Hans and Judy Stegeman’s Digteby Stud has been a farm in the news this year. The Digteby Stud, currently home to just eight mares, had a patch when five of their 12 runners won, and the farm is currently eighth on the leading breeders by AEPR (Average Earnings Per Runner List).
Arguably, the most exciting of the current Digteby bred runners is the potential J&B Met candidate Hot Ticket. This son of Silvano is highly regarded by trainer Dean Kannemeyer, and ran a cracking second to the now exported Silvano’s Jet in the Gr2 Betting World Derby last season.
Hot Ticket recently finished sixth, behind stable mate Capetown Noir, in the Gr3 Matchem Stakes, over an inadequate trip, and looks on track for a good Cape Summer Season. A typically late maturing son of Silvano, Hot Ticket really started coming to hand at the end of his 3yo campaign. Prior to his Derby run, the chestnut romped in the 2000m KZN Winter Challenge, winning impressively by four lengths.
Hot Ticket’s dam, Hot Number, goes back to champion sire Silvano this season and has a striking Gitano Hernando colt foal at foot. An 8yo daughter of Sportsworld, Hot Ticket is out of former top sprinter, Hot Seven (by Harry Hotspur).
Another smart performer representing the farm presently is the Paul Matchett trained Chief Sioux. A son of the late Casey Tibbs, Chief Sioux is unbeaten in two outings, and is said to be held in high regard by his connections.
Among the past high-class performers bred by Digteby are the likes of Dance On Wood and Major Hero. Dance On Wood, a son of the Northern Dancer horse Bashkirov, won or placed in 20 races, and scored a memorable win in the Listed November Consolation Handicap. Major Hero, by Rambo Dancer, won ten races in South Africa and Mauritius, including the Gr3 Premier’s Stakes.
Judy, who was a former top show-jumper, has been involved in breeding for over 20 years. A passionate horsewoman, Judy first began riding at the age of seven, before getting involved with the show jumping world. She rode for over 20 years, retiring after the birth of her children.
Her husband Hans, himself a former polo player, also has a long history in the equestrian world, being at one time, the chairman of the Cape Hunt and Amateur Racing Club.
He also operated the Cape Saddlery Shop, in partnership with former top trainer Ralph Rixon’s brother Roy. The Stegemans were originally based in Stellenbosch, but eventually decided to move away in search of greener pastures.
Digteby, which is within reach of many of the Cape’s top stallions, is an isolated farm, set well back off the main road leading to and from Robertson. Baboons wander freely on the property, with the mountains situated just back of the farm.
The farm, which is open to boarding mares, used to house 22 mares, but tough financial times dictate a downsizing of the operation.
An 800 hectare property (of which 30 is used for the stud itself), the Stegemans were attracted to the now Digteby Farm in part because of its isolation, and also by the lack of pollution surrounding the area.
The water comes straight of the mountain, and it is in such an isolated area, there is no cell phone reception!
Digteby have supported a number of sires this season, including Silvano, Elusive Fort, Rebel King and Argonaut. They are also keen on the promising young sire Ashaawes, whom Judy believes in strongly, while last season’s leading first crop sire Antonius Pius another receiving support from Digteby.
The farm’s current crop of yearlings are sired by the likes of Argonaut, Elusive Fort, Rebel King and Windrush. The Stegemans believe in planning their matings around type and conformation, but also make good use of the Sires Handbook. However, they have not made much use of internet programmes.
Judy enjoys supporting both the Cape Premier Yearling Sale and National Sale, but firmly believes that one needs to bring the right horse to each sale. The farm have also supported the National 2yo sale in the past, and are likely to attend that sale again this season.
The stud is also home to a mare with an unusual background. She’s A Picture, a daughter of South Africa’s first equine millionaire Model Man, was born blind. However, this has not impaired her skills as a mother, with She’s A Picture having produced nine foals to date. A very fertile mare, She’s A Picture has adapted to her situation, and is quick to pick up sounds around her. Very fond of people, She’s A Picture, who is from the family of former star miler Ashtowntown (now a leading sire in Kenya), has a Gitano Hernando filly foal at foot.
The Stegemans are helped by four workers, including their top head man, Thabiso Nako, who recently attended the Summerhill School Of Excellence. Their daughter Natasha is interesting in the racing world, and currently updates the farm’s facebook page on a regular basis. Their second daughter, Jessica, unfortunately suffers from asthma, which prevents her from getting involved.
Judy admits their primary goal would be to breed a runner in either of the Met and July, two of South Africa’s most historic races. Hopefully, Hot Ticket can fulfil his breeder’s dream this year!
– Sarah Whitelaw