EMPERORS PALACE NATIONAL YEARLING SALE
TBA Sales Complex, Gosforth Park, South Africa
26 - 28 April 2013
I’ve got a funny feeling about this sale. There are plenty of people on the grounds, and judging by the guest list out at Emperors Palace, they’re not all locals. I guess the message about Shea Shea, Soft Falling Rain and The Apache at racing’s biggest night, the Dubai World Cup, had to have found a few resonant ears.
The reality is, like our horsemen, the South African thoroughbred can stand its ground with the best. Anywhere. That much was apparent in Dubai, and it will be apparent again throughout the European summer, when these gladiators cross swords with whatever remains of the best in those realms.
We had all come to savour the thought of an encounter at Royal Ascot between Shea Shea and the world’s highest-rated sprinter, Black Caviar. After all, Shea Shea has just run the fastest 1000 metres in UAE history, and on a line through Ortensia (like the world champion, an Aussie), we might’ve seen a proper encounter. Like Shea Shea, Ortensia had grabbed the previous running of the Al Quoz Sprint (Gr.1) in Dubai, and like him, she broke the record. Unlike Shea Shea, she couldn’t run it in the blistering fractions he set that night. Truth is, times don’t lie, and especially not at 1000 metres.
As for Soft Falling Rain, nobody really knows just how good he is. What we do know, is that he goes to Europe unbeaten, and that he was enormous in the manner of his victory over his elders in Dubai. Only time will tell, and again, the scene will be Royal Ascot.
A fortnight ago, Sydney witnessed a “ripper” of an Easter sale. Two horses made more than R40million, a statement if it was needed, on the rude health of Australian racing. The overall average was close to R3million, which tells you the wallets of breeders down there, are well and truly stuffed, too.
But it also tells you about the value of South African racehorses. The average at last year’s National Yearling Sale, was a tad above R240,000, less than 10% of the Sydney average, and you can’t tell me there’s anything like that separating theirs from ours at the races. Sadly, Black Caviar’s been retired, unbowed in 25 starts. Otherwise, we might’ve known what separated us. If anything.
That may be fighting talk, since no-one’s lowered her flag in 25 starts, but at this distance, we’re safe in conjecture! Whatever the case, South Africans know they’re likely to be able to buy the nations’ best at figures that make sense. In the face of these international performances, this ought to be South Africa’s moment, but we remain bedevilled by another month’s suspension of our export protocols. Whether there’s political inspiration behind it or not, it’s hard to know, but the fact is, South Africa exported half a million horses during the colonial wars in the Empire’s cause, without ever exporting African Horse Sickness. Our quarantine facilities match the best in the world, and the scientists monitoring the process, are the world-leaders in this sphere. We all know what the consequences would be if the disease were to be transferred anywhere else, and there’s no chance we’d tolerate a breach.
Meanwhile, like Toyota, our horses represent the values our countrymen prize most. Excellent quality, great reliability and outstanding value. So let the games begin!
P.S. In case you’re not convinced, we have a few “Aussies” in our line-up as well!