The Pickerings have been breeding and boarding commercially since about 2002. Initially purchasing Anton Proctor’s old Burwell Stud in around 2002, they improved the property, sold it on and have repeated the process over the last few years, keeping the Middlefield name and client base as they go along.
About two years ago, they relocated to a property just north of Mooi River and had just got settled in when the house burnt down. But as they say, ‘n boer maak ‘n plan and they bought a house in town and commute to the farm every day, staying over during the foaling season.
Rob admits that living in town takes some getting used to after living on a farm all your life, but after a year and a half, there is an end in sight as they’ve just bought themselves a new base in Nottingham Road. Rob and Michele will move to the new farm in July / August, but as it still needs a bit of work before it will be horse friendly and they still have a few years to run on the Mooi River property, they will be running both farms simultaneously for the time being, with the aim of transferring to their new base once the Mooi River lease runs out.
National Yearling Sale draft
However, focussing on the job at hand, Rob describes their 2014 NYS sales draft as small, but compact. There are a total of 6 yearlings, including 4 colts and 2 fillies. The one likely to draw the most interest is #111, a half-brother to Tippuana Moon by Var. Rob says that like all the best Var’s he’s an impressively strong, compact individual and with his damline, they are confident that this is a Var that should enjoy a mile or more (Tippuana Moon won up to 2500m).
Although it is rare to witness a bidding war over Kahal progeny, Rob says that their lot 247 is a really smart colt and well worth a look. He is from an old Mooi River family out of Crystal Clear (2nd in the Paddock Stakes and dam of King’s Cup winner Thunder Creek). As the catalogue has not yet been updated, it is worth noting that her 2010 Carpocrates colt debuted at Scottsville on 5 April for the Mark Dixon yard. The only unraced horse in the line-up and jumping from a 16 draw, Buck Shot finished 3rd and only 2 lengths off the winner.
Another that should have his admirers is #156, a Kahal colt which is the first foal out of a Jet Master daughter, African Dawn. Rob says this is a roomy, scopey colt.
Rounding off the colts is lot #53 by Mogok out of an own sister to the dam of Super Elegant.
There are also 2 fillies on offer – #219 is a first foal out of a Catalochee mare. Rob says she’s a big, roomy filly and very impressive for a first produce. The other is the only National Emblem on the sale and out of 6-time winning Modern Day mare, Sans Frontiers (#25).
But the best is still to come. Rob says that they travelled to all the top studs and have a smashing crop of foals on the ground for next year’s sale including progeny by Fort Wood, Ideal World, Tiger Ridge, Philanthropist, Kahal and Rebel King. In addition, they will be foaling down around 90 mares this breeding season.
But, the really big news is their new sire, Byword. The striking Juddmonte-bred chestnut was conditioned by Andre Fabre and had 16 career starts (15 in stakes company) in 6 different countries for 7 wins and 3 places. He finished a half a length behind Goldikova in the Gr1 Prix D’Ispahan at Longchamp, pushing the champion filly to a new course record.
He also finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Rip Van Winkle in the Gr1 Juddmonte International Stakes. However, the list of horses he’s ahead of is even more impressive and Byword beat a total of 18 Gr1 winners in his career, including Twice Over, Presvis and two of the horses who finished closest to Frankel during his career – Cirrus des Aigles and Zoffany.
His credentials have not gone unnoticed with support coming from most of KZN’s leading breeders with outside support such as Bosworth Stud, Mauritzfontein and Gary Player Stud. He served a book of 93 mares with 86 confirmed in foal.
Byword is one of 12 Gr1 winners sired by Prix de’l Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celebre (sire of over 60 stakes winners). Out of English Broodmare Of The Year Binche (dam of multiple Gr1 winner Proviso by Dansili), Byword is from the “Peace” family (responsible for successful SA sire Peacetime) and Byword shares his broodmare sire, Woodman, with world leading sire More Than Ready.
He’s got some great mares including Gr1 winner Urabamba and stakes winners Short List, Cantorist, Hurricane Queen, She’s A Star and Kalami. Other well-connected mares include Linsumi (dam of the top-class stakes winner Wishful Eye), Royal Academy matron Japrodisco, the well-bred Singspiel mare Miracle Play, Gr1 placed mare World of Stars (a daughter of hot broodmare sire Sportsworld), as well as half-sisters to Gr1 winners Bouquet-Garni, Stratos and Tara’s Touch.
Rob chuckles “subsequent to buying him, we have had a number of people ask how we got him. We wanted to buy from the UK as opposed to America due to their race day drug policies and we particularly targeted Juddmonte. Ashleigh McNabb did quite a bit of the groundwork and then the two of us did the final selections.
We went to Juddmonte and when we saw Byword in the flesh we just knew he was the one. Grant Pritchard Gordon (affectionately known as Badger) was their racing manager for many years and he helped us. Byword wasn’t actually on the market, but Badger recommended that we make an offer and he guided us in terms of the price. We took a chance and they accepted. There were two French studs after him as were the Americans, so we were lucky. A day later and we might have missed out.”
“We own quite a big chunk, Ashley McNabb owns 50% and Elias Milliotis owns the balance. Michele and I have sent him 30 mares, so we’ve got a lot invested in him. They say good horses do anything and he’s just one of those horses. He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with, right from the get go. He has an amazing temperament – you can take a child in with him. We are very excited about him and that’s our focus at the moment – we’ve just got tunnel vision on him and really hoping he’s going to be a success.”