There have been quiet rumblings about the rather smart looking Jet Master colt, Master Of My Fate, for some time now. Last weekend’s victory in the Calulo Services Premier Trophy advertised his credentials in no uncertain terms and the rumblings have turned into something of a riot. In a game where there is no such thing as a sure thing and the only thing you can’t be sure of is a racing certainty, Master Of My Fate seems to be the real deal.
The word ‘champion’ is bandied about far too carelessly and as it’s still very early days I don’t wish to be reckless, however the effortless ease with which he disposes of his rivals sends shivers down the spine.
The story of his sire Jet Master is one of pathos, high drama and set backs, but ultimately he triumphed over adversity to roar his way down our tracks and stamp his giant feet all over our history books. It seems the old warrior is having one last shout from beyond the grave.
The word that persistently pops into my head when I see this colt is ‘echo’. There have been a number of Jet Master progeny that take after their sire, but with his big frame and distinctive white blaze, none more so than Master Of My Fate. And then there is the beautiful name and the fact that Tata Madiba has recently left us and it is weirdly moving and beautiful and when you put together all the threads of his story, just so so appropriate. You’ll have to take a little walk with me down memory lane, but this is his story.
Susan Rowett helped me piece together the early history. “The story of how we bought Secret Pact herself goes back to the National Yearling Sales in 1992. John and I had been very keen on Secret Pact who was in the Cheveley draft, but we had held back because we weren’t sure about Bush Telegraph as a sire and the class of the family.
“After that London News took off and Secret Pact did so well, so when she came up again on the dispersal sale in 1998, we were determined not to make the mistake again. Carl was despatched to Mooi River and reported that she was a magnificent mare. With her own performance, an international star full-brother, her stand-out physical conformation and in foal to Elliodor, Carl warned that she would be very expensive. His favourite line in such circumstance is “We mustn’t over pay for her”.
We knew that there was no way Carl’s nerve would hold in a sustained bidding battle without one of us instructing him on the phone. At the time of the sale I was in Zimbabwe and the telephone connection was risky.
John and I decided that the best bet of getting Secret Pact was that Carl had to have John on the line from Monaco. John is far stronger at bidding than me and less likely to be swayed by Carl’s caution.” And just as well too as Secret Pact caused something of a sensation at the time when the hammer fall for a then South African record price for a broodmare at R750k.
I believe Carl also nearly ended up in jail for the speeding fine he picked up on the way back to the airport! Susan takes up the story again. “Secret Pact duly produced a magnificent colt by Elliodor who we sold in 2000 and was a winner in Singapore. Her second foal for us was the Fort Wood filly Secret Heart and she went to Nationals in 2001. She sold to Mr Jaffee who raced her and then sold her on to Barry Irwin.
“Breeding enthusiasts will know her for being the dam of Breeder’s Cup winner Pluck. The following year she produced a beautiful Elliodor filly, but being a November foal and slow maturing she was not ready for NYS. Then she had a set back so we took her off the 2 year old sale and kept her. She was called Promisefrommyheart. Secret Pact had another 4 live foals, all fillies – and we never took any of them to the sales. She died on 15 February 2010 and we are lucky to have quite a few descendants.”
Quite a Promise
‘Promise’ was sent to Geoff Woodruff and went on to win the Triple Tiara, SA Fillies Guineas, Ipi Tombe Challenge and the Woolavington as well as being named 2003 Equus Champion 3yo Filly, Highveld Champion and Cape Champion. Then something went wrong. The first hint that something wasn’t quite right came after the 2004 Vodacom Durban July. But she lined up for the 2004 Summer Cup and finished under 4 lengths off Winter Solstice in the 2005 Queen’s Plate. Promise was being prepped for the Met when she suddenly collapsed in her stable one day.
Carl de Vos takes up the story. “When that happened, we brought her straight home. It turns out that she had endocarditis and a blood clot had lodged right on one of the heart valves. The clot seems to have got infected and she went backwards very badly. Dr John McVeigh was at Woodhill one day and I called him over to have a look. He recommended a cardiac scanner at Onderstepoort, so we flew a vet and scanner down and we treated her, but it didn’t work.
