Big Numbers & Big Names

It’s “Gallops” week for the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale, and so the performance of Bloodstock markets around the world was always going to be of topical interest to South African horsemen.  Europe’s premier sale of yearlings, at Tattersalls in England, wound up this week with staggering gains in average and median ranging between 32% and 41%.  This follows hard on the heels of a mightily successful Keeneland September, America’s number one venue, which reminds us that there is a point beneath which horsemen with an appreciation for the inherent quality of bloodstock, will not allow values to descend.  The desire of one rich man to beat the next rich man for racing’s biggest prizes remains as compelling as ever, and it’s worth remembering that next year in South Africa, there will still be Durban Julys, J&B Mets and Summer Cups to be won, not to mention the R2million Ready To Run Cup.

This is obviously heartening news for consignors to this year’s Ready To Run Sale, where the catalogue advertises a record entry of foreign-breds (25) for any sale in South Africa, despite the limitation of this one to a 160-odd entries.  The progeny of Galileo were the star performers at the English sale, following a season in which his runners have broken every conceivable record in terms of major races, and we were reminded here just how good a stallion he is, with the exploits of Igugu, our 2011 Horse of the Year.  Interestingly, the Summerhill draft includes a colt from the immediate family of Galileo and his illustrious half-brother, Sea The Stars, a son from the first Southern hemisphere-bred crop of Street Sense, the only horse in history to have won a Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.

He’s no one-horse pony trick however, as there are any number of world class sires scattered about the catalogue, including four youngsters by Rock of Gibraltar, who, on Saturday, notched up his 15th and 16th Group winners for this season alone.  The record books tell us this is an achievement without precedent in South African breeding.

The gallops are staged at Turffontein on Wednesday, 12th October and then there’s the big one at Summerhill Stud on Friday, 14th October at 11h00 sharp.  The “one-two” finish of graduates of the sale in this year’s Vodacom Durban July has obviously stirred the interests of horsemen, and Summerhill has been a hive of visitors to see the horses, including perennial KZN Champion trainer, Dennis Drier and 2009 National Champion trainer, Charles Laird.  Wednesday and Thursday witnesses an influx of visitors from around the world to the Midlands nursery, as well as the panellists Mike de Kock, Jehan Malherbe, Joey Ramsden, Sean Tarry, Graeme Hawkins, Dean Kannemeyer, Michael Roberts , Craig Peters and celebrated international guest, Kip Elser, whose job it is to make their fancies for the sale known to the public once the gallops have been concluded.  There is no other sale in the world that provides this service, and the number of people that remain behind to hear the views of these learned gentleman, is testimony to the success of what has now been a feature of the Summerhill Gallops for five years, and the popularity of which is revealed in the thousands of people who visit the Summerhill website in the aftermath of the gallops.

There are some interesting insights on these gentlemen on their website, ( parts of which I have reproduced here with their kind permission:

Mike de Kock : He’s the man everyone wants to know. He’s become the idol of a social set to which he never belonged, and to which, you suspect, he never wanted to belong. De Kock knows the rich and famous, he has himself become rich and famous. Yet fame has not changed him, not outwardly anyway. He doesn’t conform. He can’t; he isn’t like anyone else.

Joey Ramsden : Has a pedigree as deep as the game itself. On his way to the mountaintop.

Dean Kannemeyer : Horses from his toes to the top of his head. Nothing left to prove. One of the best.

Michael Roberts : Taught the British how to ride. A legend long before his time, from Japan to the United States.

Graeme Hawkins : Simply put, “Mr. Racing”. Commentator, auctioneer and administrator, he sees them coming, while others search for clues.

Jehan Malherbe : Serves some of the biggest names in racing. Is there a better eye for a good horse in the game?

Sean Tarry : National Colour, Mythical Flight, Successful Bidder. A meteoric rise through the ranks, this rocket’s got momentum, and it ain’t stoppin’ here.

Craig Peters : Master of his profession, and a walking encyclopaedia on the game. Brings a special dimension to the gallops.

Kip Elser: Special international guest Kip Elser is one of the leading exponents of the art of prepping Ready To Run horses in the USA. Kip’s triumphs include 2011 Kentucky Oaks (Gr.1) heroine, Plum Pretty, and Garden City (Gr.1) ace Winter Memories, as well as champions Smoke Glacken and Alphabet Soup, Sharp Cat, Royal Anthem, Memories of Silver, and a further two Kentucky Oaks winners in Keeper Hill and Gal In A Ruckus. His Kirkwood Stables have several times sold the top priced horse at the American Breeze Ups.

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