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BIG ACCOLADE FOR STRONGHOLD

Stronghold
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

 “BIG ACCOLADE FROM BIG NEWSPAPER FOR A BIG HORSE”

Thursday’s issue of England’s Racing Post, the foremost daily newspaper on racing, carried a story on the significance of times down Ascot’s straight course. Of significance to Summerhill and Stronghold, the horse we proclaimed one of the best to enter our stallion ranks, is the fact he posted the best time performance in the history of Ascot’s course in his big effort in the 2006 renewal of the Royal Hunt Cup.

Stronghold’s effort should be seen in the context that the same course is the venue for the running of one of the world’s most celebrated Group One miles, the Queen Anne Stakes, which takes place during Royal Ascot week, coming up in a fortnight’s time.

His trainer, John Gosden, always believed Stronghold had a Group One race in him, and it was for that reason that he did not get to his second career at Summerhill until 2008.

Following his big run at Ascot in 2006, Stronghold was injured as the starting favourite for the season end Challenge (Gr.2) at Newmarket, and then suffered a career-crippling injury in recovery after keyhole surgery on his knee in the off-season. As a result, he only saw the racecourse once thereafter, and that was in the Hungerford Stakes (Gr.2) where, after a twelve month layoff, he snatched the lead with a furlong to go, only to go down to a flying Red Evi (triple Group One heroine) in the dying strides, when both his condition and his soundness finally yielded to the demands of a spectacular finish.

Either way, this survey in the Racing Post reminds us how fortunate we are to have a horse of Stronghold’s credentials on the roster. No wonder the man who bred Danehill and the best Danehills since, Prince Khalid Abdullah, retained a rare breeding interest in this fellow, just as he did with Danehill.

Racing Post Thursday 4 June 2009

“Since Ascot re-laid the straight course in 2005, it is fair to say that there have been some unusual results at the track which have left students of the form book scratching their heads.

For starters, you can never be confident about where the fastest ground is, although you only have to look at the stalls numbers of the horses who dominated last season’s Golden Jubilee – the first five home were drawn in the five lowest-numbered stalls – to see that track biases can have a massive impact on the outcome of these races on the straight course.

Then there’s the track’s slick drainage, which means that it nearly always rides fast - just look at the GoingStick readings, which often imply it is riding much quicker than the official going description – with the possible exception being those races staged in the immediate aftermath of a heavy downpour.

There is also the track’s crossover with the all-weather, as we’ve seen many horses whose form has suggested they’re much better on artificial surfaces, particularly Polytrack, run well on the turf at Ascot.

This could be down to the fact that some horses really let themselves down on the unique racing surface and it places an emphasis on speed by rewarding horses who travel well in their races.

Nearly all of all-weather racing is staged on oval circuits, but I suspect that if we had all-weather racing on straight courses, the style of racing would be similar to what we’ve been seeing at Ascot.

In short, it’s a track for specialists, and as many of the races at Royal Ascot are staged on the straight course I thought it would be interesting to bring attention to some of the horses, many of whom are heading to Royal Ascot, that have been able to post significant performances on the clock on the straight course.

Races over 7f and 1m

The big handicap over 7f at Royal Ascot is the Buckingham Palace Stakes, but the entries for that race are yet to be published, and hopefully Clive Brittain’s Al Muheer will be handed an entry.

As a three-year-old last August he recorded an adjusted time of 74.64 over 6f, the sixth best time for that distance by a three-year-old and the best by a three-year-old in a handicap, while he also recorded a good time over a straight mile in July. He is on an attractive mark of 96 and 7f should be perfect for him.

But the big ante-post handicap over the straight mile is the Royal Hunt Cup. It’s routinely run at a strong pace and the top three adjusted times were all posted n the race.

Stronghold, who finished second off 9st 8lb in 2006, leads the way on 99.90 seconds, while last year’s second Docofthebay and winner Mr. Aviator fill second and third spots.

Docofthebay carried 9st 6lb when recording that time, but has slipped down the handicap, so will shoulder just 8st 11lb this season. If he can recapture his peak form, he looks extremely well handicapped.”

ASCOT BEST TIME PERFORMERS
(Straight course since 2006)

HORSE AGE ADJUSTED
TIME (sec)
5f    
Miss Andretti June 07 6 60.20
Dandy Man June 07 4 60.34
Magnus June 07 5 60.40
Takeover Target June 07 8 60.50
Takeover Target June 06 7 60.83
     
6f    
Soldier’s Tale June 07 6 73.53
Takeover Target June 07 8 73.57
Asset June 07 4 73.67
War Artist 5 73.68
Red Clubs June 07 4 73.77
     
7f    
Jeremy June 06 3 87.40
Red Clubs 3 87.75
Laa Rayb 4 87.79
Nans Joy Aug 08 4 87.79
Asset June 06 3 87.80
     
1m    
Stronghold June 06 4 99.50
Docofthebay Aug 08 4 100.49
Mr.Aviator Aug 08 4 100.50
Soviet Song June 06 6 100.59
Cesare June 06 5 100.82

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CORRECTIVE SURGERY - How far is too far?

foal
The Corrective Surgery Debate
(Photo : Annet Becker)

 

Early assessment and close monitoring of a foal’s conformation is crucial so that measures can be taken to improve any abnormalities. However, one particular treatment, ‘corrective surgery’, has become so commonly performed on even minor conformational imperfections that many are now questioning whether it is being carried out too frequently and whether its disclosure at the yearling sales should be mandatory.  James Tate BVMS MRCVS writes the following report for the UK’s Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder.

 

Knock-kneed or bow-legged
‘Angular limb deformities’ are conformational abnormalities seen most commonly in thoroughbred foals that require early recognition and treatment.

