and in a naïve environment (one which has never previously known it,) it is apt to spread like wildfire. Our horses and our environment had never before been challenged. Do what you want with all the antibiotics, washes, rinses, power hoses, movement curtailments, none of these on their own or in their collective might, are entirely effective in the eye of such a storm. In the end, we found our solace in a natural antidote.

Again it was about restoring the balance, and we sought the assistance of “good” bacteria to counter the effects of the “bad”. Almost instantly, we noticed the turnaround. To our knowledge, this was a ground-breaking “world first”, never before employed in our discipline, yet it was all so simple, and made so much sense. Thank you, eccentricity!

Of course, there have been other issues of influence in Summerhill’s four consecutive Breeders’ Championships, and each of them accounts for an increment of little more than 5-10% in terms of improvement. This though, was the beginning of an agricultural revolution for us, where our understanding of and our alliance with nature, prevailed over the previous revolution. Seeing it at work, and knowing its benefits, has been as satisfying as anything we’ve done here.

trowel and bricksClick here to read :

Countdown to National Yearling Sale 2009



The 2009 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale countdown has begun and BloodStock South Africa will be more than hopeful that the local market remains strong enough to weather a global economic crisis as deep and dire as the Great Depression.

In stark contrast to earlier yearling sales held in the Southern Hemisphere, where double-digit declines have been the order of the day, results at the GrandWest Yearling Sale proved more than encouraging, with the average showing an increase 9% on last year’s total.

That said, BloodStock South Africa has catalogued the cream of the 2007 foal crop, a total of 596 yearlings, which will go through the TBA sales ring at Germiston from April 3 to 6.

The decision to do away with the contentious ‘green pages’, the so-called Select Session, has been welcomed by consignors and trainers alike. Many felt that the green pages set up a false market at the start of the sale, with major buyers not returning or ignoring the non-select yearlings, and the general feeling has been that buyers will now stay for the duration of the sale. The concept of a select sale has also outlived its purpose, as witnessed in the US, where Keeneland’s July sale was abolished when many of the major vendors opted to send their better yearlings to the marathon September Sale. Likewise, major English auction house Tattersalls has done away with its select Highflyer Sale.

International buying support contributed heavily to 2008’s record-breaking sale. Barry Irwin of international racing outfit Team Valor described it as “the best value thoroughbred sale in the world. You would pay roughly twice the price for any foal at sales elsewhere in the world.”

Once again, a high percentage of the yearlings on offer boast international bloodlines, added to which there is a fine cross-section of international proven stallions represented at this year’s sale, all of which should appeal to the most discerning international buyer.

Over the past twelve months, the sale has received a fillip thanks to the exploits of a slew of graduates, ten of which won at Gr.1 level and were purchased as yearlings from as little as R25,000 for Gold Cup hero Desert Links (in 2005), Gypsy’s Warning (R170,000 in 2007), Russian Sage (R450,000 in 2006), Urabamba (R475,000 in 2006), Buy And Sell (R300,000 in 2005), Rudra (R375,000 in 2006), Kings Gambit (R600,000 in 2006), Wendywood (R800,000 in 2006), On Her Toes (R800,000 in 2007) to R1.8million for Warm White Night (2007).

No less than 131 stakes winning mares are represented, 24 of which are Gr.1 winners. The catalogue features siblings to 32 Gr.1 winners including Russian Sage (by Dynasty), On Her Toes (by Spectrum), Disappear (by Kahal), O Caesour (by Rakeen), Diamond Quest (by Saumarez), Consensual (by Spectrum) and Mother Russia (by Dupont).


zimbabwe 10 trillion dollars10 Trillion Zimbabwe Dollars

The once proud country of Zimbabwe took another tragic step this weekend, with the passing of the newly-installed Prime Minster, Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife following a head-on collision. There’s all sorts of speculation in the press as to whether this was contrived or pure accident, and that debate, no doubt, will rage for some time yet.

Meanwhile, we had the pleasure of a visit from an ex-Zimbabwean in the form of legendary bloodstocker, Robin Bruss and his wife, Jane, this weekend, and Robin told us he won a race in Zimbabwe last weekend worth Z$50 trillion to the winner. As the cash is almost worthless, owners are allowed to trade the prize money for petrol coupons, which Robin is unlikely to be able to use in the foreseeable future. Talk about racing for the love of the game. Hats off to the Zimbos – they’d race in hell if they had to!

