“It’s these little increments which make the
5% and 10% differences that deliver the championships.”
It’s at times like these that we appreciate the benefits of selection. You’ve read many times in these columns that the thoroughbred is a jigsaw of 300 years of meticulous welding of the best attributes of the breed on the part of the world’s best breeders. That chiselled head, those flared nostrils, the craned neck and the body sprung for action, the jaunty, arrogant swagger that belongs only to a racehorse, is what’s come of this work: to see a string of racehorses on their way to the track in the mornings here, is to look upon a gallery of the Old Masters.
That said, the “selection” of which I speak, is not that involved in the evolution of the racehorse, but rather the assembly of the team with whom I go to work every day. The people who get us up in the mornings at Summerhill have been some 35 years in the making, and we now have one of the smartest crews in the business.
Even at -5°C, as it’s been for the past few mornings in Mooi River, it’s a pleasure to join these fellows in the paddocks for the annual matings review, revisiting every detail of last year’s and the year before’s plans. Once we’ve run our hands and eyes over the yearlings and weanlings, we’ll be scrutinizing their mothers for clues as to which stallions they’d be best suited to. We’re not quite done with the weanlings yet, but what I can tell you, is they rank up there with the best I’ve seen at Summerhill. Yes, I’m an optimist, but a rational one at that (I’d like to think!), and what’s especially encouraging is the first crops of the young sires; Brave Tin Soldier and Visionaire, who’ve yet to debut at the races. Expect big wraps on these. For those who are interested, I think we’ve made a few innovative “tweaks” on the husbandry side, which has tilted the playing fields again; it’s these little increments which make the 5% and 10% differences that deliver the championships.
Those who read our previous column (Mating Musings) will recall our anecdotal reference to George Bernard Shaw, who to this day is said to be rivalled only by Winston Churchill in the sharpness of his wit. One regular wag posted this story on “GBS” “on our site”: Isadora Duncan, the famous (or notorious) dancer, is alleged once to have written to GBS, suggesting that they co-operate in producing a child. As an inducement she offered: “Just imagine, Mr. Shaw, the baby might be endowed with my body and your brains.” In regretfully declining Miss Duncan’s kind offer, GBS gave his reason: “Yes, Miss Duncan, but just imagine if the poor child were endowed with my body and your brains”. Couldn’t be more appropriate.
That’s our dilemma in the paddocks right now. And that’s why we leave the final decision to our customers.