“There were a couple of sentimental occurrences
on the international circuit last week”
There were a couple of sentimental occurrences on the international circuit last week. First, Mike de Kock reminded the world of his talent when the last of the National Assemblys, Soft Falling Rain (bred by Highlands), put an international field to the sword in the UAE Guineas Trial, powering home by 2.75 lengths. There’s no knowing the class of the field, but he’s been off the racecourse since his commanding victory in the Gold Medallion (Gr.1) in May last year, and he was going an extra furlong here. It bodes well for his chances in the UAE Guineas, where his trainer thinks he’ll get the mile. Why sentimental? Tarryn Liebenberg, Michael Booysen and their crew gave him his early education right here at Summerhill, and they testify to a quick learner, a lovely, low-raking action and a reliable temperament.
Gulfstream Park in Florida, USA, hosted the annual Eclipse Racing Awards on the weekend, and the Horse of the Year was a horse who’d done most of his racing on the turf (unusually for an American Horse of the Year), but he was equally effective, if you delve into his record, on the dirt. Wise Dan is by little-heralded Wiseman’s Ferry, (and here’s the sentiment,) from a Wolf Power mare. Of course, we all remember Wolf Power as the horse whom the celebrated British racing journalist, Tony Morris, declared the “best miler in the world” of his time, and there’s another personal connection involved. The deal to sell Wolf Power to the United States for an incredible $3.5million in the early 1980s was orchestrated by our law firm, and we attended to the legal documentation as well. There’s an interesting story here, as we initially acted for an American buyer, a Oklahoma gentleman by the name of Dr Orr, who bought the horse initially for $4million. The sellers however, insisted the horse run one last race in the Clairwood Champion Stakes (R60,000 to the winner), and Dr Orr insisted in turn that if the horse were injured in the race, he would have the right to withdraw from the deal. “The Wolf” started at prohibitive odds, and in a remarkable twist of events, for the first time at the distance, Wolf Power was beaten into fourth place. Believe it or not, he pulled up with a deep cut behind his right front fetlock. I attended the vet’s inspection after the race, reported to Dr Orr, who summarily cancelled. The connections couldn’t believe it, but I suspect the determination to squeeze the last R60,000 out of the deal was as much the cause of the crestfallen looks on their faces as it was the fact that the horse had been beaten and the deal was no more.
In any event, a month later, I received a call from the legendary Birch Brothers (who were major shareholders in the horse), insisting that we act for them this time, and the horse was then onsold to Ronnie Rosen’s The Alchemy, forerunner to the present business belonging to the Kahan family in Robertson. The Alchemy at that time was a leading stallion station in Kentucky, USA, and Ronnie was an ex-car salesman in South Africa, married to the renowned cooking authoress, Myrna. “The Wolf” went on to sire a number of quality performers in that part of the world, after being transferred to Graham Beck’s Gainesway Farm, where he stood alongside the legendary likes of Blushing Groom, Lyphard, Riverman and Vaguely Noble.
Finally, while it’s not quite as personal a story, we’re also sentimental about Japanese breeding and racing, since we have among our friends and customers on Summerhill that country’s foremost breeding family. The remoteness of this island country and the uniqueness of their racing programme means that the world at large is somewhat uninformed about what goes on there. The latest determination of the World Thoroughbred Rankings however, should leave no doubt in any of our minds about the quality of the horses the Japs are producing. Those of us who witnessed the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, will know all about Orfevre, and the ease with which he pulled away from the best in Europe in a matter of a 100m of turning for home, yet he wasn’t the best horse in Japan this past year. That honour belongs to Gentildonna, the world’s top-rated three-year-old filly, while Bodemeister was the world’s second top-rated three-year old colt of 2012. The former is a daughter of Deep Impact, who with his first crop of three-year-olds took top rank by his number of horses (six) in those ratings, ahead of the lofty likes of Galileo. There are more than a few judges who consider him the best sire on the planet.
And while we all knew he would be the top-rated horse in the world, Frankel has now become the horse by which all future thoroughbreds will be measured. He is officially, since the ratings came into being in the 1970s, the highest-rated horse ever, while he also occupies top spot in the history of the Timeform ratings, which go back to the 1950s. Here is the list of Timeform’s best horses:
2012 ECLIPSE CHAMPIONS
|2 Year Old Male||SHANGHAI BOBBY (Harlan’s Holiday)|
|2 Year Old Filly||BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes)|
|3 Year Old Male||I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (Flower Alley)|
|3 Year Old Filly||QUESTING (GB) (Hard Spun)|
|Older Male||WISE DAN (Wiseman’s Ferry)|
|Older Female||ROYAL DELTA (Empire Maker)|
|Male Sprinter||TRINNIBERG (Teuflesberg)|
|Female Sprinter||GROUPIE DOLL (Bowman’s Band)|
|Male Turf Horse||WISE DAN (Wiseman’s Ferry)|
|Female Turf Horse||ZAGORA (FR) (Green Tune)|
|Steeplechase Horse||PIERROT LUNAIRE (War Chant)|
|Owner||GODOLPHIN RACING LLC|
|Apprentice Jockey||JOSE MONTANO|