He gave us a Z$10 trillion note, which he tells us would scarcely buy us a newspaper today, notwithstanding the fact they’ve already taken 12 zeros off the amount already. Ironically, the note is adorned with two of Africa’s most sacred emblems, one the rocks of the Matopos Hills (which enchanted Cecil John Rhodes to the point that he insisted on being buried there,) and the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a poignant reminder of an earlier phenomenal civilization. Alongside the picture of Great Zimbabwe is an almost tragic depiction of the Reserve Bank of that country, a fine edifice by any modern standards, yet one which has presided over a currency which has quite the worst history of any currency anywhere.

2009 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale concludes

2009 inglis melbourne premier yearling sale2009 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale
(Photo : Inglis Bloodstock)

Session 1 at the 2009 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale concluded with a 42 per cent retreat in gross. While that figure sounds disastrous, it must be remembered that last year’s figures broke records, so comparisons in this year of global economic downturn are always going to be severe, writes Darryl Sherer for Australia & New Zealand Bloodstock News.

413 yearlings were sold over three days for a gross of $23.05 million (down 42%) at an average of $55,815 (down 34%) and a median of $45,000 (down 31%). Inglis Bloodstock believes that private sales will continue to boost the final clearance figure of 73% over the next few days.

“The breadth of the buying bench was a feature of this sale, with buyers coming from all over Australia and internationally from major centres like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa,” said Mark Webster, Inglis Managing Director.

The highest priced lot yesterday was $280,000 for a colt by More Than Ready (USA) out of Illuminar, consigned by John Cornish’s Torryburn Stud, knocked down to Inglis as agent. Tuesday’s Redoute’s Choice-Celtic Reign colt, which sold for $365,000, remained the sale topping lot.

For long periods it seemed as if buyers were in control and, even allowing for a sparsely populated auditorium, when an attractive colt entered the ring there was competition. While it would be easy to focus on the declines, it is important to note that 60 lots - essentially 10 per cent of the catalogue - sold for $100,000 or more while 25 topped $150,000.

“All of the same buyers from previous years were here, but it’s clear they have reduced budgets under the current economic conditions and nobody is immune from what is happening in the world at the moment,” said Mark Webster at the sale‘s end. “The results for this sale are consistent with other sales from Australia and New Zealand this year.

“Post sale, vendors are accepting this re-adjustment phase and the fact that buyers can now be more selective about how much they are willing to spend. All horses passed over the last three days will still be available for private sale for the next 30 days and I am sure we will see many more horses traded in that period.”

Following on from their strong support of the Classic Sale, Patinack Farm were the leading buyers during Premier 1, finishing with 17 yearlings for a total spend of $1.5 million.

Tony Santic’s Makybe had some well-presented horses and they sold accordingly, ensuring Makybe topped the vendors by gross with 15 selling for $1.425 million. Yallambee Stud (19 for $1.3 million), Blue Gum Farm (15 for $1.147 million) and Three Bridges Thoroughbreds (11 for $1.06 million) also exceeded the $1 million mark during the sale.

Ultra Thoroughbreds were the leading vendor by average (for 3 or more sold), with eight yearlings selling at an average of $102,812. South Australia’s Mill Park Stud sold six at $102,500. Elvstroem was the leading sire by aggregate, with 27 selling for $1.243 million, while Vinery Stud’s More Than Ready was the leading sire by average with three selling at $163,333.

A consistent talking point amongst breeders and buyers this week is stallion fees. With the 2009 rosters about to be announced, it would seem unfeasible for more than a handful of stallions to entertain a fee increase. As one prominent breeder told Australia & New Zealand Bloodstock News, “If the average is down 30 per cent then service fees should come down by 30 per cent - although I doubt it will happen.”

South Africans active at Premier Yearling Sale

encosta de lago-acquistoDay 1 Top Lot Encosta de Lago-Acquisito
(Photo : Inglis Bloodstock)

megan romeynMegan RomeynBucking the international financial chaos that has dominated world markets over the past week, the 2009 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale has once again proved that thoroughbred investments are viable financial commodities in these uncertain times.

Day one of the sale ended with Champion sire Encosta de Lago proving to be the top seller as his colt out of the unraced Acquisito (Zeditave), a half-sister to the Stakes winning Make Me A Miracle, fetched the top price of $170,000 for Blue Gum Farm.

As expected Exceed And Excel set the best sire’s average with three yearlings returning an average of $120,000. There was considerable interest in his offspring, and the recent victory Reward For Effort in the Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr.1) certainly helped his cause. Another stallion who has attracted good interest is Commands, whose yearlings have averaged $85,417.

South Africans have been active at the sale, with Mike Bass, trainer of Pocket Power, securing a colt for $50,000 by the son of Redoute’s Choice, Not A Single Doubt, out of Park Heiress (Sadler’s Wells). Heritage Bloodstock snapped up a filly by sire of the sale, Exceed And Excel, out of Lulworth Cove (In The Wings) for $165,000 and a colt by General Nediym out of Belle’s Best (King’s Best) for $50,000.