 

They occur more frequently in front legs, are seen when viewing the foal from the front or back and are broadly categorised into two types – ‘valgus’ and ‘varus’. A valgus conformation is where the limb deviates away from midline, for example, a foal with valgus conformation of its knees is often described as being ‘knock-kneed’. A varus conformation is where the limb deviates towards midline, for example, a foal with varus conformation of its knees is often described as being ‘bow-legged’.

 

Angular limb deformities occur most commonly at the knee (carpus) but also quite frequently at the fetlock joint or the hock. The degree of the deformity is usually evaluated by repeated visual examination but can also be measured and assessed using x-rays. The main problem is often an imbalance of growth in the growth plates. For example, if the outside of the growth plate just above the knee is growing slower than the inside, then the foal’s leg will deviate away from midline and so develop a carpal valgus conformation – knock-kneed.

 

Congenital and acquired deformities

These conformational deformities are broadly grouped into congenital or acquired forms, with congenital deformities being present at birth and acquired deformities usually appearing at a few weeks of age.


Congenital abnormalities are caused by either laxity of joint ligaments or incomplete formation of the small bones of the knee or hock. Careful palpation of joints should establish the presence of joint laxity and the conformation of such foals can usually be corrected successfully with conservative management, even in relatively severe cases.

 

Incomplete formation of the knee or hock bones is typically found in premature foals and so x-rays should be performed as a routine.

 

Conservative management of angular limb deformities is successful in most foals and, in fact, a degree of carpal valgus conformation is normal in a newborn foal.

 

Therapy consists of restricting exercise to box rest with a limited turnout period per day, providing a firm bedding and turnout pasture, as well as corrective hoof trimming and, if necessary, the use of glue-on extensions that force the foal to straighten its legs. This allows the growth plates to be stimulated but prevents stress and compression on the affected side of the growth plate. If the affected limb of a newborn foal can be manually ‘straightened’ because it is being caused by joint laxity, then conservative management will usually be successful. More severe cases are treated with splints or limb casts, but these should be used with caution and changed regularly to avoid skin rubs.

 

Acquired angular limb deformities are caused by asymmetrical bone growth from the growth plate, with one side of the growth plate growing faster than the other. Sometimes the cause of such deformities is not known, but it can be the result of injury to one side of the growth plate, uneven loading on one leg due to lameness of the other leg, inappropriate nutrition (for example, too much nutrition or an incorrect calcium/phosphorous ratio), excessive exercise, or improper foot-trimming.

 

Whilst affected foals can also be treated conservatively, this is when many foals are booked in for surgery.

 

Corrective surgery – more now than ever

There are two surgical treatments that should be used for the more severe cases but which are now being used more than ever.

 

Both techniques depend on continued growth in order to straighten the leg and so should ideally be carried out before the foal is two months old (especially in fetlock deformities) and in severe cases the techniques can be performed together.

 

The first surgical technique is a periosteal elevation, which is carried out on the side of the growth plate that is not growing fast enough and its aim is to stimulate growth on this side of the growth plate. The outer surface of the bone (the periosteum) is thought to have a restraining influence on growth and by removing a strip of periosteum over the slow-growing side of the growth plate, growth is stimulated. For example, periosteal elevations are performed on the outside of the knee in a foal with carpal valgus, or the inside of the knee in a foal with carpal varus. An inverted ‘T-shaped’ incision is usually made approximately 2.5cm above the growth plate and its maximum effect is seen after approximately two months.

 

It has a few advantages over the second surgical technique described below in that it is a one-off surgery, it is minimally invasive and there appears to be little risk of over-correction, although some argue that this is because it is not that effective. Indeed, recent research has suggested that foals with the mild deformities currently treated by periosteal elevation generally improve without the need for surgery if treated with box rest and corrective farriery alone.

 

The second surgical technique works in the opposite way to a periosteal elevation, in that it slows down the side of the growth plate that is growing too fast.

 

Temporary transphyseal bridging is the insertion of metal implants to slow down

the growth of one side of the growth plate to allow the other side to catch up.

 

Traditionally, a staple is inserted over the growth plate or two screws are placed either side of the growth plate and either wires or plates join them together.

 

However, more recently, a new method of inserting a single screw across the growth plate has been developed, as it has the advantage of a better cosmetic result. All of these methods are very effective.

 

However, the metal implants must be removed as soon as the leg is straight, otherwise over-correction and deviation in the opposite direction may occur.

 

There is no doubt that, if left untreated, severe angular limb deformities cause big problems for horses and the result is often osteoarthritis of the joints which have been put under excessive pressure by the poorly balanced limb.

 

Veterinary surgeons have become so proficient at these corrective surgeries that they are becoming very widely used, even for minor conformational abnormalities. Therefore, the possible disadvantages must be discussed.

 

Are there any downsides to such surgery?

In 2006, Santschi et al reported on their findings from studying the conformation of 199 thoroughbred foals from birth to yearling auction age, and found that knee and fetlock conformations change greatly with foals, generally becoming less carpal valgus and more fetlock varus as they become older.

 

This could lead the reader to suggest that it may be difficult to ‘correct’ a foal’s conformation to exactly the right degree as its conformation is likely to alter after corrective surgery has had its effect. However, in reality veterinary surgeons are now so good at judging these corrective surgeries that this is rarely a problem. The only significant practical downside of the surgeries seems to be the minimal scars and white hairs that can be left after the procedures, if the breeder is unlucky – although one or two do attempt to fix this with a little boot polish at the sales!

 

From an auction sale point of view, these corrective surgeries are excellent and have very few disadvantages.

 

However, the final important issue is whether performing all of these corrective surgeries is good for the racing careers of the horses concerned or, indeed, the breed as a whole.