“One of my neighbours in Hermanus is a heart surgeon and Amanda got me to ask his advice. He said we’d need to treat her a lot more aggressively if we wanted to save the mare, so we got the vets to help and for the next few months we injected her intravenously 3 times a day. It pulled her through, but it was horrible. Dave Timpson got very fond of her and I often found him leaning over the fence just checking on her. The infection is gone now, but we’ve been warned that her heart could give out at any time, so we take it one day at a time.
“She’s a real madam and when she had her first foal, you’d swear her life was coming to an end. We’ve got used to her now, but she likes to take her time and there’s always a big song and dance. She lies there for ages and often only gets up after the foal does! But she’s a good mare and looks after her foals. Her first three were all winners with her colt by Western Winter being exported and winning in the UAE. And then came Master Of My Fate.”
A Star is Born
Susan takes up the story again. “He was born on the 4 September 2009 weighing 57.5kg and was stunning from the word go. I named him from the poem Invictus. “It’s a super strong name and fitted him perfectly with the female line connotation of inner heart-felt secret strength.Also in the same year I named Captainofmysoul. I could not believe that both were still available after many crops of Jetmasters and Captain Als.”
Varsfontein had a par-ticularly strong National Sales draft in 2011 (ending as leading vendors by aggregate and consigning both the top priced filly and top priced colt of the sale) and Carl de Vos relates that a gentleman by the name of Andrew Papageorgiou arrived at the Varsfontein barn and announced his interest in lot 352.
“He kept coming back to lean over the stable door and gaze at Master Of My Fate. He asked me what he would go for. I said he wouldn’t be cheap, but Mr Papageorgiou said ‘I’m buying this horse. No-one else will buy it’. I sent him to the TBA offices to get a buyer’s card. He wanted a limit that would cover the purchase and was advised that the previous record sales price had been Wonder Lawn.” Undeterred, Mr Papa-georgiou made sufficient provision.
His single-minded deter-mination saw him follow the bidding all the way to R3 million, but he got the colt. Master Of My Fate then sustained an injury and sat out most of his 3yo career and Mr Papageorgiou passed away at the end of 2012, so he has sadly missed out on his horse’s exploits, but his wife and son are racing the colt in his memory. At his first start, the colt finished 2nd, but as master conditioner Dennis Drier comments “he beat himself really.”
Since then he’s been a straight A student, culminating in his fluid win at Kenilworth last weekend. The connections will be weighing their options, but his presence is going to add a lot of flavour to the forthcoming Cape Summer of Champions. For fans of the big colt, it’s worth noting that he has a half-sister by Captain Al named Fidelity, who is in training with Eric Sands.
This filly picked up problems early and they didn’t think she’d race, but Eric has brought her along carefully and not only has she raced, but she’s won. Promise has subsequently produced a Captain Al colt named Captain Nemo who will go on the National Sales next year, she has a Var filly on the ground (not for sale) and has just been covered by Judpot.
Varsfontein will also be offering a Promise grandson on next year’s NYS – Captain Splendid (Captain Al – Justthewayyouare). And it is certainly worth following the Varsfontein fortunes. In addition to their big colt, the farm has been enjoying an enviable run of success.
Do You Remember finished 2nd to Cherry On The Top in all three legs of the fillies Triple Crown, won the Woolavington and finished 3rd to Heavy Metal in the July, Forest Indigo won the Golden Horseshoe on July day, Along Came Polly won the Thekwini Stakes on Champions Day, Captain America grabbed the R2 million Lanzerac Ready To Run Stakes, Yorker stormed home in the Sansui Summer Cup and Master Of My Fate and Jet Aglow made it a feature race double last Saturday.
With no less than 3 runners lining up in this weekend’s Grand Parade Cape Guineas and Master Of My Fate being spoilt for choice where to step out next, it would seem that the Varsfontein legacy is secure for some time to come. And Jet Master ? It seems he still has quite a bit to say too.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
– Robyn Louw