Day two yielded a new sale topper with the hammer finally dropping at $365,000 for a Redoute’s Choice colt boasting an impeccable pedigree. The colt is out of Celtic Reign (Woodman), a half sister to tripple Melbourne Cup winner and two time Australian Horse Of The Year Makybe Diva.

Meanwhile the boss and Kerry have been kept busy vetting the vast number of lots on offer with a few astute purchases, I’m sure. We will keep you updated as the information trickles in.


summerhill yearlingsPreparations for the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales
(Photo : Grant Norval)

“Extract from the Summerhill Stud Client Newsletter”

Raging bushfires in Australia, icy conditions in Europe and the financial melt-down all add up to a lot of tough stuff, yet if you were sitting here and weren’t reading the papers or watching TV, you’d be wondering what all the fuss was about.

We’ve just completed a record Ready To Run Sale, the local economy is still growing, albeit it slowly, our cricketers are on fire, and the Cape Yearling Sale was up almost 10% on average, very much against the international trend. While the chill wind is obviously still going to blow, it seems as if South Africa is sitting a little prettier than most. There are those who might lament the Rand’s 30% depreciation in October, but for exporters and our foreign customers, its music to the ears.

Besides, Imbongi and Art Of War have both ran crackers, the latter victorious by 8,5 lengths on Thursday in Dubai. You never know, but we’re always cogniscent that the Dubai Duty Free (& others) are worth US$5 million each!

So what’s up at the ranch? We’re in the process of weaning one of the best crops of foals we’ve seen, at the same time attending to their micro-chipping (for id purposes). It’s business plan and budget time too, and with our broad management structure, we have every divisional head beavering away at their plans for the year and their departmental sums.

Land preparation for the autumn and winter pastures has just started, and we’re a month into the preparation of a terrific bunch of yearlings for the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales.

(Click here for the low down)

Interestingly, we’ve sold a number of horses in training and mares off the farm in recent weeks, and there’s been good international interest from Hong Kong, Pakistan (of all places) and Mauritius, alongside solid domestic demand. It seems people are still buying racehorses (either for the revenue or the “fun” dividend) in preference to motor cars, because that segment of the economy has really gone quiet. I should add, the horses are making their money, so there’ve been no giveaways.

(Click here to view what we have left to offer)

Hartford House is “pumping” at the moment, and there’s hardly place at the inn on a weekend well into May, so this is the “early warning” system reminding our friends that the July weekend, our Stallion Day and the KZN Broodmare sale (Thursday 2-8 July) are likely to be swallowed up very soon. I would recommend, if you’re keen to attend the races, Stallion Day, or the Broodmare and Yearling sale that you book soon.

This note comes, as always, with our best wishes from everyone at Summerhill.


summerhill stallion barnSummerhill Stallion Barn
(Photo : Grant Norval)


I guess it would be sensible to start at the beginning. The point at which champions are conceived, if not yet in the womb, then at least at the table. This is when all the benefits of individuality and specialisation are finally pooled for the greater good of our purpose.

Let me explain. There are those in the breeding business who believe that mating “the best to the best, and hoping for the best” is the most productive way of churning out champions. While there is merit in this argument, champions are never “churned” out, and in our view it leaves too much to chance, when practised as a single criterion for success.

Others resort to matching their mares for the best commercial outcome, betting the “farm” as it were, on the most fashionable stallion of the moment, proven or otherwise, and looking forward to their day in the sales ring as the sole judge of the worth of their endeavours. While this may bring short-term gains, it’s most times at the expense of long-term prosperity.

Yet others are committed faithfuls of the computer system, where some programmers have made a fortune persuading people that a champion can be generated through the rituals connected with software. To our knowledge though, without the benefit of knowing the animals concerned, their idiosyncrasies and their needs, no computer has ever consistently produced a good horse anywhere as regularly as a good stockman. As Bob Hope once said, “computers have enabled people to make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the exception of tequila and hand guns”.

Our experience tells us there is no substitute for the eye and the experience of a good stockman, his wisdom honed over years of observation and interaction with horses. Indispensible to us is the collection of all the evidence, from the thoughts of your stallion man, the broodmare and foalcare manager, the yearling sales division and the Ready To Run team, listening to trainers and jockeys who’ve been associated with your horses where the action is beyond the rehearsal stage. All of these things influence our collective thinking.

But unless in your interpretation of what you have at hand, you can marshall the right instincts to best exploit the information and then back it up with best practice standards of husbandry, you still cast yourself adrift on the waters of chance. We like to think that we control 90% of the process at least, and the ability to do that is enhanced by the fact that our decisions are unfettered by concerns of what the result will fetch in the sales ring.

