The Oppenheimer Legacy

Bridget Oppenheimer

Farewell to the Grande Dame Bridget Oppenheimer

Bridget and Harry Oppenheimer’s Mauritzfontein Stud created a long lasting legacy in South Africa. Both in the terms of successful sires and strong female lines, the Mauritzfontein influence remains a potent part of the South African stud book.


A top-class racehorse in France, Janus did extremely well at stud in South Africa. The son of the unbeaten champion Pharis sired the likes of champion Tiger Fish (Durban July), SA Derby hero Open Sea, Ellation (Dingaans) and the SA Oaks winning fillies Baccarat and Dame De Coeur. His daughters produced SA Derby winner Lightning Path, Castle Tankard victor Will To Win, SA Oaks winner Tsessebe and KZN Derby hero Pacer.


The stud’s former champion sire, Wilwyn, sire of such high-class performers King Willow (Durban July), Smash And Grab (Gold Cup) and top sprinter, Uncle Ben, went on to become a very successful broodmare sire.

His daughters produced, among others, champion Sentinel, as well as Hidden Magic (Paddock Stakes), Faro (Natal Fillies Sprint) and Canyon Creek (Champion 2YO Colt). Wilwyn’ son, Col Pickering, is the broodmare sire of the greatest horse raced by the Oppenheimers – and one of the finest horses ever bred in this country, Horse Chestnut.

Free Ride

An extremely successful sire, without ever heading the sires list, Free Ride became a great classic influence. His offspring included no fewer than five SA Oaks winners, while other high-class runners sired by Free Ride include Principal Boy (Durban July), Oakland Bay (SA Derby), Bodrum (SA Classic), With Pleasure (Natal Oaks), and Run For Roses and Medora, both of whom won the Gr1 Garden Province Stakes.

A daughter of Free Ride, Kyle, produced the Gr1 SA Derby hero Kale, while his daughter With Pleasure is the second dam of SA Oaks winner Victoria Bay. Safe to say, Free Ride was a truly classic stallion!

Fort Wood

Mauritzfontein Stud’s resident stallion, Fort Wood, has been one of the most influential stallions in South Africa in recent times. A son of Sadler’s Wells, Fort Wood is one of four Grade/Group One winners produced by the wonderful broodmare Fall Aspen. Winner of the Group One Grand Prix de Paris in 1993, Fort Wood is also very closely related to this year’s Group One Prix du Jockey Club winner, Intello. The stallion got off to the best possible start – his very first runner was Horse Chestnut (one of three sons of Fort Wood to be named Horse Of The Year).

Since that initial crop (which produced seven stakes winners and three grade one winners), top-class horses have come thick and fast for Fort Wood, who was Champion Sire in South Africa in 1998. Dog Rose, Urabamba, Fort Defiance, Monyela, Hunting Tower, and Horse Of The Year Celtic Grove would all keep their sire firmly in the spotlight.

While the once defeated Horse Chestnut (winner of the Triple Crown and J&B Met) remains Fort Wood’s best son, the Sadler’s Wells sire came up with another gem in Horse Of The Year, Dynasty. A truly great horse, Dynasty gave his sire the first of two Vodacom Durban July winners, when successful in 2002 (Hunting Tower would repeat the feat in 2007).

Dynasty has since become a highly successful sire himself, with his offspring including another Horse of the Year in Irish Flame, as well as Equus Champion Beach Beauty and the multiple Grade One winner Jackson.

Horse Chestnut, whose first local crop made a promising start last season, also left behind his share of top-class performers in North America. His stakes winners included Lucifer’s Stone (Gr1 Garden City Breeders Cup Hcp), Spanish Chestnut (Gr2 San Rafael Stakes) and the 16 time stakes winner Smart Enough. Horse Chestnut is also the broodmare sire of the world-class performer Suggestive Boy, a Grade One winner in Argentina and USA (Frank E Kilroe Mile).

Fort Wood has also become a tremendous broodmare sire – no surprise in view of his pedigree and the great support he received. Champion Broodmare Sire in 2012-2013, Fort Wood’s daughters have produced Grade One winners Cherry On The Top, Contador, Capetown Noir, Thunder Dance, as well as Breeders Cup hero and sire, Pluck.

Strike Smartly

While he only left behind 6 crops of racing age, Strike Smartly did succeed in siring a number of high-class horses.  None were better than the brilliant Smart Banker, whose 11 wins netted his connections over R3 000 000 in prize money. The talented performer, rather appropriately, won the Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes twice, and later added the Gr1 Champions Challenge to his tally of big race wins. Other smart performers sired by the beautifully bred Strike Smartly (a full brother to champion US sire Smart Strike) included SA Derby winner Bouquet-Garni, dual Grade One winner Slumdogmillionaire, and last season’s dual feature race winner, General Sherman.

Famous bloodlines at the Oppenheimer stud. There have been a number of potent female lines which have been developed and nurtured at Mauritzfontein. Fishermans Prayer, a daughter of King Salmon, played an important role in the early days of the farm – her descendants including three SA Oaks winner, as well as champions King Willow and Tiger Fish, and the SA Derby winners Lightning Path and Hengist.

In total, no fewer than eight of the mare’s descendants won South African classics. Julie Andrews not only won the Gr1 SA Oaks, but went on to become an exceptional broodmare. Her offspring included July “winner” Principal Boy, top-class colt Col Pickering, and Oaks winning filly Grease Paint.

Top sprinting filly Nalatale has enjoyed tremendous influence on the modern day stud book. Herself the dam of five winners, including ARCSA Champion 3yo Colt Bodrum, Nalatale’s descendants include the mighty Horse Chestnut, Classic winning fillies Monyela and Sport’s Chestnut, Emerald Cup hero Iron Curtain, and champion filly Asylum Seeker.

– Sarah Whitelaw

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