 

In 2004, Anderson, McIlwraith and Douay published a paper in the Equine Veterinary Journal on the role of conformation in musculoskeletal problems in the racing thoroughbred, and the highly-respected Professor Wayne McIlwraith presented his findings at the Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding Seminar at Cheltenham racecourse.


He made two significant points. First, he came to the slightly unexpected conclusion that a degree of carpal valgus, which many are currently ‘correcting’, is actually a good thing and may serve as a protective mechanism for soundness.

 

Second, he argued that we should try to “manipulate Mother Nature” when we need to and suggested that corrective surgery is not always helpful and can actually contribute to unsoundness.

 

Widespread use does spark some concerns

In summary, corrective surgeries are excellent procedures for the treatment of extreme angular limb deformities. However, their widespread use leads everyone involved in the thoroughbred industry to have two serious concerns.

 

First, is it correct to be performing so many surgeries? Second, should vendors be made to disclose which yearlings at the auction sales have had such corrective surgeries?

 

The second concern is exactly what the North American Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association have been suggesting for some time.

THE FESTIVAL OF SPEED

Thunder Key
(Photo : Gold Circle)

As a country with something of an obsession for speed, the South African racing calendar honours our sprinting talent on a regular basis. No gathering of the nation’s best sprinters however, expresses this more forcibly than the Festival Of Speed, a four race bonanza of Grade One events scheduled for this weekend. The top event on the card is always the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, which has been thrown open this year by the early retirement of Summerhill-bred, Rebel King, and his stable companion, Warm White Night. Nonetheless, the farm is represented by Pegasus Emblem, bred and raised here for our long-serving patrons, Malcolm Wishart and Luigi Cirigiliano, while Muhtafal has the game winner of his last start, Thunder Key, under starter’s orders.

While the betting for the S.A. Fillies’ Sprint is likely to be dominated by Charles Laird’s Merlene de Largo (four wins from five starts to date), Bruce Gardiner and Co’s Lisa Anne (Summerhill-bred by the late lamented Rambo Dancer) makes her Grade One debut for the Alexander stable under the capable tutelage of Kevin Shea. Also in the field (and not without a squeak) is Anthony Delpech’s mount, Noble Heir (by Kahal), a promising second to Moccachino in Gauteng’s Camellia Stakes just over a month ago.

Kahal’s loss is Malhub’s gain:

Rare for a race in which we’ve supplied two of the last three winners, we are without a runner in the Gold Reef Medallion (for two-year-colts). The field is packed with the progeny of the first season sire, Var, and two interesting runners by leading Australian sires, Redoute’s Choice and Exceed and Excel for Mike de Kock and Charles Laird respectively. The form here is not that well exposed, and the winner could come from any quarter.

Turning to the subject of our headline, ‘Kahal’s loss is Malhub’s gain’, the Alan Robertson Fillies Championship (for Juvenile Fillies) has been robbed of its one star attraction in the form of Kahal’s daughter, Spring Clover, widely touted as the top juvenile filly in the country. This does however open the race to a number of possibilities, and a strong claim can be made for Malhub’s talented daughters, Ashjaan (bred at Summerhill for Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud), who was just a length and a quarter behind Spring Clover in their last meeting, and the unbeaten Onehundredacrewood, both graduates of the Summerhill draft at last November’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, where they cost R190 000 and R85 000 respectively.

We’d have to concede that for a horse of his own world-class, Malhub’s first crop was something of a disappointment to us, but he has more than made up for it with his second crop of juveniles, in much the same way as our standard-bearer Northern Guest, did in his time. Three of Malhub’s 2009 models have already earned Black type, and the fourth (Onehundredacrewood), is thus far unbeaten.

By Monday morning, it’s possible Malhub might’ve ascended back to the heights of that memorable day at Royal Ascot, when he got to meet The Queen after slaughtering the champions Johannesburg and Invincible Sprit in the Golden Jubilee Sprint (Gr.1).

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REBEL KING RETIRES TO STUD

The latest conversation with Charles Laird was a “bitter-sweet” affair, as it involved some promising young horses, and the departure of the stalwart, Summerhill-bred Rebel King, who’s just left the yard to take up stud duties at Klawervlei Stud in the Western Cape.

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A healthy farm makes a healthy horse

summerhill angus cattleWeaners from Summerhill’s champion Angus herd hard at work preparing the small paddocks for commencement of foaling season in August
(Photo : Leigh Wilson)

Twenty years ago, the man that stands at the helm of Maine Chance Farm today, John Slade, was the boss at Summerhill. One of the first things we did when John came on board, was to look at acquiring a herd of cattle to compliment the grazing habits of the horses. There are any number of reasons behind the compatibility of different species of stock in the natural environment, and you need only to look to the game reserves to see how well the wildebeest and zebra get on with each other. You see, cattle like the grass relatively long, so they can get their tongues around the lengthy swathes, and the horses, who graze with their teeth, like it comparatively short.

Secondly, the rumen of the beast is hostile to the parasite of the horse, and vice versa, and therefore, from a parasite control perspective, they look after one another’s systems. Finally, though not least, at Summerhill we use the cattle to regenerate our pastures. As most of our readers know, we have a large composting operation at Summerhill, and because we’re in the horse business and use oodles of bedding, we have a wonderful natural resource at our disposal. That said, in the winter, we take a lot of our hay out of the stables, full of the urea deposited through the urine, and spread this across the frosted-off kikuyu pastures. The cattle just love it, they pick it up and pass it through their systems, and then spread it across the pasture like a top dressing. When the first September rains come we say halleluiah! as the first shoots of spring burst forth from their winter slumber. What a sight.

SADLER'S WELLS : From Zero to Hero

bill oppenheim sadlers wells

 

From Zero to Hero

“Extract from the desk of Bill Oppenheim
www.thoroughbreddailynews.com

In today’s Thoroughbred Daily News, the world’s premier stallion commentator, Bill Oppenheim, writes that Sadler’s Wells is arguably the greatest sire in European history.