Every fan of the turf knows The Star, the Cape Argus, the Mercury, the Daily News, the Saturday Independent and the Sunday Tribune, but not everyone knows these titles belong to 1955 British Lions legend, Sir Tony O’ Reilly. Even fewer know his wife Chryss, and especially that she’s one of Europe’s outstanding breeders. Just this last year, her Castlemartin Stud in Ireland and her Haras de la Louviere in France between them produced 16 Stakes winners, among them the Gr.1 stars Nahood and Equiano. Lady O’ Reilly tells us that in their mating decisions, “we tend to favour proven stallions for our younger mares, but I would say that among semi-commercial breeders we do the least commercial matings, because our first consideration is to breed a racehorse”. We have a kindred spirit, it seems, in Her Ladyship.

trowel and bricksClick here to read :

1 Comment

South African business optimism down, but still positive.

earth in hands(Charles Thompson/Barun Patro)

Despite optimism by South Africa’s privately held business sector dropping by more than half from +75% last year to just +35% for 2009, the country has risen up the ranks to become the sixth most optimistic country in the world, according to Grant Thornton’s 2009 International Business Report (IBR), released last week.

In contrast, the report paints a much bleaker picture of the global economy, with optimism among privately held businesses around the world plummeting by 56% in the past 12 months. This contributed to the Grant Thornton IBR international optimism/pessimism barometer recording a negative balance of -16% compared to +40% in 2008 – the first time in the survey’s seven-year history that pessimists have outweighed optimists about the outlook for their economy.

At the +35% optimism level, South Africa moved up from last year’s ninth position among the 36 countries surveyed in the IBR. India (83%) emerged as the world’s most optimistic country this year, followed by Botswana (81%), the Philippines (65%), Brazil (50%) and Armenia (46%).

According to Grant Thornton, in South Africa, “there was an overwhelming consensus that falling consumer demand and the shortage of business credit were the biggest threats to privately held businesses” going into this year. Gauteng (at +40%) and KwaZulu-Natal’s hubs of Durban and Pietermaritzburg (at +39%) emerged as the most optimistic regions in the country, with the Eastern Cape (at +17%) being the least optimistic. Cape Town came in at an optimism level of +33%..

Leonard Brehm National Chairman of Grant Thornton in South Africa said “Their macro-view of the global economic situation explains the overall slump in optimism. While privately held businesses worldwide are preparing for a prolonged and painful downturn real opportunities exist, especially in South Africa”, said Leonard Brehm National Chairman of Grant Thornton in South Africa

Economist Dennis Dykes said “South Africa has been relatively shielded by a healthy banking system as well as the fixed investment boom ahead of the Fifa 2010 World Cup. In addition, the 2010 event should continue to soften the effects of the global crisis, and lower interest rates and oil prices should help a modest recovery in the second half of the year,” said Dykes.

(Extract by Suren Naidoo from The Mercury)

1 Comment

MAGIC MILLIONS : Gold Coast, Australia

gai waterhouseGai Waterhouse with Lot 127 Encosta De Lago - Surrealist

“Surprisingly satisfying” was the billing at the end of the Premier session of Australia’s big sale in Queensland, Magic Millions.

Salient features:Top price of Aus $2million for a son of Encosta de Lago.
Clearance rate of 80%, an excellent result given the economic climate.
An average of Aus $131,632 (against Aus $157,321 a year ago), down approximately 16 -17%.

Managing Director David Chester expressed himself as “pleasantly surprised”, while Australia’s biggest man in advertising, John Singleton, was effusive in his reflections.

“It’s the only economic indicator that’s got me bluffed. No one would’ve picked that, not one of us believed that would have happened. It’s gone against the trend of the stock market, the inflation rate, the unemployment figures, the sales of Europe and Kentucky. It’s an amazing result”.


coolmore darley table

Writing in the TDN this week, the world’s no.1 stallion commentator, Bill Oppenheim, touched on racing’s hottest topic: the trench warfare between the two superpowers, Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley. Bill’s story deals with the most recent recruits to their and the so-called “neutral” stallion operator’s line-up, and how they’ve located them strategically. This is serious stuff :

When you look at these 42 top-of-the-crop sire prospects as a whole, three things stand out. First, the rise of the Maktoum family as a force in the stallion market; they stand 16 of the 42 stallions on that list, divided equally: eight in Kentucky, eight in Europe. Second, we can see how Coolmore is sticking with the programme that got them there: very selective, the highest possible quality only, and mostly by their own, in-house, absolute top-drawer sires. Whereas Darley, in the last four sire crops, leads Coolmore in North America in top-of-the-crop prospects eight to two, in Europe it is only eight to seven. Darley’s biggest growth spurt was in Kentucky, in 2008 retirements.

