Bo Derek

The lovely star of ‘10’ is credited with the quote – ‘Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, simply didn’t know where to go shopping’.  I think the ladies will agree !  And over the next few weeks, it seems there is rather a lot of happiness on offer.


This week we have Summerhill’s Summer Ready To Run sale on Wednesday, 22 February, followed by Michael Holmes’ Horses In Training Sale at Shongweni on Thursday, 23 February.  Then our Cape Thoroughbred Sales group kicks off March with their Book 2 sale at Kenilworth.

More Ready To Run

This is the first year that Summerhill are adding a Summer fixture to their tried and tested Ready to Run formula.  It is a well-advertised fact that one overlooks a Summerhill horse at your peril with previous ‘regrets’ including names such as Imbongi, Paris Perfect, Bold Ellinore, Emperor Napolean, Vangelis and Hear The Drums.  And if any additional excuse was needed to visit the lush green Summerhill nursery, any horses enjoying a second tour of the ring after going unsold at the Spring edition (and there are 9 on offer), will be eligible for that tantalising entry in the Ready To Run Cup.

As always, the electronic marketing is a joy – there are photographs and videos and all the information you could possibly want on each lot.  There is a wonderful Afrikaans expression about being given a gift with warm hands and with all the Summerhill horses being raised and produced under saddle on the farm, they don’t get handed over any more carefully or warmly than this.

The ever friendly Tarryn Liebenberg offered her top picks starting with lot no 22 – a Stronghold filly called Gypsey Myth.  Stronghold’s freshman crop have stormed out of the gates in emphatic fashion and if the sire isn’t enough to tempt you, Gypsey Myth can also boast being a half-sister to Fisani.  Lot no 26 is a Kahal filly named Khanya who is doing a second tour of the sales ring and thus carries one of those golden Ready To Run tickets on her hip number.  I was lucky enough to pop in at Summerhill to watch the Spring draft have their final gallop.  I did a blind viewing (in other words genius here had left her catalogue at home….) so had to ask after any individual that caught my eye.  It was interesting that most of those turned out to be Mullins Bays, who are garnering glowing reports from the training yards.  They seem to have a particularly good, free shoulder action and I am looking forward to following his progeny on the track.

Chapter and Verse

If you don’t fancy a trek to the Zulu Kingdom, then why not allow yourself to be tempted by the Thoroughbred Sales Group?  They are rolling out the red carpet and their Book 2 sale being hosted at Kenilworth Racecourse comes with a whole lot of warm Cape hospitality.

Competition is an interesting thing in that it forces people to think out of the box.  We are all aware of the state of the economy and the fact that times are hard, but as the expression goes – when the going gets tough, the tough get going and the newly established Cape Thoroughbred Sales are proving that they’re no slouches !

As Robin Bruss mentioned at the CTICC, the team is small, but it is incredible how much ground you can cover with some focussed energy, determination and a bit of chutzpah.  The team have been travelling all across the country on their recent road show and have personally dropped in on over 100 trainers – not bad going when you consider the latest racing fact book stat that there are 179 registered trainers in the country in total.

Book 2 is being marketed as a thoroughly South African sale and with an emphasis on ‘By South Africans, For South Africans’ the team are going all out to make it accessible to everyone.  Catalogues have already been delivered to every registered owner in the country and their website sets new standards in user-friendliness.  The interactive catalogue puts sire, dam or dam sire searches at your fingertips.

There are free return flights on offer from all corners of the country and discounted car rental deals through Hertz.  Vendors are being guaranteed payment on 30 days and purchasers have the choice of 3 payment options.  Payment terms have been extended from 30 days to a generous 60.  There is also the facility to apply for 90 and even 120 days credit through Compass Finance.  And for any early birds, payment within 21 days qualifies for a 1% rebate.

If that’s still not enough to sway you, there is a cocktail evening next Thursday and a Biltong and Braai get together after the races next Saturday, all to be held at the Kenilworth sales grounds.

A Picture is worth 1,000 Words

It seems more and more studs are realising the value of pictorial aids to their catalogue pages and a lot of the lots are accompanied by photographs to make it even easier to draw up a short list.  The University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands conducted a recent study attempting to determine the areas people focussed on when viewing photographs of horses for sale.  The results seemed to suggest that ‘regardless of intent to buy, the most important areas of visual attention in an equine photograph are eyes, mouth and ears’.  So it seems a pretty face does still go a long way !