 

A very high-class three-year-old of 1984 (the same crop as Rainbow Quest and Darshaan), he went to stud in 1985, and his first foals were born in 1986. At the time, European sire power was at its nadir, and he led the renaissance in European sire power that today keeps many more top European mares in Europe instead of Kentucky. He’s also probably the most prolific stallion in history.


In 21 crops of racing age through the end of 2008, Sadler’s Wells had sired a truly phenomenal total of 2,149 foals… yes, that’s an average of 102 foals per crop. Even more phenomenal, Equineline tells us he has sired 280 black-type winners worldwide (13 percent of foals), and he’s also the damsire of 183 black-type winners to date. He has been champion sire in Britain and Ireland 14 times, and Primus Advertising in Ireland, which keeps track of such things, estimates he has had over 200 sons go to stud.


Yet, on 1 January 2004, little more than five years ago, there was no Sadler’s Wells sire line to speak of. He had about four really successful sons: In the Wings, who in turn sired Singspiel; Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Barathea; El Prado, who went to stud cheaply in Kentucky in 1993, but ended up the second-best sire in North America from that year’s crop of stallions (numero uno is A.P. Indy), and who topped the North American General Sire List in 2002, when Medaglia d’Oro was a three-year-old; and Fort Wood, in South Africa. Beyond those, it was getting harder and harder to argue that Sadler’s Wells was a successful sire of sires.


Enter onto the scene Montjeu. He was very possibly the very best of the 280 black-type winners Sadler’s Wells has yet sired. Winner of the Gr1 French and Gr1 Irish Derbies and the Gr1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at three, he won three more Group 1’s at four, including an imperious win in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where he looked like a group horse in a maiden race. Timeform rated Montjeu at 137 both at three and at four. Yet, when he went to stud in 2001, his fee was a modest IrPound,30,000, a fraction of what his barnmate Giant’s Causeway commanded in the same season, his first year at stud. That’s all you could stand top-class 12 furlong horses for when they went to stud.


Our Insta-Tistics tables (on the TDN website) tell us that, in 2002, a total of 21 weanlings from Montjeu’s first crop averaged the equivalent of $99,982, with a median of $80,000. The conformation judges liked his first foals, and even though there was a certain amount of support from the Coolmore legions, his foals at the European sales impressed neutral pinhookers and other objective observers (as had Cape Cross the year before).


These figures represented excellent return for their breeders. You know how the Coolmore team likes to give their stallions a chance, so there were 66 yearlings sold from Montjeu’s first crop in 2003. They averaged $144,928, with a median just under $100,000, still a good return on investment for their breeders.


Montjeu’s fee for 2004, the year his first two-year-olds would race, was set at Eur30,000, the same as the year before.


Montjeu’s first crop, racing in 2004, included 16 winners, headed by the Gr1 Racing Post Trophy winner Motivator, and he finished third on the 2004 European Freshman Sire List. His stud fee was up to Eur45,000 for 2005, which looked dirt cheap by that autumn, considering not only did Motivator win the Gr1 Epsom Derby, but Montjeu’s first crop included two more Classic winners as well: Hurricane Run won the Gr1 Irish Derby; and Scorpion won the Gr1 St. Leger Stakes, though his more important victory came in the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris in its first year as a 2400 meter race on Bastille Day - effectively, the “new” French Derby. After Hurricane Run won another little Group 1 contest, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Montjeu ranked second only to Danehill on the 2005 European Sire List (historical lists supplied to us courtesy of John Quinlan at Hyperion Promotions). Not surprisingly, Montjeu’s 2006 fee shot up to Eur125,000.


By 2001, the year his 13th crop were three-year-olds, Sadler’s Wells had sired the winners of nearly every Group 1 race beyond a mile in Europe, but he had never sired a winner of the Gr1 Epsom Derby. Galileo rectified that small gap in his resume, then went on to win the Gr1 Irish Derby and Gr1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. In Timeform’s lengthy essay on Galileo in Racehorses of 2004, they refer to Aidan O’Brien’s determination to run Galileo over shorter, even as short as a mile, in the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in late September. His two final starts were in fact at 10 furlongs - he was edged out by Fantastic Light in the Gr1 Irish Champion Stakes, and finally finished a non-threatening sixth, behind Tiznow and Sakhee, in the 2001 Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt at Belmont Park. One thing about Sadler’s Wells: he’s never been a sire of dirt horses, so why El Prado is such a good dirt sire? Who knows?


Galileo’s first foals were born in 2003, but he was only 11th on the 2005 European Freshman Sire List, the year Montjeu’s first three-year-olds put him second on the European Sire List. But when Galileo’s first crop got to be three-year-olds, it was a different story. His seven three-year- old graded/group stakes winners that year included two Classic winners; Gr1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Nighttime and Gr1 St. Leger Stakes winner Sixties Icon, as well as Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks. And throw in Teofilo, the first of two consecutive champion European two year-olds by Galileo trained by Jim Bolger, and you won’t be surprised to hear Galileo’s stud fee went from Eur37,500 in 2006 (this year’s two-year-olds) to Eur150,000 in 2007 (this year’s yearlings). Galileo was seventh on the 2006 European Sire List; Montjeu was third, behind Coolmore barnmates Danehill and Danehill Dancer.


