The Summerhill Stallion Barn is open for business…
(Photo : Greig Muir/Nicholas Goss/Leigh Willson)
THE “X FACTOR”
In the southern hemisphere, the first of September heralds the beginning of spring. At Summerhill, look around you and you see the first buds appearing on the willows and the poplars, while the acacias on the hills abounding Giant’s Castle are pushing out the first tiny signs that they’ve managed a winter in a territory they weren’t supposed to be suited to. This is the hillside on which the great general (and South Africa’s first Prime Minister,) Louis Botha assumed command of the Boer forces in November 1899, a moment rued by the British as he became the most feared soldier of the war.
Here was a man who understood the value of good horse breeding when it came to the deployment of his cavalry, and while the game has changed, the competition for the breeding of the best horses is just as intense these days.
Summerhill has assembled the strongest battery of stallions in its history : it is conceivably the most formidable line-up in the annals of South African breeding, and with the arrival of the reinforcements in the form of Brave Tin Soldier in the next couple of days. Wednesday it will be all systems go as Greig Muir opens the stallion barn for the commencement of the covering season.
At a gathering of the province’s breeders at Summerhill last Thursday, we talked about the roles of racing class and pedigree in the production of top sires, and there appeared to be a consensus that, while these two factors are critical in the evaluation of any potential stallion, the “X factor” is what sets the great ones apart.
Conversation then turned to what constitutes the “X factor”, and its seems it’s the gut feel we develop for a stallion that wakes us up at night. Perhaps it’s that moment in the race when he turns on the magic, maybe it’s his presence when he walks out in front of you, but whatever it is, it’s what takes your breath away. Advance bookings to stallions are the first indication that a horse has caught the imaginations of horsemen, and the way Brave Tin Soldier’s services have flown off the shelves this year, tells us that he has it.
Last year, it was A.P. Arrow and Admire Main, and now their foals are lending credence to the judgement of those who supported them. The season before it, was Mullins Bay and Stronghold that lit the fireworks. While Stronghold is sadly gone, the fact that in his third season, Mullins Bay is as popular a horse as there is in the barn, is the best indicator that even our strongest rivals have developed a healthy respect for what they’re seeing on the ground.
Both back from leave today, Greig and Linda Norval (stallion bookings) are fresh as daisies, and waiting for your calls. Those of us who’ve had to step up for their portfolios while they’ve been away, will be relieved. There’s been a deluge!
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