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A Winter Damascus Moment

Gem King on track for WSB Winter Series

Gem King kept his Winter Series dream alive when adding last weekend’s Gr3 Legal Eagle Stakes to his earlier victory in the Gr3 Variety Mile Stakes.

With the first two legs in the bag, the three-year-old now rates a likely favourite for the final leg, the Gr3 Pocket Power Stakes, which, incidentally, is named in honour of the first Winter Series winner.

A triple Horse of the Year, this legend of the turf raced in the pink, white and blue silks of Marsh Shirtliff, as does Gem King.

Pocket Power was by the late great Jet Master, as is Master Of My Fate, the sire of Gem King.

Gem King saors home in the Gr3 Legal Eagle Stakes (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Based at birthplace Varsfontein Stud, this imposing bay has become a high-profile stallion and has been churning out the winners at a rate of knots. In fact, Gem King was one of a treble of winners on the day.

Last season, he gave his illustrious barnmate Gimmethegreenlight a run for his money to finish second on the General Sires List and is currently vying for second place with What A Winter and Gimmethegreenlight.

No wonder then that respected bloodstock consultant John Freeman, who manages the stallion, made a bold statement after Gem King’s latest success when he remarked on social media:’This son of Master Of My Fate has now won the first two legs of the Winter Series – congrats all round. I wouldn’t be surprised if Master Of My Fate makes champion sire this year.’

Varsfontein can take credit as breeders of both Gem King and Master Of My Fate’s recent Gr2 World Sports Betting Guineas winner Zapatillas. The similarities do not end there, for Gem King is out of Gem Queen, a daughter of Damascus Gate, who also features as the broodmare sire of Dame Of Damascus, the grandam of Zapatillas.

Master Of My Fate

Further reinforcing Damascus Gate’s affinity with Jet Master and his sons is the filly True Beauty. A recent winner of Zimbabwe’s premier racing event, the Castle Tankard, she was bred at the Orford’s Bosworth Farm Stud and is by underrated Jet Master stallion Skitt Skizzle, while her grandam is Damascus Gate’s daughter Lady Be True.

In addition, Scorched, the dam of Gr2 Dingaans winner and Gr1 SA Derby second Shango, is by Jet Master out of the Damascus Gate mare Run To Daddy.

No doubt the name Damascus Gate fails to ring a bell with many readers. This former Highlands stallion was trained by the late Terrance Millard and ran three times for two wins and a second before chronic ringbone put paid to his racing career.

He nevertheless deserved a place at stud due to his superb pedigree. By successful sire Damascus,he was out of the Buckpasser mare Spring Adieu, a winning half-sister to breed-shaping stallion Northern Dancer, while her half-sister Razyana produced another powerhouse stallion in Danehill.

Former Highlands stud manager Mike Sharkey remembers Damascus Gate well and remarked: “He was a pleasure to work with, a solid, good-looking horse with a lovely temperament, who also threw good-looking foals. Sadly, he didn’t get the chance he should have.”

Stark words. Damascus Gate nevertheless managed to sire a dozen stakes winners, topped by the Champion 3YO sprinter Damasco and Graded stakes winners Your Eminence (Gr2) and Lawrence Of Arabia (Gr3).

Damascus Gate was one of just a handful of Damascus stallions to stand in this country, and for the purpose of this article, another was Rollins, who just happens to be the damsire of Jet Master!

Tragically, Rollins’ tenure at the late Chris Saunders’ Ivanhoe Stud in the Natal Midlands was all too brief, he was killed by lightning when just eight years old.

His untimely death was an immense loss, considering he left behind such fine gallopers as Champion juvenile filly Point With Pride, the Gr1 winner Love Of London, Gr1 performer and sire Raise A Raucus, as well as the stakes winners Lady Rollinda, Road To Reform, Game Of Glory and Strawberry Girl.

Ironically, Damascus Gate also found his way to KwaZulu-Natal, exchanging Highlands for Golden Acres, where he died in obscurity in 2008.

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