In 2007, Galileo advanced to second behind Danehill, with Montjeu again third. Danehill ran out of three-year-olds in 2008; Galileo claimed top spot on the European Sire List, with Montjeu second. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I call Montjeu “The Derby Sire,” because in four crops of three-year-olds he’s sired six winners of 12-furlong races that are, or amount to, Derbies: Motivator and Authorized have won the Gr1 Epsom Derby; Hurricane Run and Frozen Fire (2008) have won the Gr1 Irish Derby; and Scorpion and Montmartre (2008) have won the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris since it became a 12-furlong race in 2006. This year’s Gr1 Investec Epsom Derby favorite, Fame and Glory, is from Montjeu’s fifth crop of three-year-olds, and, scarily, won the Gr2 Derrinstown Derby Trial with a higher Racing Post Rating (speed figure, 120) than either Galileo or High Chaparral (also by Sadler’s Wells), who both won the Derrinstown with RPR’s of 119.


For his part, Galileo had sired nine Group 1 winners in his first three crops by the end of 2008.


Besides Nighttime, Sixties Icon, Red Rocks and Teofilo, they include 2007 champion European two-year-old and 2008 Gr1 Epsom Derby winner New Approach; Gr1 Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune (bred by Jim Bolger); triple 2008 Group 1 winner Lush Lashes (trained by Jim Bolger); Gr1 Prix Royal-Oak winner Allegretto; and 2008 Gr1 Italian Derby winner Cima de Triomphe, now trained by Luca Cumani and very much a horse to watch in the top races in 2009 once the ground gets faster again.


Interestingly, though the Maktoum family clearly no longer patronizes Coolmore stallions at the yearling sales, they have nothing against buying them privately later, by which method they acquired Authorized (by Montjeu) and Galileo’s two juvenile champ, Teofilo and New Approach, from Jim Bolger. Coolmore, which after all does still have the “factories” – Montjeu and Galileo themselves - stands only Hurricane Run (by Montjeu).


Then again, we could take a look at the list of Aidan O’Brien’s seven three-year-olds that could line up for the June 6 Gr1 Investec Epsom Derby: all seven are by Sadler’s Wells and sons. Two are by Sadler’s Wells himself (Gr2 Dante winner Black Bear Island and Gr3 Chester Vase second Masterofthehorse), one, favorite Fame and Glory, is by Montjeu; three are by Galileo (Gr1 English 2000 Guineas fourth Rip Van Winkle, Gr2 Dante second Freemantle and Gr3 Lingfield Derby Trial winner Age of Aquarius); and one is by 2002 Gr1 Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral. His second crop of three-year-olds, this year, looks much better than his first.


A final observation: it seems like the connections of every Gr1 Epsom Derby winner go to great lengths to prove that their Derby winner is not “just” a 12-furlong horse because of a perception (never actually validated, from what I can tell) that breeders will be quicker to send mares if they can prove the horse at 10 furlongs as well. So guess what? The two top sires in Europe, Galileo and Montjeu, were both 12-furlong horses; each won at least two of the three major European Derbies (though that was when the Prix du Jockey-Club was 12 furlongs), plus a 12-furlong Group 1 race open to older horses. That 10-furlong deal? It’s a complete myth. Get the right 12 furlong horse and you can top the charts.


How El Prado came to be one of America’s leading sires, and is now threatening to open a branch of the Sadler’s Wells line on the dirt, is still a bit of a mystery to everyone involved. He was a Group 1 winner at two for Vincent O’Brien, having won what Timeform described in Racehorses of 1991 as “a particularly substandard running of the [Gr1] National S….” Timeform did rate him 119 at two, but that seemed almost more by virtue of his win at the end of the season in the Gr2 Beresford Stakes over a mile. El Prado didn’t reappear until halfway through his three year-old season, was unplaced in three starts at eight and 10 furlongs, and was packed off to stud in Kentucky. He was always a pretty useful sire, but not until his sixth crop did Medaglia d’Oro appear, and his eighth crop included three $2-million earners, turf champion Kitten’s Joy and Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller on the grass, and Gr1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Borrego on the dirt. He was Leading Sire in North America in 2002, and second in 2003 and 2004.


Though he’s done well enough in Europe, and gets his share of good grass horses in North America, the truth is El Prado has really got where he is more by siring durable dirt horses with some class than by following the sire line’s otherwise all-turf pattern; he’s succeeded because his runners have successfully adapted to different conditions - dirt. And his very best horse, Medaglia d’Oro, never saw the grass except when they took him out from Frankel’s barn to graze on it - he won $5.7 million racing exclusively on dirt. And from 13 stakes horses to date in his first crop, only one has even placed in a stakes on turf; he has two graded stakes winners on synthetics, but the rest, including the mighty Gr1 Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, have been on dirt. Also, 11 of his first 13 stakes horses are fillies, though whether that means anything, it would be far too early to know.


So, in five years, the great Sadler’s Wells’ prospects as a sire of sires have gone from doubtful to the point where he had the one-two sires in Europe last year, and the hottest dirt sire in North America right now. It’s a pretty big forward move.

SINGAPORE'S PREMIER RACEDAY : The South African Challenge

 Mythical Flight
Kranji, Singapore, 15 May 2009
(Photo : Singapore Turf Club)

Defending Singapore Airlines International Cup Champion, Jay Peg, will jump from stall five in Sunday’s feature event at Kranji, much to the delight of trainer Herman Brown.

“It’s a good draw and gives us plenty of options to ride close to the pace, as he normally does. A lot will also depend on how quick the horses on the inside go,” said Herman Brown.

 

In 2008, Jay Peg sat quietly in second spot before sweeping into the lead for a dominant victory in the 2000m showcase race. The European Bloodstock News reports that the handsome bay has failed to win since and has run below par in three starts since undergoing knee surgery, most recently finishing down the course behind Gladiatorus and Presvis in the Dubai Duty Free.

 

Mike de Kock’s charge, Bankable, will jump from stall three and is considered a possible danger to Audemars Piguet QE II Cup winner and race favourite, Presvis.


“That’s great,” said Mike de Kock’s assistant trainer Trevor Brown following the draw. “He (Bankable) is versatile with a good turn of foot and he’s had a good preparation.”