The third notable point is that, with Coolmore based in Ireland and the Maktoums (Darley plus Shadwell) operating from Dalham Hall and the Nunnery in England, and from Kildangan and Derrinstown in Ireland, there has been very little left over for the “neutral” stallion farms in Europe, especially in England. Of the 17 top-of-the-crop “neutral” stallions we’ve identified, 15 stand in Kentucky, where there is clearly still much more diversity of choice. Only two stand in Ireland, Azamour at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, and Lawman at Ballylinch. None stand in England. Though that is the case, I must emphasize, only with the most expensive stallions. Some of the most successful sires among the 242 we’ve listed are sure to be among the 200 now standing for less than “top-of-the-crop” stud fees, but it is notable that the top commercial prospects from these crops in Europe are stationed exclusively in Ireland, or on Maktoum farms in England.

ADENA SPRINGS named US Champion Breeder


Adena Springs has topped the list of leading individual breeders in North America in 2008, for the sixth consecutive year.


Congratulations must go to Frank and Andy Stronach and the Champion Adena Springs Team.


The Thoroughbred Daily News reports that according to figures released by The Jockey Club Information Systems, Inc. on Tuesday, Adena Springs bred the winners of 603 races from 3,671 starts. Stonerside Stable, which bred the winners of 98 races from 518 starts for earnings of $7,433,027 to is second on the list. Adena Springs also heads the breeders’ list which includes partnership, with Stonerside second on that list as well. Completing the list of top 10 individual breeders (with earnings):


Eugene Melnyk ($6,410,230);
Brereton C Jones ($6,339,254);
WinStar Farm LLC ($5,460,005);

Juddmonte Farms Inc. ($4,924,494);
Sherman Family Thoroughbreds LLC ($4,839,702);
Sez Who Thoroughbreds ($4,780,068);
Padua Stables ($4,773,351); and

Everst Stables Inc. ($3,966,631).

Rounding out the list of top 10 breeders which includes partnerships are:

W. S. Farish, Brereton Jones, Eugene Melnyk, WinStar Farm, Sherman Family Thoroughbreds, Sez Who Thoroughbreds, Juddmonte Farms and Padua Stables.


PS. You may recall that Andy Stronach, on the back of his attending the Summerhill Stallion Day last year, bought four mares at the Sibaya Broodmare Sale, with a view to supporting the DANEHILL stallions standing at Summerhill.


street cryStreet Cry
(Dubai Racing Club)

In bringing to a close yesterday’s blog, we proclaimed an historic event in the commencement of the foundations for the new Al Maktoum School Of Excellence. While today is of routine significance, it nonetheless marks the beginning of another chapter of importance in the lives of a new generation of horses. The 30-odd lots selected for the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales was brought in today for the commencement of their education, and we guess this lot face one of the great acid tests of all time when its economic prospects are bound to be tested in an international climate which has red lights flashing for the luxury goods sector.

Their location for the next ten weeks will be the Final Call Yearling Preparation yard, named after Gaynor Rupert’s great foundation mare, and reclad in its stone finish in commeration of the 80th birthday of Erica Bennet Goss, two Novembers ago.

No doubt, whatever the financial limitations of the credit squeeze, the Final Call yard will witness the visit of many an aspirant horseman between now and the departure of this lot for Germiston in the closing weeks of March.

Among the early entries is a daughter of America’s hottest young stallion, Street Cry, now boasting an incredible nine Grade One winners from his first three North American crops. Eight of these are from his first two crops, while his third crop has already yielded another as a juvenile in 2008. Down Under, where Street Cry got off to a rather belated start by their standards, he now has two Grade One performers from his first classic crop, including what is arguably the best three-year-old in Australia at the moment, Caulfield Guineas (Gr.1) hero, Whobegotyou.

This fellow’s another example of why there’s occasional folly in over-emphasizing the value of pedigree alone in your yearling selections (or for that matter, in your broodmare acquisitions). It’s the composition of these things, and their combination with the physicals and athleticism of the animal that counts, and the fact that Whobegotyou was offered at as modest a reserve as $25000 as a yearling (which he failed to reach, and he was subsequently sold for $17500) is testimony to this belief. There was hardly a Black type horse in sight in his female line, besides his Listed placed first dam.

The Summerhill draft is sure to be the subject of some intrigue, if only for the fact that it includes the only daughter of Street Cry on offer in South Africa this year.

Watch Whobegotyou winning the 2008 Caulfied Guineas.