You Are What You Eat

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Horses in Training evening presented by the Baker McVeigh veterinary practice.  Dr John McVeigh opened proceedings with an address on feeding and nutrition.  It was interesting to listen to the long-term effects that imbalanced feeding or even simply too much food can have on our young stock.  It was particularly enlightening given the current thinking that modern horses are ‘softer’ than their counter parts of 20 and 30 years ago.  With technological advances in food production, modern feeds are far more concentrated and advanced than ever before.  While this has advantages, like all things it needs to be utilised intelligently.

A horse is quite a feat of engineering.  Apart from its size and speed, it is designed to thrive on large volumes of low quality roughage and horses in the wild are said to cover distances of up to 20 miles a day in search of forage.  Of course, modern ‘hot house’ methods of keeping horses work in almost diametric opposition to the original design function – we keep our horses in small enclosures, give them controlled amounts of exercise and feed them small volumes of high quality rations (hence the term ‘concentrates’).

While this is a good thing for industries like meat production where you want achieve the maximum genetic potential in terms of size and bulk in the shortest possible time, it comes at a price.  An individual is born with a finite genetic potential in terms of size.  Good nutrition may help you reach that potential faster, but will not enable you to exceed the prescribed genetic limits.  Unfortunately speed compromises quality.  Dr McVeigh illustrated it beautifully with his analogy of pine trees vs oaks.  A pine tree might grow very tall very fast, but the wood is soft and weak.  An oak tree grows slowly, but the wood is hard, tough and durable.

The same applies to our horses.  By pushing for size and bulk to produce impressive looking yearlings for the sales ring, one risks compromising the quality and integrity of the bone structure.

Whilst a lot of buyers seem to be aware of this and are pretty vocal about the fact that sales horses are too fat, a well-covered, good looking horse seems difficult to resist.  Despite protestations to the contrary, people vote with their wallets and when the chips are down, it seems we still like to buy ém by the pound.

Slowly Does It

Someone who has given the matter a lot of consideration is Vaughan Koster at Cheveley Stud.  He says that while the practice of wrapping youngsters in cotton wool proved popular in the sales ring, he was not satisfied with the results in terms of soundness and track success.  With reputations built on results rather than sale prices, he has been working closely with Dr McVeigh to revise the stud’s feeding and management practices and trying to adopt an oak vs pine tree approach.

The first graduates of the new regime went on offer during January’s Cape Premier Sale and Vaughan admits that it was a tough sale and that there were several comments that their draft was backwards and needed more time.  However, he has taken it on the chin.  ‘The Premier Sale definitely has its place and it creates a tremendous vibe and interest in our industry, but it comes very early in the year, so one has to be very selective about the individuals you nominate.  It is a specific sale for a specific audience and it takes a very specific individual to meet the market requirements’.  However, he is philosophical.  ‘Attitudes will not change overnight, and we are prepared for some negative impact in the short-term, but we are confident that we are producing a sounder, more robust individual.  We are committed to taking a long-term view and will stick to it until the horses reach the track.  The proof will be in the pudding.  If our new graduates suffer less from the costly, commonly encountered juvenile issues such as shin splints, knee chips, etc, hopefully people will learn that Cheveley breeds for soundness and reliability.  Obviously one has to find a balance between what looks good, what sells and what will run, but we are in the business of breeding a race horse, not a sales result’.

Vaughan proves that he is as bold in private as he is in business and is getting married this weekend.  We wish him every success in both endeavors.

Confucius Says

No matter how many clever-sounding TLA’s like ROI, B2B and LOB we bandy around, the fact is that these magnificent beasts seldom, if ever show the dizzying returns we hope for (much less the wild promises we make our accountants !!).  Therefore the true value of a horse will always lie less in its monetary value and more in the pleasure one derives from owning it and the status and lifestyle that ownership implies. And of course, the fact that it allows one to dream.

I searched long and hard for interesting shopping quotes, but they are surprisingly few and far between.  However, a Japanese one I particularly liked goes like this:  If you have only two pennies left in the world, with the first penny, you should buy rice to feed your family. With the second penny, say the wise Japanese, you should buy a lily.  It seems the Japanese understand the importance of dreaming…