 

Sean Tarry, was left shaking his head in utter disbelief when his speed merchant, Mythical Flight, came away with barrier 11 for the 1200m KrisFlyer Sprint, where defending champion Takeover Target, well drawn on the inside, is the likely favourite.

 

“It’s a shocker. I’ve said all along we’ll be in trouble if he draws double digits,” said Sean Tarry, who was hoping to draw as close to the rail as possible but added, “We’re here to race. We wanted an inside draw, which can be vital here, but he has very good gate speed, he’s looking well and moving well.”

 

Former South African trainer Patrick Shaw, now based in Singapore, was also left deflated after drawing stall nine for local hero, the undefeated three-year-old, Rocket Man, owned by old friend of Summerhill, Fred Crabbia.

 

“Yes, I’m disappointed with the draw but we have to move on now. It’s not the end of the world but it makes his (Rocket Man) job a bit harder,” said Patrick Shaw.

 

The Australian-bred Rocket Man is the highest rated galloper in Singapore and his wins include both the Kranji and Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprints this season. Rocket Man is a half-brother to the Charles Laird-trained Gr1 winner Our Giant.

 

Summerhill Stud wishes all the South African connections “Voorspoed” and the greatest success on Singapore’s premier raceday.

Jay Peg sends stopwatches flying in Singapore

Jay Peg
Kranji, Singapore, 14 May 2009
(Photo : Singapore Turf Club
)

The final countdown to the 2009 renewals of the Singapore Airlines International Cup and KrisFlyer International Sprint has begun.

 

This morning’s trackwork session at Kranji racecourse wound down to a sedatory pace, with most runners having already concluded the bulk of their preparations.

 

Interesting news from the Singapore Turf Club is that the only candidate to send stopwatches flying was the Herman Brown-trained 2008 Singapore Airlines International Cup winner, Jay Peg, who put a broad smile on his South African connections with a solid hit-out on the Polytrack, underlining his spot-on condition ahead of the $3million race. A bullish assitant-trainer Nicolas Iguacel could not resist sending out an ominous warning after the workout: “More than ready to defend his title!”

 

Jay Peg winning the
2008 Singapore Airlines International Cup Gr1

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Breeding Racehorses : A Matter of Family

 goss family

The Goss Family
(Summerhill Sires Brochure 2008/2009)

 

The tradition of producing quality racehorses goes back almost eight decades among the Gosses. But their admiration for horses as a family has its origins in ancient Ireland, before the Battle of Boyne.

 

Ever since, they’ve held a warm affection for the sport of horseracing, and especially for the animals at the heart of it. The custodianship of that association was never more proudly revered than under the stewardships of Mick’s great grandfather, Edward, his grandfather Pat, and his own father Bryan, and today the manifestation of their obsession lies in everything you see at Summerhill.

 

It is true that in modern times, Summerhill” is a splendid, much-envied brand. Because in the eighty years since they first started breeding racehorses on a tiny scale at The Springs in east Griqualand, the Goss family have never breached the founding principles of excellence and audaciousness, laid down by the man who embodied them.

 

What you’re looking at here, all over again, is history. And more history, in the making. And you’re more than welcome to join us in making some of your own. Because there’s one thing that’s as true today as it was at the Battle of Boyne. We only win if you do.

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THE BATTLE OF THE YOSHIDA FAMILY

yoshida fammily battle

Waging battles on two fronts that took them down to the proverbial finish line last year, brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida continued to dominate racing in Japan unlike any other familial dynasty in the world.

Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder reports that for the fifth consecutive year, Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm scooped the title of leading breeder with 617 runners garnering 310 wins and earning the equivalent of a mind-boggling £54,088,324. Northern-bred runners included three champions: juvenile filly Buena Vista, sprintermiler Sleepless Night and dirt horse Kane Hekili.

HIGHVELD BREEDER OF THE YEAR 2009

Catherine Hartley accepts the award for Breeder of the Year on behalf of Summerhill Stud from Peter Miller  at the 2009 Highveld Racing Awards
(Photo : JC Photographics)

It may not be the National title, but it’s certainly one we’ve always coveted, and we’re very proud to hold. For the second consecutive year, Summerhill was last night named Highveld Breeder Of The Year, and Vuma’s Catherine Hartley was on hand to pick up the silverware. Gauteng is the most competitive racing environment on the continent of Africa, and we’ve always counted ourselves lucky to be among the finalists for this prestigious award.

It’s probably an appropriate moment to revisit our standing on the National Breeders Log as well, where our lead is approaching R5 million. We’re reminded at this time of an advertisement we wrote in May 2005, as we marched to our National Breeders’ Premiership, and we thought we were reasonably comfortable with a R2 million margin. While the big lady still has a bit of singing to do, it’s a comforting thought that there is a sound buffer between us and our pursuers.

We never forget though, the sacrifices our people have made towards this achievement. It’s a sobering thought that, in our 30th year in business, that we should be so deeply indebted to so many, who’ve given up so much in getting us there.

sporting postClick here to view
South African National Breeders Log

AUTUMN IN SOUTH AFRICA

 
AUTUMN IN SOUTH AFRICA
MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE

The rains have stopped now in our part of the world, the days are blue and there’s hardly a cloud in sight. From now until September, the one thing that’s constant with us, is day after day of sunshine, the only difference lies in temperature. From nature’s perspective, Mooi River’s world goes to sleep for a few months and takes a well earned rest after so much output, so much given from September until now.

But for those of us who live here, we’re just entering another era of furious activity, weaning mares, preparing the winter pastures, preparing ourselves for the breeding season and the marketing of the stallions, assessing all the horses on the farm, particularly the mares, with a view to the forthcoming breeding season, and then writing the recommendations to our many customers around the world.