1 Comment


summerhill stallion brassesStallion Brasses
(Summerhill Stud)

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be recounting the issues that influenced Summerhill’s ascent to the National Breeder’s Championship, and what roles they contributed to the process. Some background might be of value here.

While horses have been in the blood of most of us ever since we can remember, the realities of running a commercial stud farm were so far removed from any other business experience we’d known, our venture into stud farming was like entering kindergarten for the first time. It was 1979, and a chance visit to Summerhill to see a yearling filly we’d just purchased at the National Sales was at the root of it. It was tough in those days to make a living out of horse breeding, partly because there was just not enough money in the game, and partly because very few people had any understanding of what it took to turn the breeding of racehorses into a successful business model.

Summerhill was a victim of both of these things, and was losing money, and I was asked to intervene, at both a legal level and with ideas on a turnaround strategy. The first part was easy, the second was a venture into the unknown. It was obvious it needed fresh money, a capital injection of substantial proportions, yet that on its own would be frittered away without a sustainable plan to reinvent the business. That Summerhill exists today as a thriving business tells us we found something on which to found a viable business, but that was for the short-term.

We’ve been here 30 years now (precisely, this year) and for 12-15 of them, we laboured along in the hope that one day we’d see the “big hit”. Not long after we opened the “new” gates, we struck gold, with the advent of the great stallion Northern Guest, but once he’d come and gone, we were floundering for the next bright idea. This is quite typical of so many horse farms, where reliance on the belief that the elusive needle in a haystack might just turn up for you one day, seems to epitomise business models. Rich people might achieve this by simply going out and buying the genetic giant which turns the whole show around, but even then, it’s still a lottery.

To say that after 15 years, we were disenchanted with our results is putting it at its lowest level, and while we were still eking out a modest living, the results were not what we intended when we set out. So we started to examine the models around us, and those of the more successful farms abroad. Our own results were sluggish, and we were looking for ways to extract ourselves from the malaise of ordinary returns and results. What we found was interesting. Most farms were run by a horseman, which is perhaps not so strange, because banks are run by bankers, legal practices by lawyers etc, and whether they were owner-run or horseman-managed (whilst owned by someone with other interests), the structural models were pretty much the same.

In the agricultural context, this is also not so strange, because cattle farms are usually run by a stockman, crop farms by croppers etc, but there is one strong distinguishing feature between the horse farm and most other agricultural activities. This rests with the market, and the customer base it serves. In just about every other farming endeavour, the product goes to a mass consumer population, while the thoroughbred is an item of luxury, it belongs in an extraordinarily sophisticated environment, and appeals to a relatively narrow group.

Besides, like no other business, horse breeding is riddled with myths and old wives’ tales, concocted over the decades by people whose achievements would appear less of a spectacle were it not for their aggrandisement in the eyes of people who’d know no better.

Reality is, ours is a fairly straightforward endeavour, simplified by the truths that flow from a closer understanding of the ways of Mother Nature.

The skills sets needed for the management of a successful commercial racehorse farming business are so far removed from those of a normal breeding operation, as to be of an entirely different species. While they may include some of the same, there are a number of broadly diverse dimensions to the skills needed for horse farming, and for which you need to search for these in earnest. We did.

The next episode will follow over the next few weeks.

1 Comment

VETERAN STALLIONS: Worth a second look

stallion sunset (michael nefdt)Summerhill Sunset
(Summerhill Stud)

Andrew Caulfield writes in the Thoroughbred Daily News that to say it is going to be fascinating to see how the Thoroughbred industry responds to the spreading recession sounds a bit too gleeful, when experience has taught us that there are going to be casualties, both human and equine, as production is cut back. But experience has also taught us that the industry will be fitter and leaner, and consequently healthier, when the economy inevitably starts to rally.

The question is how best to survive until that happens - hopefully not too far into the future. Although it may be stating the obvious, breeders are going to have to ensure they obtain the best value for money or biggest bang for their buck, to use a more colorful expression.

One area worthy of consideration - especially for the owner/breeder - is whether the hot new stallion is as safe a bet as a less fashionable stallion with a proven track record. The stallions I am thinking of in the latter category are those which have reached veteran status (aged more than 20). Because of their age - and what could be termed the boredom factor - these stallions are rarely as busy as they were in their heyday, when they achieved so much that they earned a lifelong place in the industry.

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.



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.



SHEIKH MOHAMMED awarded Cartier / Daily Telegraph Award of Merit

sheikh mohammedHis Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

The Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award Of Merit is awarded to the person or persons who, in the opinion of the special 20-strong Cartier Jury, has/have done most for European racing and/or breeding either over their lifetime or within the past 12 months.

