It is one of life’s pities that we reward marketing before we reward excellence and quality is so often overlooked in favour of quantity. Dazzled by the reputation and razzmatazz of big name brands, people often miss the quality on offer right under their noses from smaller operations. The shrewdies, of course, are not fooled.
At the 2007 National Yearling Sales, Team Valor`s Barry Irwin went to R800 000 for a Rich Man’s Gold colt out of Light Fandango (re-named Golden Idol, the colt would go on to achieve 2 wins and 2 places from 5 starts for Geoff Woodruff). Afterwards, Irwin was quoted as saying that he would have been prepared to pay the top price of the sale for the individual, but that he had been spared having to go any higher on account of the colt having been bred by “an obscure German woman breeder”.
“The obscure German woman breeder”
That “obscure German woman breeder” was Barbara Sanne. Born near Breslau when it was part of Germany, Barbara grew up on a sugar estate and being brought up with horses, Barbara says she has simply never lived without them. At the end of the Second World War tracts of East Germany were ceded to Poland, including their farm, but they managed to keep 3 horses and her father provided for his family by pulling timber out of the forests. There was no money to fund Barbara’s aspirations to become a vet, so she joined Siemens who paid for her to qualify as an electrical engineer. It was at Siemens that she met her future husband Reinhard.
The Siemens Group relocated the family to Johannesburg in 1963. Five years later Mrs Sanne established Oldlands Stud and started breeding as a hobby. “I only had a handful of mares. We didn’t breed any world beaters, but I learned a lot.” Her first horse, bred in 1969, was named Gold Esel, after the Grimm fairy tale. He was by My Realm out of Veronique and trained by Les Rathbone. “Les came to us to look at this yearling and said “Wow, nice yearling. I’ll train him for you if you like. My fees are R27.50 / month. Can you afford it?” Barbara chuckles. He won his 2nd start convincingly. Stakes were R700 back then. Those were the days.”
The Sanne’s had a holiday home in Hermanus and on doing some research, Barbara discovered that it rained there every month of the year. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s rather like Ireland and there they grow horses,’ so we bought the farm Oude Hemel en Aarde from Hamilton Russell in 1995.”
Barbara Sanne is not one for the limelight, but over a period of 3 weeks in 2008, two horses which she bred won three international races between them, from just three starts.
On the world stage
Rippling Ring and Lucky Find were both part of Oldlands’ 2005 NYS draft. Rippling Ring went under the hammer to Dominic Zaki for R110,000 and Lucky Find was considered a ‘bargain buy” for Dennis Drier’s client Bill Nelson at R450 000. “At the sale I told owner Bill Nelson to wait for him, not to buy anything else. Bill was patient, didn’t raise a hand at all. He bided his time and when Lucky Find came along, we secured him at what we considered to be a very good price.
I always believed he was a top horse and after his good second in the Daily News we specifically left him out of the July so he could mature. I advised Mike de Kock that he would be a good purchase. As it turned out he then had time to mature while on his way to Dubai. The rest is now history.’’ Lucky Find raced in the colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. Lucky Find had 4 outings in the 2008 Dubai Carnival for two wins and a 3rd place, earning him a ticket to the Dubai World Cup, where he finished 6th behind US Champion Curlin, stable companion Asiatic Boy and AP Arrow. He won in England in 2008 and then ran in the 2009 and 2010 Dubai Carnivals again, notching up another win and 2 placings. Lucky Find is now a lead pony in Dubai.
After winning 3 of his first 4 starts, Rippling Ring was 4th in the Cape Derby and won the Derby Trial at the Vaal before finishing 3rd in the SA Derby. He ran 2 ½ lengths behind Pick Six in the Gomma Gomma Challenge and was getting ready for a tilt at the July when he was acquired by American James Atkinson. He made it as far as France before Rippling Ring was spotted by bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley and purchased by Andy Stewart who consigned him to leading jumps trainer, Paul Nicholls. On 17 January 2008 Lucky Find made his Dubai debut, capturing the 1800m Invasor Stakes at Nad Al Sheba by 7 lengths. On 7 February he followed up with another 2 length victory, this time in the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2. And inbetween Rippling Ring won his debut over the sticks at Doncaster by over six lengths. Rippling Ring would have 11 starts “over the sticks” (including a Gr1 outing at the Cheltenham Festival) for 2 wins and 3 places.
But it seems that was not enough to make folks sit up and pay attention. Mrs Sanne was back in the spotlight this year when another Oldlands-bred, Sanshaawes (incidentally owned by the same Sheikh who bought Lucky Find), notched 2 wins and 2 places at this year’s Dubai Carnival, earning him a starting berth in Dubai World Cup. Unfortunately he was fractious in the pens and ended up catching a front leg over the gate. We will never know what that might have cost him and Sanshaawes finished 6th behind African Story.
Mrs Sanne followed his exploits on TV. “They invited me with Lucky Find and I went with my sons and I know what it looks like. Someone asked me why I’m not going and I said ‘Maybe if that horse wins I’ll have a heart attack and it will be easier if I’m at home! I’m too busy anyway. Nationals are coming up and so on and these trips take a lot out of me – I’m getting a bit old you know!” Sanshaawes was originally knocked down for R30k to Izak Cronje at the 2011 Cape Yearling Sale. Mrs Sanne is philosophical, “It is the right thing. We are little guys, but we are so proud to have produced a horse like that.”
And yet, Oldlands seem to have a knack for producing horses ‘like that’. Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes and Gr3 Cup Trial winner Astro News was knocked down for R200k at the 2010 NYS. SA Fillies Guineas winner Go Indigo (by Mrs Sanne’s resident stallion Go Indigo) failed to reach her R40k reserve at the 2010 KZN Yearling Sale. SA Classic
winner English Garden was a R100 000 purchase at the 2009 Grandwest Yearling Sale.
This year, Oldlands consigns a 5-strong NYS draft,
– Lateral filly from the family of Nocturnal Affair (#46)
– Querari filly out of Group winning mare Dacha (#251)
– Indigo Magic colt from Group winning mare Happy Harriet (#336)
– Rebel King filly out of a Dacha granddaughter (#458)
– Silvano half-brother to Astro News and Darling Moon (#494)
Perhaps with 2 Dubai World Cup and a Cheltenham Festival runner to her credit, the ‘German woman breeder’ might be a little less obscure from now on.