Of course, KwaZulu Natal, Africa’s racing capital, enters its Champion’s Season as we write, and so the sports are only just starting.

It’s a beautiful time at Summerhill and Hartford, and it’s not only the wonderful weather but the changes that come with the seasons, the briskness of the mornings, the warmth of mid-day and the coolness of the evenings. It’s an invigorating time, energies are lifted, and while the land and the environment go to rest, we have a little respite in which to get stuck into our intellectual pursuits.

And then we have a few things to look forward. Next month we have a draft of five yearlings arriving from Australia, two filles by the reigning European champion sire, Galileo, and colts by the celebrated international stallions, Red Ransom, Anabaa and Hussonet. On the same flight we will have a brace of new stallions, two men who will hopefully have a breed-shaping influence on our lives for many years to come.

These are momentous events in the life of a thoroughbred stud, the arrival of two progenitors who’ve been especially selected to take us to new levels.

But this little story is about autumn, not new stallions, and that is a story for another day.

INVESTEC SPONSORS ONE OF THE WORLD’S BIG FIVE

investec“Investec to sponsor English Derby”

Ask any student of racing twenty years ago which the greatest racing event in the world was, and they would’ve unhesitatingly answered the English Derby. Today the title is a vigorous contest between the “Derby” (as it’s commonly known), Paris’ Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Dubai’s World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps the Japan Cup. Certainly, if not alone the greatest, the English Derby stands apart as the most famous.

For all that, who would ever have expected an upstart South African bank to become the Derby’s sponsor? Upstart, did we say? Yes, in global terms that’s probably an apt description, but Investec has always been an innovator, a “breed-shaper”, as we might term it in racing parlance, and that’s exactly what the local banking pacemaker agreed to this week for the next five years.

No doubt, the hand of Bernard Kantor, avid racing man and the fellow that bought us Count Dubois, was more than prominent in this relationship, which follows a £38 million revamp of the Derby’s home, Epsom Downs.

Did we leave out another marquee event when we counted the “big five”? Yes, we probably did, and that’s Royal Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which for almost two decades was sponsored by South Africa’s De Beers. The difference here is that, at the time, De Beers happened to be the world’s biggest diamond producer, whilst Investec has a way to go before it can claim the same status in the banking world. Maybe, just maybe, this is a precursor of what’s to come.

Well done, Investec. From one champion team to another, we salute you.

Of Charl Pretorius, Cocoa Rose and Jacuzzi's

 

 

“NOW THIS IS A STORY WORTH TELLING”

When Cocoa Rose steamed home in the Juvenile event at Scottsville on Sunday, the fact she was Kahal’s second highlighted youngster winning on the weekend, was not the only remarkable thing about the race.

Cocoa Rose has run just three times following her purchase for R70,000 just a few months ago at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale. This victory and her close-up second to the Graded Stakes performer, Ashjaan, has already virtually repaid the outlay of her 10 owners.

The real fable here though, is that five of her owners are “first-timers”, converted to “victimhood” by none other than one of the great scribes of the game, Charl Pretorius (of Racingweb fame www.racingweb.co.za), seen here celebrating at an address we daren’t disclose, judging by his company in the Jacuzzi!

THE VALUE OF PEDIGREE

take the hintTake The Hint
Pretty Polly Stakes 2009
(Photo : PA Photos)

When General Louis Botha, most feared of the Boer generals, took command of his nation’s troops at the foot of Summerhill in November 1899, he knew what he was in for. Britain had already claimed dominion over two thirds of the earth’s surface, and here was a man about to engage the most powerful army in creation.

But this was a man who knew how cavalry, skilfully deployed, could turn the tide of a battle. As a farmer himself, he also knew the value of breeding.

Which brings us to the point. Today’s cavalry may well compete on more peaceful fields, but the contest is just as fierce, and the importance of breeding has never been more critical.

This past weekend at the Guineas meeting in Newmarket England, the point was well made for the umpteenth time. Last year we introduced two exceptional young stallions to our band (Mullins Bay and Stronghold), and both of their already outstanding families received an encouraging boost in the principal Derby and Oaks Trials respectively.

There has been many an outstanding racehorse, not to mention Derby winners, spawned through their exploits in the Newmarket Stakes over ten furlongs of the Rowley Mile course, and on Saturday Your Old Pal (by Rock Of Gibraltar out of a half sister to Mullins Bay,) made it two from three starts thus far as he got up in the dying strides for the victory. In the very next event, the time-honoured Pretty Polly Stakes, (the route the World Champion mare, Ouija Board took on her way to Oaks glory) Stronghold’s half sister (by Montjeu,) Take The Hint, was a comfortable winner in a field whose advertisements included several Group One performers.

Your Old Pal made an impressive six-length winning debut at Newbury last October, and is reportedly headed for Royal Ascot’s King Edward VII Stakes (Gr.2) on the 19th June, while Take The Hint’s next engagement looks like being the English Oaks (Gr.1) on the Friday of the Derby meeting at Epsom.

DEVON AIR’S Group 1 winning relative comes to Stud

She’s On Fire arrives at Summerhill Stud
(Photo : Leigh Wilson)

 “MEMORIES OF THE 1983 DURBAN JULY”

Durban July watchers will remember with great affection the escapades of the fine mare, Devon Air, who took Africa’s greatest horse race end-to-end, and then proceeded to pulverize a quality field in the Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) over the marathon two mile trip at the Greyville circuit a month later. Toiling behind Devon Air on the first Saturday in July was a Summerhill-bred, Versailles, so for us, there was added significance in this grand dame’s victory.

This week, a Group One winning granddaughter (by Jet Master out of Cream Of The Crop, by Concertino out of Devon Air) arrived back for her new career at stud. 6:30pm Sunday evening, to be precise.

