Equus Champion Breeder Trophies
2005 - 2009
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
Please click photo to enlarge
It is so that Summerhill and its many clients have just garnered their fifth consecutive National Breeder’s title. It is also an irrefutable fact that we did so by almost doubling the earnings of our nearest pursuer, excellent producers of racehorses in their own right. It’s not our practice, as those who know us well will attest, to gloat over these things, and we prefer to be gracious in victory, just as we’ve always been in defeat. However, from the time we displayed our effectiveness at this business, there’ve been those that would put us down, and who, despite the repeat of our latest championship, are unable to accept the merit of it. They persist with the belief that numbers, and numbers alone, have made it possible. It’s time for a response:
- There’s an old saying (the Afrikaans version of the “tall poppy” syndrome) that “die hoogste boom vang die meeste wind”, and for our foreign visitors, that means “the tallest tree catches the most wind”. That goes with the territory, and we accept it as our lot; that’s why you so seldom see any attempt at self-justification in these columns. Yet that doesn’t mean we should simply lie down and die. Our fans deserve to know the facts.
- Ever since the origin of racing’s championships, numbers have mattered, and if you look at the history of South African breeding, and those who’ve dominated, you’ll find it has been no different. The Birch Bros, one of the six entities to have held the title in all its history, are reputed to have won something approaching sixty times, yet their earnings (which is the basis for calculating the champion stud) were the sum of the contributions of three different families who traded under the name of Birch Brothers. The renowned Koster Bros earned their championships the same way, with contributions from the stock raised by several families. That shouldn’t detract from the undeniable truth that they bred a damn good horse, and plenty of them. We are a single entity, for what it’s worth, which had the necessity (and the enterprise, if we may say so,) to draw a broader church into our activities.
- Ominously for Summerhill, this season Klawervlei Stud are anticipating the arrival of the order of 240 foals, all of which will be registered as Klawerveli breds, almost double the number we’re anticipating foaling in the name of Summerhill. These, in the end, are overwhelming numbers, and how else could you meet that challenge, but through doing your level best and perhaps doing things differently, as we always have, and to a degree, by having the numbers. At last week’s gala function, in a magnanimous address as recipient of the Owner of The Year award, Klawervlei’s “senior partner”, Markus Jooste gave notice that they had their sights firmly on Summerhill’s title!.
- What our detractors overlook is that, despite the export of the five top runners from this farm at the end of last season, we managed to achieve our Championship with earnings per runner not far short of R60 000, a figure which would’ve been significantly enhanced had the exports been retained on South African soil, contesting our best races. We speak of course, of the outstanding international performers of the past season, Imbongi, Art Of War, Paris Perfect, as well as Galant Gagnant and Desert Links, whose absence affected either our numbers or those of their sires (or both), to a marked degree. Two of them were not officially bred by Summerhill, but we’re proud to say they were graduates of our paddocks, and together with the Group One winning filly, Outcome (similarly bred here, but not under our banner), they signalled to the world the ongoing quality emerging from Summerhill. That we achieved this result with the “second” string, makes this year’s title all the more satisfying.
- Equally, in a recent observation on soundness, Robin Bruss pointed to the fact that Summerhill has the highest number of starts per horse in training, it’s worth adding that in recent seasons, we’ve been represented by the nation’s leading seven and eight year olds; Nhlavini (who holds the record of six consecutive appearances as a finalist at the Equus Awards), Red Carpet Style and Brigadier Parker, all of whom were Stakes winners in their dotage years. And right now, in fact this last weekend, Hear The Drums endorsed the durability of our graduates with his 26th victory, making him the winning-most racehorse in South Africa in the past thirty years.
It’s easy to point fingers, but there are other means of achieving their own satisfaction for our critics, and that is to get on and make their own mark through the establishment of their own standards of excellence. That way, they’ll earn their personal fulfilment, and have less to worry about in the success of others. Just last month, Fortune magazine carried the stories of the twenty most successful Americans of the past few decades, and the best advice they had received. While we’ll provide a little more in time in the way of insights from these icons, it’s worth noting that Bill Gates emphasized the value of fanaticism (saying that it was underrated as a force in success), and that both he and Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, were fanatical about certain things; Colin Powell speculated on the value of a work ethic, and what it took to become a successful general, and in the context of this article, perhaps the most sage advice came from Scott Boras.
Boras is one of the most successful managers of sportsmen and celebrities of all time, and he related a story of the advice he received from his counsellor following victory in a court case at an early stage in his career.
“You will find,” opined the counsellor, “that if you are especially effective at what you do, 95% of what is said about you will be negative”. We didn’t realise that things were that tough in our game, but if those that swipe at our championship are anywhere near those odds, we take it as a compliment.