By Thomas J. Thornbury (Associate Director of Sales, Keeneland)
The results of the 2011 inaugural Cape Premier Sale were so rewarding that all the breeders in South Africa took notice. The idea is simple: create a select sale of the very best yearlings gathered from farms throughout South Africa. Market them in the fresh, exciting setting found in Cape Town in late January, when horsemen from other climes are seeking the warmth, beauty, and entertainment so abundant in South Africa. And, have this premier, select sale coincide with some of the very best world-class, Group 1 racing in South Africa. The sale is set for January 26 and 27, 2012.
From the inaugural sale has sprung the development of Cape Thoroughbred Sales, an entirely new sales company that reflects the Keeneland model. The governing Board is comprised of some of the country’s most influential breeders: Craig Carey (Arc-en-Ciel Stud), Mick Goss (Summerhill Stud), Andreas Jacobs (Maine Chance Stud), Markus Jooste (Klawervlei Stud), Dr. Ashley Parker (Ascot Stud), Gaynor Rupert (Drakenstein Stud), Mike Sharkey (Highlands Stud), and Mary Slack (Wilgerbosdrift Stud). As with Keeneland, there is no personal ownership of stock in the company, and the net profit is to be distributed for the betterment of the sport and the breeding industry. It was an honor to have been asked to join the inspection crew again this year, and the emulation of Keeneland in the development of Cape Thoroughbred Sales gave me further impetus to assist in selections.
The officers of Cape Thoroughbred Sales are familiar faces: Robin Bruss, CEO; Adrian Todd, COO; Grant Knowles, Director-at-large; Kevin Sommerville, Marketing; and Amanda Carey, Administration. Bruss has a long and successful association with sales and breeding in South Africa. Todd has been instrumental in developing the Groom Education Program, for which he has been lauded by breeders and government alike. Knowles is a highly respected television personality and director of Gold Circle Racing. Sommerville is a graduate of the Darley Flying Start program, was an intern with Keeneland Sales, and most recently worked with Juddmonte Stud in Newmarket, England. Carey has a distinguished record in sales administration and will be the glue to hold this group together. Drawing from this talent, the new sales company should be able to build a brand recognized worldwide.
Entries were dramatically up this year. Along with stalwart inspector John Kramer and able driver Corrado Passerini, I saw more of South Africa in two weeks than do most South Africans in a lifetime. We began our trek in the Western Cape, traveled through the Karoo, through Kwazulu Natal, and on into the Eastern Cape. With greater numbers of entries from the larger breeding farms, along with participation by some farms that had taken a “wait and see” attitude last year, quality yearlings were in abundance. We were seeking those yearlings with pedigree, by serious sires, with maturity and conformational excellence. From where I sit, the cataloguing committee should find plenty of quality from which to choose.
South African stars JET MASTER and CAPTAIN AL are well represented, as are SILVANO, FORT WOOD, TRIPPI, VAR, WESTERN WINTER, DYNASTY, and MIESQUE’S APPROVAL to name a few. Additionally, we found plenty of impressive yearlings by freshman sires: SAf-bred Champions JAY PEG (winner of the $5-million Dubai Duty Free-G1), ARGONAUT (Triple G1SW by Western Winter), KILDONAN (Rich Man’s Gold), and HORSE CHESTNUT (now back in SAf); plus US-breds JUDPOT (A.P. Indy-Miesque) and A. P. ARROW, as well as others.
Interestingly, a number of foreign sires will also be represented. We saw some quality yearlings by BERNARDINI, ENCOSTA DE LAGO, TAPIT, ACT ONE, BORREGO, DUKE OF MARMALADE, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, LION HEART, O’REILLY, ROYAL ACADEMY and TEOFILO. The fact is that the South African horse is raised tough, is durable, and its talent is recognized around the world. The breeders, now convinced of this sale’s potential, have presented larger numbers of quality individuals with pedigree and sire power to match.
The inaugural sale attracted buyers from 15 countries. The 2012 sale will be more expansive, targeting a larger contingent of domestic and international buyers on the premise that horses purchased should remain to race in South Africa. Later, if successful, they could be exported to compete internationally. As last year, the venue is the air-conditioned, indoor Cape Town International Convention Centre, which received rave reviews as exciting, unique, and entertaining by those in attendance. Adjacent to excellent hotels, and in the heart of Cape Town, this is a perfect venue for buyers and sellers alike.
The beauty and historical significance of Cape Town is reason to keep buyers close, but those looking for more adventure can certainly find it with little effort. Many of the major breeding farms have adjacent vineries, which produce excellent quality wines. The nearby Western Cape is loaded with wineries for those who wish to take a wine-tasting tour. If you are interested in the wilds of Africa, a trip to the Karoo and any number of animal reserves are within reach. There are guest houses (similar to a bed and breakfast) located in every small community, where guests may expect to be treated as family; such is the nature of hospitality in South Africa. No matter what might interest you, it is likely to be found in this lovely, diverse country.
The unforgettable lifestyle of the Cape summer is represented by the world-class racing of the 2012 Cape Racing Carnival. Highlighted races include the J&B Met (G1), the Investec Cape Derby (G1), the L’Ormarin’s Queen’s Plate (G1), the TBA Paddock Stakes (G1), the Klawervlei Majorca Stakes (G1), and the Cape Flying Championship (G1). The Cape Racing Carnival is to be held in conjunction with the Cape Premier Sale at nearby Kenilworth Race Course, located only 10 minutes from City Centre. The oldest racecourse in the country, Kenilworth is steeped in tradition and history. With its enviable location and beauty, it has long been a favorite racing venue for South African and overseas visitors alike.
The 2012 Cape Premier Sale is setting up to be a must for South African buyers looking for top-quality offerings, and for foreign buyers looking for top-quality stock at value. Certainly, the exchange rate of the Rand is inviting, and added to the internationally recognized ability of the South African racehorse, it is a winning combination. Coinciding with world-class racing, flawless South African summer weather, and endless alternative entertainment possibilities, the Cape Premier Sale is decidedly of great value. For those in the cold grip of winter in the northern hemisphere, what could be better than to enjoy a bit of summer, relaxation, wine, horses, and fun in Cape Town in January?
For me, the experience of inspecting the best yearlings at farms both large and small has been memorable. I have been astonished by the dramatic beauty of the diverse landscape throughout this extraordinary country. I have come to know and love a wonderful group of determined horse-people, whose commitment to raising the finest quality racehorses sometimes defies logic. They are truly passionate – about their horses and about their way of life. In every case, I was warmly welcomed into their homes for at least a coffee or tea; sometimes lunch or dinner; and sometimes accommodation overnight, as the location was too remote to find a hotel or guest house. I noted that some breeders travel long distances to bring a mare to a particular stud. That same hospitality is always offered to them. It is this sense of camaraderie and kinship among the South Africa horse-people that impressed me the most. Can you imagine the joy and fun when they all get together for the Cape Premier Sale? You will just have to be there.