A Helluva Story Behind Once ‘Awkward’ July Winner

“This time it was fair and square,” quipped Vaughan Koster of Cheveley Stud, the registered breeder of Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July winner Oriental Charm.

Vaughan was of course referring to Cheveley-bred Legislate, whose success came courtesy of a successful, if slightly controversial objection after the son of Dynasty had finished second to Wylie Hall in 2014, but was awarded the race on the grounds of interference.

Syd Laird leads Mazarin (Bert Hayden) with owner Mrs Tenderini after the 1971 Durban July win

Syd Laird leads Mazarin (Bert Hayden) with owner Mrs Tenderini after the 1971 Durban July win (Pic – Supplied)

Oriental Charm’s July success is the latest for the Koster clan, which stretches back half a century, to 1971 to be exact, when the Syd Laird-trained Mazarin justified his cramped odds with a dominant three-length victory.

Despite an unfavourable draw, the colt won in record time.

Mazarin was bred by Vaughan’s grandfather Ralph Koster at the original Klavervlei Stud in Beaufort West and was sired by the famed Koster stallion Preamble II out of the homebred mare Nun’s Story, who also features as the grandam of National Emblem.

Vaughan’s father, the late Wilfred Koster, bred 1996 Durban July hero London News at Cheveley. This son of 1987 winner Bush Telegraph was trained by Syd Laird’s son Alec and like Oriental Charm, never saw a rival to claim the 100th running of the race under Piere Strydom.

Seven years after Legislate’s promoted win, the 2021 July honours fell to the handsome Kommetdieding, bred by Vaughan’s nephew John at the ‘new’ Klawervlei Stud in Bonnievale.

Oriental Charm is out of stakes-placed Souk, a daughter of the Oppenheimer-owned and bred Greys Inn, who stormed to victory in the 2004 July.

2004 Gr1 Vodacom Durban July winner Greys Inn – Saturday’s winning broodmare sire (Pic – Supplied)

A product of the Mauritzfontein paddocks, Souk hails from a female line that has served the Oppenheimer family well, originating from the purchase of the stakes-winner Daphne Donnelly.

Whilst classic horses were the meat and drink of the farm, she was a sprinter pure and simple and clearly took after her sire Golden Thatch, as did her full sister, the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes winner Lady Broadhurst.

Daphne Donnelly’s attraction was quite obvious. Her dam, the American import You’re My Lady, was a Roberto half-sister to Danehill’s dam Razyana, whilst their dam, the Buckpasser mare Spring Adieu, counted the mighty Northern Dancer amongst her siblings. In short, a female line to die for.

Oriental Charm and JP van der Merwe enjoy their victory canter

Oriental Charm and JP van der Merwe enjoy their victory canter (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Sadly, Daphne Donnelly was not the most prolific of broodmares and produced just five foals, all by Fort Wood. Thankfully, four of those were fillies and all have become black type producers.

Souk is a grandaughter of her first foal Bay Tree, who returned to her birthplace as a two-time winner and when mated to Mauritzfontein stallion Strike Smartly, produced Gr1 SA Derby hero Bouquet-Garni as her second foal. Her first, a filly by the same sire named Tagine, never raced but became the dam of Souk.

Souk was sent into training with young Adam Marcus and sporting the Oppenheimer silks, broke her maiden second time out by a handy two lengths.

Mrs Oppenheimer had passed away by the time Souk won again, this time for Adam’s father Basil and Wendy Probert, the Secretary of the Western Cape Breeders Club. For the partnership, she would score once more and also earn small black type when second in the Listed Sweet Chestnut Stakes.

At the end of her racing career, Souk was sent to Cheveley Stud, where she produced the three-time winning fillies Athalia and Touch Of Grace as her first two foals. Oriental Charm is her fourth foal.

Vaughan remembers him as “an awkward yearling when we took him to the National Sales, probably the reason why he only sold for R375,000.”

Who would have thought that this ‘awkward’ colt would eventually become a Durban July winner?

More importantly, Oriental Charm showed an indomitable will to win in the July, a trait he inherited from his dam.

At a loss for words? Never! Part owners Greg Bortz and Gina Goldsmith enjoy the moment

At a loss for words? Never! Part owners Greg Bortz and Gina Goldsmith enjoy the moment (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“She imparts absolute heart to her foals,” Vaughan recalls. “They never give up and just keep trying.”

He probably now rues the fact that Souk is no longer at Cheveley, the mare having left the farm when he reduced his broodmare band in 2021.

Turns out, she is now with fellow breeder Anton Shepherd at Beaumont Stud. He takes up the story.

“Wendy, who is an old family friend, offered me the mare’s then weanling filly by Legislate, which I bought. She was a nice sort and that really put me onto the mare.

“To cut a long story short, Wendy was looking for a home for Souk and although she was not in foal at the time, I agreed to take her over, with Wendy keeping a small share. Souk is a high-class, quality individual and besides, I have always liked the female line. The rest as they say, is history!”

Anton Shepherd

The Legislate filly was offered for sale at last year’s Winter Mixed sale and sold for R140,000, the name on the buyers list being none other than that of Basil Marcus. She is now in training and will race in the same partnership as her dam.

Anton reports that Souk is currently in foal to Fire Away and will visit either Vercingetorix or champion freshman elect One World in the spring.

By the way, the family has really come to light this season. While Oriental Charm’s July victory is the cherry on the cake, it was preceded by stable companion Frances Ethel’s success in the Gr2 SA Oaks.

The Mauritzfontein-bred daughter of Rafeef, who races in the Team Valor silks, is out of Daphne Garland, an unraced full sister to Bay Tree.

Contrary to earlier reports, she will stay in training in South Africa for the coming racing season and together with Oriental Charm, should provide the Crawford team with plenty of ammunition.

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