We need to be precise about these things, because these are momentous events on stud farms. There are precious few horses in the world that carry the title of “Group One winner”, and She’s On Fire is one of those, having distinguished herself not only at that level among her own sex, but having put up Grade One performances against the colts as well, notably in last year’s renewal of Africa’s richest race, the Gomma Gomma Challenge (Gr.1).

We’ve written about Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and his “picking” talents before and anyone looking at the photograph of She’s On Fire on arrival, will know what we ‘re talking about. And when they come from Ormond Ferraris you can see the hand of a maestro.

A BOYS CONSPIRACY : The Value of Mates

highland cow and calf postcard

So one old customer at Summerhill, whose time goes back almost to the opening of the gates, reminds us periodically of the value of good friends. We had a mutual pal pass away two weeks ago in the form of Sir Clement Freud, and Alec Foster, remembered for his association with Summerhill with his horses Steamy Window (Natal Oaks Gr.1), Cereus (Canon Gold Cup Gr.1) and Red Carpet Style (countless Grades Stakes races), has never been too far from his laptop when things of interest pop up, and he was quick to pounce on the reporting in England’s racingpost.com.

We shall charm you with a couple of extracts over the next few weeks starting with “Ruin stared me in the face. £10,000 was 15 years’ salary, a 200 acre farm in Suffolk, 20 times the average reason for jumping off Beachy Head”.

Quoting from Alec’s postcard to us (the face of which is depicted in this Highland Cow and calf) “I remember when he came to Summerhill to interview you for the Sporting Life. He was not easy either, but he was known for that. I do recall you asking him where he was staying, and he gave the name of a non descript hotel in Pietermaritzburg, to which you, rather mystified, asked why he should be there, rather than at Hartford House. He replied “It’s the nearest hotel to the betting office”. That was Sir Clement Freud.

Active sires in Australia show a 73% drop in last 20 years

Danehill
(Photo : The Virtual Form Guide)

A lack of diversity and dwindling numbers in the sire ranks have become clear trends in Australia - which is the world’s second largest producer of thoroughbreds behind the United States.

Owner & Breeder reports that Michael Ford, keeper of the Australian Stud Book, noted in a recent report that the number of stallions that covered mares has fallen 73% since 1988, from 2,917 to 768 in 2008. The number of mares bred has decreased by about 40%, falling from 44,413 to 26,800. Perhaps most remarkably, of the 768 stallions bred to in Australia last year, 114 were by Danehill and another 56 were grandsons of Danehill, with that prolific line thus accounting for 22% of the total stallion population.

And many of the Danehill line horses are some of Australia’s most active, with Coolmore’s young Danehill stallion Fastnet Rock the busiest in 2008 with a total of 248 mares covered.

Eleven of the top 20 sires in Australia in the most recent season are sons or grandsons of Danehill, including God’s Own, third most active stallion with 196 mares.

Others are Choisir (194), Holy Roman Emperor (180), Oratorio (173), Flying Spur (171), Not A Single Doubt (161), Stratum (159), Dylan Thomas (157), Commands (151) and Exceed And Excel (148).

Ford, however, focused his comments on shuttle stallions rather than the Danehill phenomenon. “Shuttle stallions have been the biggest influential factor in horse breeding in the last 20 years,” wrote Ford in a paper published by Australian Breeding & Racing. “In 1989 there were two: Bluebird and Last Tycoon, and they covered 163 mares between them. In 2006, there were 64, covering 5,627 (an average of 90 for each shuttle stallion) mares – more than one in five of the total Australian population.”

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MATING RECOMMENDATIONS : This is where it all begins...

Broodmare Manager, Annet Becker, with Broodmare Of The Year Aspirant, Cousin Linda, dam of this year’s Cape Flying Championship (Gr.1) Ace, Rebel King and top colt at the NYS, and nightwatch supervisor, Sizwe Ndledla with the dam of Canon Gold Cup (Gr.1) hero, Desert Links (Selborne Park). As Annet said, “It’s a great shot of them both – as well as the mares!”
(Photo : Leigh Wilson)

Our Bloodstock and Broodmare, Foal and Yearling Sales Managers, together with Assistant Managers Richard Hlongwane and Thulani Mnguni, have been scouring the paddocks during the last few weeks, alongside Mick Goss and photographer Leigh Wilson, scrutinizing the weanlings from last season as well as their mothers, with a view to the lengthy deliberations regarding the latter’s stallion mates for the forthcoming year.

This is a painstaking affair, with every detail being noted concerning the mares’ breeding histories, the progeny they’ve already produced, the trainers and the work rider’s views, and now of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we’re looking to the future.

Summerhill farm clients know that over the next few months, they’ll be receiving the first of the proposals from our mating team, whose work spans the wee hours of May, June and July.

There’s a reason why we get so many horses to the races, and why so many train on well into their sixth, seventh and eighth years, and that’s because of the work that gets done in such detail right now.

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Hong Kong Champions Mile Group 1 : POST MORTEM


Champions Mile Gr1 2009
Sha Tin, Hong Kong

Mike de Kock is back in South Africa, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The man is a national treasure, and when it comes to the reputation of South African racehorses and their exportability, nobody’s done more for the game. We picked up on him shortly after he landed, and his feelings about Imbongi’s run (he finished just on two lengths behind the winner), was that he would’ve been a lot closer had he not lost ground on the bend. There was no explanation for it, other than the horse had a little bit of the “slows” midway through the race, yet he ran on resolutely, to get within two lengths of the winner, winding up 6th with a cheque in hand.

Mike’s feeling is that the setbacks his horses suffered in Dubai in the month leading to the World Cup, left them a little short in terms of their preparations, and he feels we’ll see a good bit of improvement when they start up their motors in England in the next month or two. Stay with us, there’ll be more to come from Imbongi.