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John MessaraJohn Messara
(Photo : Racing NSW)

“Data comes in all sorts of forms,
and because there’s new history being made every day in racing,
it’s constantly evolving.”

Time was when stud masters judged stallions on intuition, and breeders mated their mares on a cocktail of gut feel, dosages, and the assignment of numbers to female families, cosmology, rattlesnakes and a potion of magic elixirs. Quite amazingly, and despite the mountain of scientific data and the genetic advancements science had made, racehorse producers have long displayed a preference for the myths and urban legends this mystical beast has generated over centuries, in deciding where to send their mares.

It’s a comparatively recent development (successfully exploited by Australia’s John Messara, a man who unsurprisingly came from a financial and stockbroking background,) that analytics first made its appearance in our world. In Messara’s case, you need only look at the history of his Arrowfield Stud, to know that it works. He was the man behind Danehill and his three champion sire sons, Redoute’s Choice, Flying Spur and Danzero, and let’s not forget, he also bred Zabeel, who alongside his sire Sir Tristram, is without peer among the greatest stallions New Zealand has known.

At Summerhill, we rely on a whole lot of inputs in arriving at our mating strategies. We look at the broodmare and her history in an attempt to assess the character she produces, we consult with trainers, jockeys and our own staff to get their impressions of the family and/or the sires’ progeny. We have the marvellous advantage of working with the offspring of both parents in our Ready To Run Programme, and that teaches you a host of things about their constitutions, their minds, how they move and how quickly they learn. We employ our intuitions, directed at soundness, temperament and the likely physical outcome in a mating of specimens. And then, like Messara, we consult data, reams of it.

Data comes in all sorts of forms, and because there’s new history being made every day in racing, it’s constantly evolving. So it doesn’t matter that it’s the end of the breeding season, these things are of interest 24/7, and when they’re of value, you can be sure this team’s alert to them. Just recently, Broodmare Manager, Annet Becker updated our stats on some of the more established stallions in the land, and this is what they look like:

South African Stallions Lifetime Stats

South African Stallions Lifetime Stats*Up to and including foals born in 2009.

There are a couple of interesting numbers emerging from the update. Clearly, there is a soundness correlation among those sires that generate the most runners from foals and their percentage winners. Significantly, Kahal and National Emblem, who produced the bulk of their runners whilst at Summerhill, are rivalled only by Western Winter in their percentage of horses which get to the track. That might have something to with environment and management, as it is borne out by a broader set of figures covering the progeny of all sires at Summerhill. Western Winter, Fort Wood, Dynasty and Silvano are by some distance the most consistent getters of Stakes winners (exclude Trippi in this case, because he’s only had the one crop, and while his numbers are astonishing, they need to be repeated over a period of time). You might have thought Jet Master’s percentage Stakes winners would be higher, but quite clearly, his great attribute is his ability to get the very big horse, which he’s done more regularly than any other of his contemporaries.

Our readers are invited to comment on these numbers, and to ask whatever questions you wish. We have the data, and we can present these numbers however you want, so let’s hear from you. Have a great KwaZulu week if you’re in our vicinity - there’s a bit of warmth about at last, and our conception rates have climbed dramatically in the last few weeks.

summerhill stud, south africa

Enquiries :
Linda Norval +27 (0) 33 263 1081
or email

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