‘I had a farm in Africa’. Meryl Streep’s opening sentence for Out Of Africa conjures up images of sweeping vistas and vast open plains as far as the eye can see. However the continent is changing fast and with seismic political and economic changes over the last few decades, the Africa of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke novel is retreating into the sepia shades of history.
The racing and breeding communities have not been immune and Zimbabwean breeding, once a thriving community, had dwindled down to a trickle. Among the casualties is Diz Buckler’s Sarahdane Stud, which is ceasing operations after 18 years and is offering her two broodmares and five Fencing Master yearlings out of black type mares.
About Sarahdane Stud
Sarahdane Stud was owned and run by Diz and the late Byrne Buckler. Diz, who is Zimbabwean born and bred, married the English-born Byrne. She explains that when their 24 year old daughter passed away from an asthma attack, “Our life was in total chaos, so we decided we were going to start a breeding operation.”
“I was terrified of horses,” Diz continues. “My husband was nuts about them from a very young age and was very taken with racing in particular. When we got married, he bought a couple of racehorses. Of course once you have race horses, you’ve got to do something when they stop racing. He decided to start breeding and I let him get on with it. One day he was injecting a horse and got his finger in the way and ended up injecting himself and a vet friend said ‘no Diz, you’re going to have to take over.’ When my daughter went, it was so easy to just throw myself into it and let it encompass me. It saved my life, really. You walk into a paddock and they instinctively know when one needs help.”
“When we moved onto the farm, our first stallion was Century Stand who was with us for 14 years and had a lot of success. He produced Earl Of Surrey, who was a 21 time winner who also had 5 wins in South Africa, so that was our claim to fame. Then we had Divine Act, Fly By Day and latterly we stood Fencing Master.”
One of the top juveniles of his generation, Fencing Master won on his 2yo debut before being touched off by a neck in Britain’s premier 2yo contest, the 2009 Gr1 Dewhurst Stakes over 1400m. Whilst suffering the narrowest of defeats by stablemate Beethoven (another son of Oratorio), Fencing Master accounted for a host of talented stakes performers, including the subsequent Gr1 winners Xtension, Pure Champion, Buzzword and Dick Turpin. Fencing Master received a Timeform Rating of 116 at two, ahead of Gr1 winners such as Joshua Tree, Kingsfort, Poet’s Voice, Dick Turpin, Cape Blanco and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf hero Pounced.
Fencing Master is by Avontuur Stud’s resident sire Oratorio, a triple Gr1 winning son of Danehill. He is out of the Gr1 Prix Saint Alary winner, Moonlight Dance, whose own dam, Madelia, was unbeaten in a racing career that included both the Gr1 French Oaks and French 1000 Guineas. Moonlight Dance is also the dam of Gr1 French Oaks runner up Millionaia.
“Fencing Master came from Dubai,” explains Diz. “He was destined to go to stud in South Africa four years ago, but the day before he was about to leave, the stud burnt down. It was September already and no-one wanted to take a chance on a new stallion that late in the season, so they rang me and asked whether I would take him and I said yes.”
“Our horse industry has virtually collapsed,” Diz continues. “The Club is in very bad financial straights and owes a lot of money. Sports betting is taking over as one can make a lot of money with very little outlay and the Tote is struggling to compete. The whole racecourse is being revamped and is reducing from 2700m to 2400m. They are building the track as we speak. It is chaotic and there is limited space to train on, but we have to start somewhere. It will be brilliant once it is done, but there are challenges at the moment.”
“The economic situation here is awful. You can only draw $50 a day from banks. Getting cash is difficult and I have 25 workers, so paying wages is difficult. In 2000, they took over the farm and left me with only 20 hectares for paddocks. Fortunately I’ve got access to 60ha, which is where I bring up my horses and that’s fabulous, otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do it. A lot of farms have been taken over and most of the breeding industry been affected. In our hey day we had as many as 40 breeders, I think there are only two or three left.”
Diz’s husband passed away 5 years ago and she kept the farm going on her own ever since. “Fortunately for me, I was able to continue, but it’s got to the point where I have no more clients and I’ve got to close down. In the meantime, Fencing Master has gone to Hemel ‘n Aarde, but I’ve got these beautiful yearlings, which are probably the best I’ve ever produced. I’ve had a few open days, but nobody is prepared to take a chance. It would mean keeping them for a whole year before anything can be done with them. Buyers here are going to South Africa and buying ready to run 2yo’s as cheaply as they can. We haven’t had a sale for the last 3 or 4 years. It’s actually killed us breeders,” she says sadly.
“In terms of broodmares, ours are actually good. We’ve brought in a lot from South Africa and overseas, many of a high standard. But with the industry bringing in cheapies from South Africa, it’s going to affect our breeding programme when those end up going to stud. We are also severely limited in the stallions we have available.”
“Fencing Master throws fantastic progeny. Because of the mess with the tracks and lack of rain, people have been holding back, but he’s had a few runners up here and his stats are good. He’s by Oratorio who is just getting off the ground in South Africa and with that sire line and his fantastic damline, Fencing Master has a really strong pedigree – his progeny have just got to be good!”
Diz is offering two broodmares as follows:-
2009 Ravishing – Didoe (Kahal)
Dam of 3 foals to date.
2014 c by Fencing Master. Lord Defender. Sold at TBA National 2yo Sale. In training with Roy Magner.
2015 c by Fencing Master. Bush Man (yearling)
2016 f by Fencing Master (foal)
2004 Divine Act – Moonlight Cruise (Sailor Prince [NZ]).
Dam of 5 foals to date.
2011 f by Century Stand. Invincible Swan. In training with G Terzi. Three time winner.
2013 c by Century Stand. Man Of Distinction. In training with Bridget Stidolph
2014 f by Fencing Master. Queen Of The River. In training with G Terzi
2015 c by Century Stand. Double O Seven (yearling). Possibly the last progeny of Century Stand.
2016 f by Fencing Master (foal)
Diz is offering 5 yearlings as follows:-
2015 c Fencing Master – Little Chikitita (Ravishing)
2015 c Fencing Master – Sun Diva (Kitalpha)
2015 f Fencing Master – Cydney’s Dawn (Century Stand)
2015 c Fencing Master – Dupa Dear (Tilden)
2015 f Fencing Master – Countess (Lizard Island)
Diz says, “I would be grateful if I could just get someone to look after them until the sales next year and make something of them. It would be such a waste for blood like this to go down the drain.” If anyone is interested in any of the stock, please contact Diz either by email at [email protected] or by phone on +263 77 576 7067.