New Blood, New Hope

South Africa's Stallion renaissance

The South African thoroughbred industry has long faced challenges that threaten its vitality.

Economic downturns, prohibitive bloodstock export protocols and the impact of global events have all played a part in creating a landscape where revitalisation is not just desired, but urgently needed.

At the heart of a possible revival sits authorities from the European Union, generally willing to see through a detailed auditing process to stamp-of-approval stage, but for the last few political hurdles reportedly close to being resolved.

Charl Pretorius writes on that export protocols may be relaxed overnight to signal a new birth for South African breeding and racing, but the decision lies in the hands of a select few.

We have a small horse population today, resulting from fewer active breeders than there were 15 years ago.

We’ve lost the foundation of what once seemed an almost invincible band of stallions in Captain Al, Jet Master, Dynasty, Var and Silvano and more recently potential stars Lancaster Bomber and New Predator.

There are fewer mares going around, and it follows that a smaller number of black-type mares are available to a smaller group of select stallions.

New stallions have fewer mares to cover, which makes it harder than ever before to prove themselves at stud.

“Good, new blood is much needed to inject fresh life into the veins of South African breeding,” said bloodstock authority John Freeman this week.

Freeman, like most others from the breeding community, is positive that we can face challenges with new stallions to stabilise and revitalise our cherished traditions.

There are three freshman stallions and four first-crop stallions represented at Sunday’s Bloodstock SA Cape Yearling Sale at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

They’re seen as a strong, up-and-coming group with the potential to bolster the ranks.

Among them is this season’s leading freshman One World, the son of Captain Al, who has 11 lots catalogued. He is, arguably, the natural heir to the throne of his prolific sire, who died in 2017.

Take a look at the full catalogue for Sunday’s sale here!

Said Freeman: “One World has Captain Al’s beautiful temperament and his foals are similarly big, scopey and plain. He is not supposed to be throwing sprinters, but he’s already had five individual winners from 24 runners, including the promising One Stripe, Lion Rampart and Sahara Cat.”

One World’s maiden stakes winner One Stripe wins the Nursery under Bernard Fayd’herbe (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

“One World is second on the two-year-old sires log to the national, older champion Gimmethegreenlight, who has had six winners up to 19 February. That is already a very good achievement. Captain Al and Jet Master were both freshman sires in 2005. They were neck-and-neck for the title and Jet Master won it on stakes earned by his runners. Captain Al led by winners, 21 to 20, in a time when there were more two-year-old races.

“One World, as a specimen, was already regarded as an outstanding prospect when he was introduced at Drakenstein Stud’s stallion day three years ago. He had much talent as a racehorse, his extraordinary courage was evident in his Cape Met win in 2020. Most of the country’s top breeders own a share of him now alongside Ken Truter, Etienne Braun and Braam van Huyssteen, his original owners. I’d like to predict he’ll be a future champion stallion of South Africa.”

One World has enjoyed full books for each crop sired so far – up to 118 mares per term.

Buffalo Bill Cody (Pic – Wilgerbosdrift)

Wilgerbosdrift’s freshman Buffalo Bill Cody (Redoute’s Choice) has had an explosive start to his career courtesy of Tony Peter-trained Pistol Pete, a most impressive winner of two career starts. Buffalo Bill Cody, like One World, had breeders gasping for his good looks when he was introduced at the farm’s stallion day in 2021.

However, with no Gr1 wins to his name, there was little support forthcoming. He covered less than 20 mares in his first two crops and 30 in his third crop after breeders and buyers had seen the high quality of his foals, including Pistol Pete, an eye-catcher at the 2023 BSA Cape Yearling Sale.

Form Bloodstock’s Jehan Malherbe, who bought Buffalo Bill Cody at the 2016 Tattersalls Yearling Sale at Newmarket, commented: “He won four in a row and was then a short-priced favourite for the 2019 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. But he got very sick on the journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town and had to be scratched. He was never the same after that.”

Malherbe asserts: “Ordinary racehorses don’t generally make good sires (there are always exceptions), but horses who had racing class, but for various valid reasons didn’t win Gr1 races, have to be respected.” In South Africa’s breeding history, sire-of-sires Al Mufti, Persian Wonder, New South Wales, Royal Prerogative and National Assembly fall into this category. Elsewhere, the likes of Mr Prospector, Red Ransom and Pulpit went to stud without Gr1 wins on record.

  • Buffalo Bill Cody is represented by nine yearlings at Sunday’s Sale.

