Canny race card readers would have noticed a couple of particularly eye-catching entries on the programme for Kenilworth’s card on Wednesday, 16 November 2016.
The first race of the afternoon’s programme was the 1200m Welcome To Kenilworth Maiden Plate featuring 18 runners including Ridgemont Stud’s Baltia (trained by Brett Crawford), who is the first runner out of Baltic Beauty, a full sister to Mother Russia. Joey Ramsden saddled Mayfair Speculators’ Dance At Dawn, a full sister to Dean Kannemeyer’s sprint star, Real Princess and half sister to Vaughan Marshall’s promising-looking William Longsword (due to line up in this weekend’s Selangor Cup). Dennis Drier’s Field Of Light is a full sister to Jackson and Plattner Racing’s Andre Nel stepped out Ngaga, a Fastnet Rock filly out of Zarinia, making her a half sister to 2011 Equus Horse Of The Year, Igugu.
Ngaga duly delivered on her credentials too, with Aldo Domeyer getting her home a solid half a length ahead of Class Protector who had the services of 4kg claiming apprentice Craig Bantam in the saddle.
Andre Nel took over at the helm of Platter Racing a little over a year ago and we caught him by phone at his Yzerfontein base to chat about his charge. “She’s a filly that we think has ability. I expected her to win yesterday, but was hoping she would win a little more easily than she did, although it’s perhaps premature to put pressure on a filly like this after only one start.”
Andre explains that the filly didn’t make her reserve and was bought on spec by bloodstock agent, James Bester. By Fastnet Rock out of Zarinia, Ngaga was bred by Kia Ora Stud and was a $250,000 purchase at the 2015 Inglis Easter Sale. James looks at hundreds of yearlings every year and has a particular insight into Fastnet Rock, having purchased his dam, Piccadilly Circus, as a yearling.
Ngaga is the sixth foal to race out of the unraced Irish-bred mare Zarinia (Intikhab). While Zarinia’s best produce to date is undoubtedly SA’s Horse of the Year Igugu, Zarinia has also produced Australian Gr3 Craven Plate winner Honorius (Holy Roman Emperor) and Gr3-placed Sweet Fire (Shamardal) and hails from the outstanding Aga Khan family of undefeated Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Zarkava.
James was kind enough to delve into his sales archives for us regarding Ngaga’s purchase. “This filly was, front legs aside, a ‘stand-out’ on ‘physique’ and ‘action’. A filly with plenty of size, scope and strength (in common with many by her sire), she was also imbued with a lot of ‘quality’; I loved her head, eye and nostril, along with a lovely, big, generous set of ears that so many good fillies have. She had a good forearm and gaskin, good shoulder and girth and very good hindquarter, with a good, purposeful, active walk. The front legs, however, left a little to be desired! My wife, who is a vet, was confident that she would ‘stand up’ to training, but in essence, she was, on pedigree and overall physique, a near-million-dollar filly who was going to be crucified in the sale ring for her supposed ‘faults’ of front limb.”
James confirms the bidding stopped short of her reserve price and she was led out of the ring unsold, but he went straight back to the barn to have a look at her. Having earmarked a potential client for the filly, James bought her on spec. He says, “That client ended up not ‘closing’ on the deal, so right away I thought of my good friend and long-term client Sabine Plattner (with whom I’d previously had success with the likes of Laisserfaire, Joie de Grise and many others, including, more recently, Acrostar).”
Andre continues, “Mrs Plattner didn’t take much convincing, seeing that Ngaga will be incredibly valuable as a broodmare. However, we went into the deal with our eyes open – she’s not got great conformation, which is probably why she didn’t make her reserve.” However, his Yzerfontein base, with its private tracks and proximity to the beach is ideal for horses that need a little extra care and attention. “Being able to walk her on the beach and in the sea will all help. She hasn’t given us any problems yet, but we’ve also been quite kind to her. Had we started earlier, or pushed a little harder, things might have been different. As they get older, they seem to strengthen up as well, but we think she’s pretty nice and just need to focus on keeping her sound.”
What is she like?
Asked to describe the filly, Andre says, “She probably doesn’t look like Igugu. She’s a big, robust filly with a lot of bone. She’s got a bit of a coarse head with big floppy ears – you can’t miss her. Her temperament is pretty straightforward and she’s got a lot of character about her. She’s not feisty, but lets you know when you walk past her box and she likes to have a nip at you. She hasn’t got a sweet temperament, but she’s definitely not difficult. I prefer them to have character and she does have that.”
“Mrs Plattner is obviously quite fond of this girl as well and the name is very special. Mrs Plattner is very involved with charities in the Congo, with a particular focus on helping children and helping save the rain forest. She owns a reserve in the Congo called Odzala and one of the lodges is called Ngaga. It’s a name we’ve been sitting on for a long time and we waited for a horse that we thought would be good enough.”
Although a debut win for a filly with this sort of pedigree is pretty exciting, Andre remains cautious about her future, adding that her conformation requires thoughtful management and that they will be pick her future races carefully. “I’m pretty sure she’ll go over ground, but at this stage we’ll take it one step at a time. We won’t jump in at the deep end and she will have to show us how good she is gradually.”
While Andre has got his feet well and truly under the table at Plattner Racing, he has a long association with the outfit, having worked in the yard at Yzerfontein facility for four years before spending the next four at the Summerveld satellite yard. He then switched to the breeding side and was manager of the La Plaisance Stud near George for more than five years. Asked whether he’s enjoying his new role, he answers, “It’s very satisfying, particularly with the homebreds. It’s a very easy job – I only have one person to please and so far so good!”