Tuesday, 16 April 2013 dawned grey and chilly and would herald the end of an era, not only for Varsfontein, but also for the South African racing and breeding fraternity.
Since the arrival of Gimmethegreenlight, Caesour had been installed in the stables by the Varsfontein office and the old stallion was in the habit of greeting Carl’s daily arrival with a neigh. However, when Carl unlocked the office at 5:45 this Tuesday morning, the air remained silent. Carl and assistant manager Jaco went to check Caesour’s box and found that the old man had passed quietly and peacefully during the night.
Caesour was foaled in Kentucky on 22 May 1990 and bred by Stavros Niarchos’ Flaxman Holdings Ltd (which also produced current Varsfontein resident sire, Judpot). The classy, dark bay son of Nureyev would race over 4 seasons in a career spanning 3 countries, 27 starts, 6 career wins and 2 USA track records including the Turf Paradise Budweiser Breeders Cup Handicap and the Bay Meadows Handicap.
At the end of his racing career, Caesour was selected for Varsfontein by Alexandra Scrope. He arrived on the farm in 1996 and of his first crop of 32 foals, 28 were runners and 19 were winners and included the likes of SA Fillies Classic winner Caughtintheslips and graded stakes placed runners Diplomat and Caesars Warrior plus Hail Caesour and Emperors Dance. It was the start of what would be a phenomenal run. Apart from his South African successes, Caesour was perhaps most remarkable for the legacy his progeny have left on the international racing scene.
His international champions include Irridescence (Equus Champion 3 YO Classic horse in 2005, who raced with distinction in South Africa, the UAE, Hong Kong, France, the UK and the USA), Perfect Promise (who made history by becoming the first South African bred filly to win a Gr2 in Australia and then took on the colts to win the Gr1 C F Orr Stakes at Caulfield in February 2006), Dane Julia (raced in Australia and won a New Zealand Gr1) and Alexandra Rose (who raced with distinction in the UAE and USA). Local champions include The Eiger Sanction, Highveld Champion Stayer and winner of the 2003 Gold Bowl, Regal Ransom, Tobe or Nottobe (2004 Equus Champion 3 YO Sprinter), O Caesour, Chant de Nuit (Gr2 Camellia Stakes and Listed Sycamore Sprint), Arcola (Gr2 SA Oaks and Gr3 Gold Cup), and the winners keep coming. Recent winners include Cause To Believe, A Boy Named Sue and Tevez. Caesour produced high quality, good-looking foals and champions over both sprint and distance races. Caesour is a sire of sires and is becoming a force in our paddocks too, being the broodmare sire of the likes of Emerald Cove, Dancewiththedevil, Tales of Bravery and Royal Bencher. With Varsfontein having retained all of last season’s fillies, there are sure to be more to come.
I saw the 22 year old Caesour at the Varsfontein stallion day in July last year. He was in magnificent condition, full of fire and spirit and still every inch the master of his domain. I saw him again a month or so ago on a visit to Agter Paarl. Caesour occupied a large, grassy paddock where he liked to spend his days in the shade of his favourite tree. He had still covered a small book of mares last season, all of which are confirmed in foal.
Carl says the beautiful stallion had just slowly deteriorated over the last week or so. “There have been a lot of viruses going around. We had the vet out on the weekend to check him. We couldn’t find anything wrong with his blood. On Monday the vet checked him again and still couldn’t find anything, but you could see he wasn’t right. I checked on him last night and this morning we found him in his stable. He hadn’t even disturbed the bedding, so it seems he passed peacefully.”
Carl is a man of few words, but says simply “It’s been very emotional. Susan and I were younger when we lost Mexico and Fair Season. But Caesour was the first stallion that we jointly decided on for the farm and he’s the first one where we’ve done the whole thing together – from his first season at stud, right through to the end ….” His voice tails off.
“Caesour was a pleasure to have on the farm. He was a typical stallion and wanted to make sure you knew he was the boss, but he was very easy to work with and extremely fertile. He was a very intelligent horse and has left an incredible legacy, not only for Varsfontein, but for South African racing and breeding as a whole. Words are hopelessly inadequate for everything he meant to us. He will be missed.”
Caesour (USA). 22 May 1990 – 16 April 2013. RIP.