Another freshman who hasn’t started his journey on a pre-paved path is Avontuur’s Talk Of The Town (VAR), but he, too, is producing offspring of exceptional quality. Talk Of The Town won three of just five starts before a career-ending injury. He shares his sire with a host of high-class performers including champions Variety Club, Val De Ra, Via Africa (dam of Australian Gr1 winner In The Congo), Vardy and Anything Goes. Talk Of The Town hails from a potent sire-producing female line and his pedigree shows a notable similarity to Var’s superstar son, Variety Club.

Avontuur’s Pippa Mickleburgh commented: “Talk Of The Town has the blood, size and height to become a good sire. He has no fewer than 10 stallions in his first three dams, including Redoute’s Choice, Manhattan Rain and Hurricane Sky. It’s hard, however. Support hasn’t been great due to his track record lacking a Graded win, but he did post a hat-trick up to a mile before he was injured. Who knows what he could have been?”

Talk Of The Town’s first runner, Famous Lady, was a well-backed winner over 800m for trainer Alson Ndzilana at Turffontein first time out, just before Christmas Day last year. He has two colts and two fillies on offer at Sunday’s Sale.

There are no Gr1 worries for Form’s first-crop sire Hawwaam (Silvano), also from Wilgerbosdrift Stud. He won eight Graded races, including five Gr1’s, and buyers’ early confidence reflected in Hawwaam’s nine 2024 Cape Premier Yearling Sale foals yielding a R566,000 average.

“Among the new sires, I was impressed by the offspring of the new Silvano stallion, Hawwaam. I didn’t know much about him; I just saw his yearlings walking by, and they were eye-catching,” noted yearling inspector Ric Wylie when doing his rounds in 2023.

“I can’t add much more than that,” said Malherbe, who’d probably challenge Freeman’s prediction about One World, but only after a glass of good wine.

Another freshman stallion is Soqrat (Epaulette), whose early progress was stunted by the death of Shadwell’s Sheikh Hamdan, who sent him to James Armitage at Sandown Stud. Armitage said: “Shadwell reduced their interests over time, sold most of their mares.”

Soqrat (Pic – Sandown Stud )

A triple Gr1-winning champion from the dominant Danehill male line, Soqrat only covered 30 mares in his first two seasons.

“We got 55 mares in his third crop after breeders saw his first foals, which is encouraging, but he will have to prove himself the hard way,” said Armitage. Soqrat’s pair of yearlings at the Cape Premier Sale fetched R400,000, and his single runner so far finished just five lengths off in a Maiden Juvenile Plate. His colt and filly at Sunday’s sale are nice, strong specimens and they’re going to present good pin-hooking value. By the time the Ready To Run Sale rolls on in October, Soqrat is likely to have a few winners on the board.

The first crop of Declaration Of Peace (USA) are now yearlings and while he did cover 82 mares in his first season at Mike McHardy’s MacRath Stud in Nottingham Road, KZN, he only arrived in October of 2021 and most of that crop consisted of late foals. “There is one colt on the BSA Sale, the rest have been held back for sales later this year when they will have matured more,” said McHardy.

As a Gr2 Breeders Cup Juvenile winning son of star sire War Front, Declaration Of Peace has had two excellent South African flagbearers in his sire’s other sons Fire Away and Lancaster Bomber and McHardy said: “It’s all about speed, that is what breeders want and the support for Declaration Of Peace has been amazing, especially from Cape Breeders, who have made up about 55% of his covering books so far. He had 126 mares to follow the ‘late’ 80, and then a further 101 for his third crop. His first bunch of foals will catch up, we are excited about his future.”

Erik The Red (Pic – Freeman Stallion)

Varsfontein Stud’s first-crop stallion Erik The Red is another promising son of Captain Al, from the illustrious Secret Pact female line. He has a lot going for him as a career-interrupted Gr2 winner, six times successful from just nine starts.

Erik The Red, described by his trainer Justin Snaith as a horse with tremendous heart, had a beautiful action, lightning acceleration and the will to win. These are traits John Freeman believes he is passing to his progeny.

He said: “Erik The Red was the first three-year-old to win the Cape Merchants in 22 years, but had to retire due to injury. He has it all, including a beautiful temperament. I bought one of his colts for R300,000 at the Premier Sale in January and I’ll be buying more at the BSA Sale.”

With the support of his powerful home base, it’s hard to see how Erik The Red can go wrong. He has 17 yearlings to go through the ring on Sunday, 12 of whom will be presented by Varsfontein.

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