It All Starts in the Bloodstock SA Sales Rings

Breeding for the International Market Place

Professional horsemen know it! Those who don’t are learning fast. Now the world is discovering that the best value in young thoroughbreds can be found in the Bloodstock SA sales rings where the gems that have been bred and raised on South Africa’s green pastures can, in international terms, be bought for the proverbial song.

If you need proof, the first five horses past the post in the Western Cape’s famous Grade 1 race, the J&B Met, were collectively purchased for a mere R2,6 million (about 200 000 sterling!) at various BloodStock SA Sales. Their joint earnings, after the ‘Met’, show a figure of near R15 million! But it is in the tensely competitive international arena that South African-breds have made their presence known and respected. Although, due to various reasons, it has been a long time a-coming, the current international successes of SA thoroughbreds has become impressive in its inexorable forward momentum.

Way back when, in 1907, a South African-bred sprinter called Camp Fire II won Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes, the premier sprint even in the UK. Over the decades the odd owner like Solly Joel campaigned SA breds in Europe with fair success.

In 1961, however, appeared a champion called Colorado King. Trained by Sydney Laird. he won ten races in South Africa including the Cape Derby and the Durban July Handicap. Sold to an American racing partnership, he raced in California. There, under trainer Wally Dunn, Colorado King won six races in 1964 including the Hollywood Gold Cup in which he defeated Native Diver and the American Handicap where he equaled the world record for nine furlongs.

In 1964 came Hawaii (by Utrillo II), another star colt owned by American miner Charles Engelhard and a winner of 21 races in South Africa and the United States. He was named US Grass Horse Of The Year in 1969 and his wins abroad included the Group 1 Man O’War Stakes. His 7 graded stakes winners include Henbit (Epsom Derby 1980. TFR 130), Hawaiian Sound 2nd in the Derby (TFR 129), Hanza Dancer 3rd in the Derby with TFR of 124 and Sun and Snow (Kentucky Oaks).

We skip three more decades to 1997, a year in which the great Sydney Laird’s trainer son, Alec, decided to attempt the impossible. He shipped his South African champion, London News, to Hong Kong for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and broke new ground when the son of Bush Telegraph (Jungle Cove), won in great style against popular expectations. London News went on to finish third to star filly Boshra Sham in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes at Ascot.

However, the real ‘action’ started at the end of the 1990s with the emergence of the mercurial Mike de Kock, and his SA Triple Crown winner, Horse Chestnut, by Fort Wood.

Horse Chestnut won 9 of 10 career starts and gave De Kock his first taste of overseas success when winning the Group 3 Broward Handicap at Gulfstream Park, Florida. He was moderately successful at stud in the US, siring several Group winners, and was brought back to South Africa in 2009.

Horse Chestnut, literally opened the floodgates for de Kock. In 2003 he set up a satellite yard in Dubai from which he has trained 90 winners including three Group 1s. De Kock is currently see-sawing with the mighty Godolphin for the winning-most trainer in the history of the highly competitive and ultra-rich Dubai Racing Carnival.

de Kock has been a major supporter of the BSA sales rings and he has achieved much of his success abroad with South African-breds, including UAE Derby winner Victory Moon and other Group winners like Wolf Whistle, Surveyor, Yard-Arm, Crimson Palace (a Group winner in Europe and the US), Irridescence (a group winner in Hong Kong and the US), Grey’s Inn, Kapil, Grand Emporium and Imbongi and not forgetting Jay Peg. The list continues to grow which led de Kock to comment “South African-breds have proven themselves over and over in Dubai and elsewhere. They are flying the flag. They are sound and make good value buys.” This litany of success does not end with de Kock.

His exploits prompted other South Africans to venture abroad with their top horses. Mike Azzie took National Currency to Dubai for a win and to Hong Kong for a Group 1 place. Sean Tarry finished second in the 2008 Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes with National Colour and David Ferraris and Tony Millard have had regular success with BSA value buys in Hong Kong.

Team Valor International President Barry Irwin has been pivotal in his support for South African-breds and is on record as describing the BSA National Yearling Sale as : “the best value thoroughbred sale in the world. From my experience you would pay roughly twice the price for any foal at sales elsewhere in the world. The world hasn’t cottoned on to South African bloodstock yet, despite your great performances in Dubai. It takes courage to come here, but I enjoy myself thoroughly every year. The product is as close to pristine as you are going to get in the modern thoroughbred.’. But the world is discovering South Africa, albeit a bit slowly. Leading international bloodstock experts like Peter Doyle, Angus Gold and Tom Goff are regular visitors to these shores.

The success of SA-breds has not been a freak of nature. In their stated goals to improve bloodlines , leading locally-based breeders like Markus Jooste and Mary Slack have followed the likes of Graham Beck and the Scott Bros, in buying the best available mares from Australia, Argentine, Europe and the US. Jooste was the leading buyer at Australia’s Magic Millions Sale twice in the last five years.

They are supported by some of the most knowledgeable bloodstock agents around including John Freeman and Jehan Malherbe, recently appointed bloodstock advisor to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, who now uses South Africa as a “nursery” for his two-year-olds bought all over the world. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has followed suit with several recent purchases from BSA sales.

South Africa has always been the happy hunting ground of a few shrewd foreign-based owners who holiday here regularly and add to their entertainment with success on the track by local purchases. Fieldspring Racing has enjoyed many a Grade 1 winner including Dynasty and Eyeofthetiger. Lady Laidlaw won the BSA Cape Guineas with Noordhoek Flyer, a smashing chestnut by Pivotal. Dubai-based Jim Hay and German entrepreneur Rupert Plersch have led in winners in Dubai and South Africa. Well-known UK-based horseman David Allan owns Seven Veils, a winner on J&B Met day, and is expanding his South African interests via syndication of horses for small-scale owners. Newmarket-based Rose Leheup, had yet another South African winner when Senior Senator won. She will be hoping he will turn out to be as good as Diamond Quest, her South African Gold Cup winner in 2006.

If one considers that South Africa’s top trainers charge between R6,000 and R8,000 per month per horse (that equates at current exchange rates to about US$1000 or 600 Pounds Sterling per month per horse) draw your correlations and you will be amazed to discover you can keep between five horses or more in training in South Africa at the cost of only a single horse in training in the US or Europe.

Foreigners have capitalized on South Africa’s favourable cost structures and internationalists like the Kalmanson family of Monaco who own Varsfontein Stud, Andreas Jakobs of Germany, owner of Maine Chance and Tony Yong from Singapore, have been quick to recognize the breeding opportunities that exist here.

Champion Breeder of South Africa is Summerhill Stud of Mooi River in the KwaZulu-Natal province. Owned by horseman entrepreneur Mick Goss, Summerhill is renowned for its exceptional facilities, an internationally trained workforce, and a global clientele.

The organization which is owned by South African breeders, offers purchasers unrivalled access to “unequalled value!” “Every year BSA, at its sales around the country gives owners, trainers and agents a window of opportunity to invest in the very best bloodstock the country has to offer at prices that are the most competitive in the world given the internationally proven quality of the stock we produce. In their professionalism invigorated by passion, dedication and ongoing investments in first-class stallions and broodmares a continual priority, South African breeders, supported in their marketing initiatives by BSA, are now producing horses good enough to hold their own anywhere. Slowly the rest of the world is coming to realize this fact.”

Telephone: +27 11 323 5700 or fax: +27 11 323 5788