The South African Breeders’ Championship is one of the tightest held titles in the world, having resided in the hands of just seven entities in over a century.
Summerhill’s ongoing aspirations to build on their modern day record of nine consecutive seasons at the top of the tree has received a major boost with the arrival of two additional big men in the stallion barn.
New man Capetown Noir and established stallion Linngari are set join the ‘new boys’ roster at Summerhill this season.
Like Linngari, Capetown Noir’s bloodlines and Gr1 performances on the track speak volumes.
Let’s take a look at the magnificent Capetown Noir.
You have to hand it to Lady Laidlaw: she’s not one to traverse the road most travelled. Which probably explains, as much as anything, the frequency with which her yellow and black silks occupy the big race winner’s box. There’s no “pot luck” with Her Ladyship, no stone unturned. She surrounds herself with the best advisors, prizes out the best prospects, and pays what it takes; as often as not, she finds the best value.
For many who live in the environs of the Mother City, life starts and stops on that side of the Hottentots Holland mountains. Given a sporting husband and her own spirit of adventure though, it’s unsurprising that Lady Laidlaw’s Khaya Stables is aware there’s life on the eastern side of the Drakensberg. And ironically for a horse of his calling, Summerhill Stud is the chosen home for Capetown Noir, the star in a vintage firmament.
Capetown Noir was born into equine royalty. A son of the stallion Emperor, Western Winter, his mother is a former Broodmare of the Year by champion sire, Fort Wood. His grandmother was a Guineas winner by Summerhill’s own Champion, Northern Guest, from a daughter of yet another champion, Jungle Cove. He didn’t disappoint.
For his first racecourse appearance, he travelled to Scottsville, carrying the burden of outrageous expectation, as much for his work at home as the R1 million price tag he earned as a yearling, in the days when a million was still a “million”. In true Kannemeyer style, no time was lost; he took on, and thumped, the older brigade. He was not yet unsaddled when his champion rider anointed him the best juvenile he’d sat on. When Anton Marcus speaks, most people listen.
From then to the last time he went to the races, he bestrode the ranks of the nation’s best milers like a colossus. If Capetown Noir was part of the parade, no man felt safe. If he wasn’t plundering them, as he did in the two most important “miles” for the Classic and older generations, he was missing by the fraction of a head. As he did behind Vercingetorix and Yorker.
The Cape Of Good Hope Guineas stands alone for the depth and the quality of its contestants. He took it in imperious style, laying waste to the finest three year olds the country could muster.
The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate is the weight-for-age championship of South African racing; it is the oldest horserace on the African continent, older than the game of rugby, older for that matter, than the nation of South Africa. If there’s a race to be won, the Queen’s Plate is the race. And everyone who’s anyone lines up.
There might have been many great winners of the Queen’s Plate, but none of them did it with more panache than Capetown Noir. His victims that day numbered the Group One winners Jackson, Yorker and King Of Pain. It wasn’t a matter of what he beat though; it was the manner of his destruction that mattered.
While his speed is what made him the Champion miler, it was his class that got him to the line in the Investec Derby (Gr.1). In simple terms, Capetown Noir was a Usain Bolt, not a Haile Gebrselassie.
His DNA and his acceleration saw him home on Derby day, and it very nearly got him home against Vercingetorix in the Daily News (Gr.1). Two big performances at a distance two furlongs beyond his optimum. Which tells you he wasn’t only about speed; he was all about “heart”.
Dean Kannemeyer rates Capetown Noir with the best he and his legendary father have trained. Which puts him in the league of six other Guineas winners, and alongside Dynasty. You don’t have to say much more about a racehorse.
The arrival of Western Winter at Lammerskraal Stud heralded the beginning of a golden era for a farm which recently changed hands for a record sum. The likes of Capetown Noir had much to do with the valuation. He was an “X-factor” racehorse with a prince’s pedigree; whatever becomes of Lammerskraal in decades to come, they’ll still be talking about Capetown Noir.
And his arrival at Summerhill marks the best South African racehorse to set foot on the property since National Emblem two decades ago. We all know what he did: two Juvenile sires’ premierships and a prolonged spell among the “Big Five” was an eloquent broadside for those critics who thought he lacked the substance to make a stallion.
The truth is, Capetown Noir is a Thoroughbred jewel, and the boys up at the Summerhill barn will handle him with the delicacy Lord Carnarvon would afford a precious chalice dug from the bowels of an ancient pyramid.