With a number of recent features being won by Australian imports, it was encouraging to note that all three of Saturday’s Kenilworth features were won by South African bred thoroughbreds.
Perhaps doubly encouraging was the fact that the day’s richest race went the way of Safe Harbour –a daughter of the South African bred champion Elusive Fort.
The bay Elusive Fort was certainly bred to be good from the start – by champion sire, Fort Wood (surely one of the best sires ever to stand at stud in South Africa), Elusive Fort (one of 15 G1 winners for his sire) is a half-brother to former Gr3 Kenilworth Fillies Nursery winner, Easyjadeasy (Model Man).
Elusive Fort’s full sister Esprit is the dam of last season’s Gr3 Winter Derby winner, Elusive Silva (Silvano), while current smart three-year-old, Elusive Path (Pathfork), is another good performer from this family.
It is also interesting to note that Elusive Fort’s broodmare sire, Secret Prospector, is a three parts brother in blood to the late North American sire, Not For Love, broodmare sire of the mighty champion, California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), and the prolific sire and outstanding broodmare sire, Woodman, whose daughters have produced, among others, More Than Ready.
This remarkable family (known widely as the “E” family), continues to excel in both South Africa and abroad.
Multiple Gr1 winner, Rio De La Plata (Rahy), who stands under the Darley banner in France, won a trio of Gr1 races during his career and also finished second in the Gr1 French 2000 Guineas.
A great grandson of Escolastica (whose dam Empiric is also fourth dam of Elusive Fort), Rio De La Plata is currently the fourth leading first crop sire (by stakes money) in France.
Other notable performers from this superb female line include South African champions, Ecurie (Liloy), Eventuail (Candy Stripes), Escoleta Fitz (Fitzcarraldo) and the “Galloping Goldmine” herself, Empress Club (Farnesio). Elusive Fort’s second dam, Epoque (Oak Dancer), was a Gr1 winning half-sister to Ecurie and Empress Club.
Elusive Fort more than lived up to expectations on the racetrack and became yet another Equus champion to emerge from this female line.
A winner of seven of his 13 local outings, Elusive Fort scored major victories in the Gr1 SA Derby, Gr1 Daily News 2000 and Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes.
His Derby win saw Elusive Fort named Equus Champion Male Stayer of 2006.
While the SA Derby may not be the most fashionable race to be won by a prospective sire, it is perhaps worth remembering that past winners of the 2450m classic include subsequent champion sire, Elevation (High Veldt), Gr1 sire and Smart Call’s broodmare sire, Horse Chestnut (Fort Wood), and Greys Inn (Zabeel), the sire of reigning Horse Of The Year, Legal Eagle. Elusive Fort also ran second in the G3 Appleton Handicap (finishing ahead of Gr1 Shadwell Turf Mile hero, Host, in the process) in a brief US campaign.
Elusive Fort’s small first crop made an instant impression and included 14 winners (from 25 runners).
Star of his first crop was Gr1 winner, Siren’s Call, who looked most unlucky not to win South Africa’s Triple Tiara (Gauteng Fillies Guineas, SA Fillies Classic, SA Oaks) back in 2015.
His subsequent crop also produced a Gr1 winner, in the form of Thekwini Stakes winner, Lauderdale.
Elusive Fort’s second crop includes the high class stakes winning sprinter, Ernie, among 19 individual winners.
His current crop of 3yos also look very smart, and include not only Safe Harbour but another likely Cape Fillies Guineas contender in Smokey Affair, as well as Cape Classic runner up, Elevated.
Both Lauderdale and Safe Harbour were bred by Dr Jim Antrobus.
When taking into the account of quality of mare covered by Elusive Fort thus far (his early books included daughters of less than stellar sires Among Men, Darby Fair, Mistral Dancer and Personal Hope) one must conclude that this locally bred star is an exciting asset to South Africa’s stallion band.
Interestingly both his Gr1 winners to date are out of Gone West line mares, which suggests this mating could bear more fruit in years to come.
Peter de Beyer, who is closely involved with Elusive Fort, had the following to say about the rising sire star:
“Elusive Fort was sold to race in USA by his original owner, Ebrahim Khan, having competed with great success under Geoff Woodruff. He only had a few starts there, due to injury. Plans to stand him at stud in USA were scuppered by the financial crisis of 2008/9, and the fact that his racing success was only on turf. Tony Mincione heard that he was on the market, and suggested to me that I put in an offer and bring him back to stand in SA. My initial offer in late 2009 was rejected and there were other interested bidders, but those deals fell through. We made a final (somewhat cheeky) offer early in 2010, and secured the deal. There were some anxious moments during the import process as it coincided with the financial problems experienced by BBR who handled the import transport. As a result, he only landed in CT in June 2010 instead of March as originally planned. Craig Carey of Arc-en-Ciel was very supportive, and agreed to stand EF there and gave him an excellent operational start. I syndicated him at only R35k per share, and we managed to attract 20 outside shareholders, mostly smaller breeders for whose support we are very grateful. We brought in Allan Bloodlines for his second season for marketing and Syndicate Management and have not only supported our original shareholders with various initiatives but have also expanded the syndicate including some of the top breeders in the country.
He was launched at a fee of R10k live foal, and his first book was a modest 43 mares. We erred in only offering one cover per share for the first year, but rectified this in 2011. He covered 65 mares in his second year, and this built up nicely to 85 in 2012, his third year. His book in 2013 was negatively affected by the Arc-en-Ciel closure (which included the dispersal of all their mares) and he only covered 45 in that year. The move to Klipdrif has been very successful and there is a very good working relationship between the stud and Allan. Elusive Fort has excellent fertility and he has comfortably managed his 2015 and 2016 books of 120 mares. The phenomenal success of first crop daughter Siren’s Call in 2014/5, together with the general quality of his foals and their racing success, led to an upsurge in interest.
The quality of mares has improved significantly over the past two seasons, as we are now getting support from some of the larger studs, and breeders who have tasted success are also sending some of their better mares.”
- Sarah Whitelaw