The list of past winners of the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit is as follows; Niarchos Family, Peter Willett, Henry Cecil, David and Patricia Thompson, Lord Oaksey, Prince Khalid Abdullah, John Magnier, His Highness the Aga Khan, Peter Walwyn, the Head Family, Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Frankie Dettori, John Dunlop, the Marquess of Hartington, Francois Boutin, Lester Piggott and Henri Chalhoub.

The 2008 Cartier Jury is made up of Michael Bell, Charlie Brooks, Alan Byrne, The Earl of Derby, Mike Dillon, Ed Dunlop, Douglas Erskine-Crum, Rod Fabricius, Philip Freedman, Tom Goff, The Lord Grimthorpe, Rolf Johnson, Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Leo Powell, Ruth Quinn, Brough Scott, Sam Sheppard, Sir David Sieff, Johnno Spence and Howard Wright.

This year’s recipient of this most prestigious award is horseracing’s biggest investor and benefactor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Mohammed’s contribution to racing and breeding has been enormous. His interest in the sport started in England over 40 years ago and it has grown and developed into a worldwide empire.

He may be known on the global stage as Dubai’s leader as well as prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, but in the racing world Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is simply the sport’s biggest investor and benefactor.

Nobody in racing history has ever owned horses on the scale of Sheikh Mohammed and his equine empire is the culmination of an interest spanning more than 40 years.

While attending the Bell School of Languages in Cambridge, England, the 17-year-old Sheikh Mohammed and his brother Sheikh Hamdan went racing for the first time when watching the Noel Murless-trained Royal Palace win the 1967 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

A decade later he had his first success as an owner when Hatta, a 6,200 guineas yearling trained by John Dunlop and ridden by Ron Hutchinson, won a first prize of £968.60 in the Bevendean Maiden Stakes at Brighton on June 20, 1977. The filly went on to give Sheikh Mohammed a first Group success the following month when taking the Group Three Molecomb Stakes on the opening day of Glorious Goodwood.

It was the beginning of a passion for racing, first in Britain and soon globally, that burns even more greatly over 30 years later. He was brought up with horses. Descended from one of the most notable tribes in Arabia, Bani Yas, horses have been part of his life since childhood.

Bedouin culture and traditions are central to his heritage. The desert is a challenging, often harsh, environment so the ability to live in harmony with nature is vital to the people of the region. As a boy, Sheikh Mohammed learned to read the desert sands, to identify a single camel’s footprint in a herd of hundreds, and to understand the rhythm of nature, to be at one with the creatures of the desert.

Apart from tracking and catching scorpions and snakes, taming and training falcons and saluki dogs, it was horses that took up most of the young Sheikh’s time. He would share his breakfast with his horse on his way to school. Riding in his first horse race aged 12, he was drawn to difficult horses and earned a reputation for mastering impossibly wild horses, considered un-trainable by others.

Hatta may have been an inexpensive yearling purchase by Lt-Col Dick Warden, Sheikh Mohammed’s first bloodstock advisor, but the family were soon making their mark on a much bigger sale. At the 1979 Tattersalls Houghton Sale, trainer Tom Jones set a European record price of 625,000 guineas when buying the Lyphard colt Ghadeer for Sheikh Hamdan.

The Maktoum brothers also made a big impact on the other side of the Atlantic, regularly making headlines at the famous Keeneland July Sales of the early 1980s with Shareef Dancer, bought for $3.3 million by Sheikh Mohammed in 1981, winning the Irish Derby for the owner’s eldest brother Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Mohammed was keen to become involved in breeding and in 1981 bought first Aston Upthorpe Stud in Oxfordshire and then Dalham Hall Stud outside Newmarket, where Shareef Dancer retired at the end of his racing days. He also purchase Woodpark and Kildangan Studs in Ireland, after taking the advice of his long-term advisor, the late Michael Osborne.

The Sheikh’s maroon and white silks soon became a famous site on European racecourses, yielding success at the very highest level. Awaasif, a $325,0000 sales purchase, brought him a first Group One victory in the 1982 Yorkshire Oaks and three years later his home–bred Oh So Sharp won the fillies’ Triple Crown (the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger).

He enjoyed a great run of success in the Oaks at Epsom, via Unite (1987), Diminuendo (1988), who went on to take the Yorkshire Oaks, and Intrepidity (1993). Unite also landed the Irish Oaks in which Diminuendo dead-heated with Sheikh Mohammed’s Italian Oaks heroine Melodist.

Musical Bliss won another 1,000 Guineas in 1989 while there was also a 2,000 Guineas success in 1995 with Pennekamp, winner of the previous year’s Dewhurst Stakes. Meanwhile, Moonax (1994) and Shantou (1996) scored in the St Leger at Doncaster.

