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Canford Cliffs Heads SA Freshman Battle Royale

The season draws to a close and the title chase is on

With the racing season fast coming to a close, the battle for supremacy amongst the freshman class of ‘first crop’ stallions is hotting up.

At the time of writing, Ridgemont Highlands-based Canford Cliffs leads the way, both in terms of winners (13) and stakes won (R1,388,700).

The athletic Canford Cliffs

Also in fifth place on the overall Juvenile List, he is long odds-on to become Ridgemont Highlands’ second successive champion freshman sire after Rafeef claimed the title last season.

Boasting an impressive haul of Gr1 victories in the Irish 2000 Guineas, Sussex, Lockinge, Queen Anne and St James’s Palace, Canford Cliffs proved himself Europe’s dominant miler at three and four. He retired to Coolmore Stud in 2012, from where he shuttled to Australia until his purchase by Ridgemont Highlands as a proven sire of Graded stakes winners in both hemispheres.

As befits a horse of his stature, Canford Cliffs covered well over 100 mares in his first South African season and it is only fitting that his first stakes winner, the Summer Juvenile Stakes and East Cape Nursery winner Cliff Top, was bred by Ridgemont Highlands.

Canford Cliffs’ son Cliff Top – dual stakes winner and an exciting prospect (Pic – Pauline Herman)

Racing is very much a numbers game and having enjoyed such strong support in his first local season, it comes as no surprise that his winners have come from a sizeable 35 runners. That the majority have shown plenty of toe is also no coincidence, since Canford Cliffs won the Gr2 Coventry Stakes at two. In addition, he is a son of the Gr1 juvenile winner Tagula.

Mind you, those that have shown scope and have scored over 1400m and 1600m include Meridius, who finds himself amongst the entries for the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes, while daughters I Am Regal and Rock The Fox have thrown their hats into the ring for the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes.

Chasing Canford Cliffs to the title is Maine Chance-based Erupt, whose seven winners from 25 runners have earned R932 500, which also places him in ninth position on the Juvenile Sires list.

Erupt (photo: Jeremy Nelson)

A son of Dubawi from the sire-producing female family of Encosta De Lago, Flying Spur and Lode, Erupt certainly lived up to his fine pedigree on the track, winning both the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris and Woodbine’s Gr1 Canadian International. He too, has sired a first-crop stakes winner in Karangetang, who started his career in sensational fashion by winning the Listed Storm Bird Stakes on debut and following up in the Gr3 Protea Stakes.

Considering that he was a late maturing stayer, Erupt’s ability to sire seven juvenile winners is a feather in his cap, especially as all have won over sprints.

Maine Chance owner Dr Andreas Jacobs is understandably proud of the young stallion:

“We are thrilled with the start of Erupt, if not pleasantly surprised. As we know with Dubawi in Europe, he does have the ability to put speed into his progeny and so do his sons at stud. With the troublesome first year in South Africa, Erupt was only able to cover a very small book and to have had the juvenile success off those small numbers, is very encouraging. We are most excited about his crops to follow, as he more than doubled his first crop covering size in his next  two years and his second crop yearlings have been well received at the sales this year. We fully expect him to follow through with more stamina horses and when the numbers kick in from his next crops, he should really make his presence felt,” he added.

Another to keep an eye on is Klawervlei’s Royal Mo.

Royal Mo – keep an eye on this newbie

A Gr1-placed, Gr3 winning son of leading American sire Uncle Mo, he took his time to get off the mark and only sired his first winner in early June, when Justin Snaith-trained Royal Aussie broke his maiden at Kenilworth over 1400m.

Royal Mo has since made up for lost time with Mo Jive and Rule Of Thumb both scoring fluent victories over a similar distance. Furthermore, his nine starters to date also include four that have placed.

Now that the winners are coming, there is every reason to believe that this handsome individual will keep the momentum going.

Drakenstein-based Gold Standard, a Gr1-performed son of the farm’s champion stallion Trippi, was also slow out of the gate before siring a trio of winners in fairly quick succession, amongst which the Drakenstein homebreds Hold My Hand and Golden Hostess, both of which have been entered for the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes.

The magnificent Rabada

Rounding out the quintet of successful freshman sires is KZN-based Rabada. Trained by Mike Azzie, this grandson of Storm Cat set the seal on an unbeaten juvenile campaign with a smart victory in the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes at Hollywoodbets Greyville and returned twelve months later to earn his classic stripes in the Gr1 Daily News 2000.

Initially retired to birthplace Summerhill Stud, he now stands at Bruce le Roux’s Blue Sky Thoroughbreds. To date, he has sired a brace of winners in Summerhill-bred duo Mysterious Girl and Onnetilia, both fillies scoring second time out.

With a good number of placed runners lurking in the wings, that total is sure to grow, for as Bruce remarked:”We obviously would have liked to see a couple more winners, but the feedback is positive and many report that the Rabada’s are only now starting to come to hand.”

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