There were many other star performers during a golden era in the 1980s and 1990s including Pebbles, who won the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Turf, Coral-Eclipse and Champion Stakes after being bought by the Sheikh, Indian Skimmer (1987 French Oaks and Prix Saint-Alary, 1988 English and Irish Champion Stakes), Sonic Lady (1986 Irish 1,000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes, Sussex Stakes and Prix Moulin), Ajdal (1986 Dewhurst Stakes, 1987 July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes and Haydock Sprint Cup), Soviet Star (1987 French 2,000 Guineas, Sussex Stakes and Prix de la Foret, 1988 July Cup and Prix Moulin), Sure Blade (1986 St James’s Palace Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) and Sadeem (1988 and 1989 Gold Cup).

Other star names included Old Vic (1989 Prix du Jockey-Club and Irish Derby), Opera House (1993 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Coral-Eclipse and Coronation Cup), Belmez (1990 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes), King’s Theatre (1994 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes), In The Wings (1990 Breeders’ Cup Turf, Coronation Cup and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud), Sinsgpiel (1996 Japan Cup and Canadian International,1997 Dubai World Cup, Coronation Cup and Juddmonte International), Barathea (1993 Breeders’ Cup Mile and Irish 2,000 Guineas), Carnegie (1994 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), Alydaress (1989 Irish Oaks), Arazi (1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), Tel Quel (1991 Champion Stakes), Winged Love (1995 Irish Derby), Ensconse (1989 Irish 1,000 Guineas), Shaadi (1989 Irish 2,000 Guineas) and Hailsham (1995 Italian Derby).

But the 1990s also marked the start of a new phenomenon, Godolphin. Just as Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley breeding operation remembered one of the three founding thoroughbred stallions, Darley Arabian, so did his family’s fledgling new international racing stable, the Godolphin Arabian.

Simon Crisford, who assisted the Sheikh’s then racing manager Anthony Stroud, was drafted in 1992 to manage the small initial team who would winter in Dubai before returning to Newmarket in the spring. Hilal Ibrahim had a short spell training the horses but it has been Saeed bin Suroor who has overseen most of the success.

Balanchine brought Godolphin a first Classic success in the 1994 Oaks while a year later bin Suroor trained the unbeaten Lammtarra to win the Derby for Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum.

Dubai Millennium, who traced 25 generations back to Darley Arabian, became Sheikh Mohammed’s favourite horse when winning nine of his 10 starts, including the 1999 Prix Jacques Le Marois and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and most famously the 2000 Dubai World Cup, the richest race on the planet created by Sheikh Mohammed at the Nad Al Sheba racecourse in his home country.

There have been a total of 145 Group or Grade One successes in 12 countries worldwide for Godolphin via such luminaries as Daylami, Fantastic Light, Street Cry, Sulamani, Dubawi, Swain, Sakhee, Doyen, Kayf Tara, Bachir, Halling, Dubai Destination, Ramonti and All The Good, who recently gave the stable a first top-level Australian success in the Caulfield Cup.

Alongside Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed has built up his Darley stallion and breeding operation to be the largest on the planet. There are over 50 stallions worldwide based at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky, studs in Australia and Japan as well as the longer-standing British and Irish outfits still centred around Dalham Hall and Kildangan.

As well as standing home-grown stallions, Darley have invested heavily to get the best young prospects from elsewhere, among them New Approach, who won this year’s Derby in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s wife Princess Haya, 2007 Epsom hero Authorized, Teofilo, Manduro, Shirocco as well as many star names in the US and Japan.

Sheikh Mohammed’s purchase this year of US-based Stonerside Stables included ownership of Raven’s Pass (in whom he already had a share), winner of last month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic for Princess Haya, and Midshipman, who captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has headed to Dubai ahead of a tilt at the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

As well as providing employment, both directly and indirectly, for thousands in the horse business worldwide, Sheikh Mohammed’s contribution to racing stretches far beyond his own equine interests.

The Dubai World Cup continues to be the richest race in the world while next year the futuristic Meydan racecourse will be unveiled in Sheikh Mohammed’s home country to take Middle-Eastern racing to a new level.

Both Darley and Dubai-based companies such as Emirates Airlines and Dubai Duty Free sponsor a string of major races globally including the Melbourne Cup, Irish Derby, Irish Oaks, Champion Stakes, Dewhurst Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and July Cup.

Sheikh Mohammed has made many philanthropic contributions, including the donation of £10 million to four charities following the sale of the Racing Post last year, the sponsorship of the stud and stable staff awards in Britain and the creation of the Darley Flying Start which helps young people gain a grounding in the industry on a two-year course.