As you sow, so shall you reap – Turf Talk: 16 July 2018

field on fire

PARAPHRASING the King James version of the Epistle to the Galatians 6:7 in this headline we have a perfect marketing analogy.

We – that is to say the South African bloodstock sport and industry – are reaping what “we” have recently sewn, and we are reminded that neither tub-thumping “we are the greatest” nor heads-down doom and gloom are entirely credible, when the middle path of propaganda is undoubtedly the most attractive way forward.

30+ nationalities from both hemispheres participated last week at Tattersalls July Sales which is an important three day affair containing a day of breeding stock and two days of horses in training, with some overlap. South Africa – as far as Messrs Tattersalls know – was not one of those nationalities. Actual attendance is not the point; countries are often represented by their local or sent-in agents.

25-32 degrees in Newmarket under a hot sun with not a drop of rain having fallen for 40 days makes anything to do with big hot horses very hard work.

Nevertheless, many dozen riders of high quality and many more dozen riders who probably look after their mount every day and are devoted to him or her are out there on the Heath cracking a tan and putting them all through their paces. The aircons in the trainers’ gallops cars can’t cope even at 6-7 a.m.

Meanwhile at the Sales, squads of showing staff peel off the layers after their own early starts and share a laugh with the many familiar “lookers” who are out to see them as soon as they are fed, wanting a swinging walk and a good strong trot from horses in training and a thorough examination of breeding stock and fillies that will go straight to stud in any one of a dozen countries.

As the week crescendos towards The July Cup, the professionals – assuming not still in their 20s – pace themselves, baked throughout the days wearing not very much, changed into suits and ties or smart dresses for racing then rapidly back into shorts afterwards, guzzling a lot of water while marching about the grounds, car parks and racecourse.

Golden Horn last week on the lawns at Dalham Hall.

Golden Horn last week on the lawns at Dalham Hall.

To some South African readers, 25-32 may not seem much but – horses for courses – the pervading feeling is “When is this going to stop?” Brown grass does not a beautiful England make.

The grass at Dalham Hall Stud however is lush and green, prepared for the two days of Darley Stallion Parade that constitute the unrivalled social occasion. Invitations are rationed to those using Darley Stallions, training Godolphin winners, buying Godolphin stock – you get the picture.

Having attended most of the renewals going back many years, it would be a cloud in the cloudless sky to become blasé about this extravaganza in an oh-so-English setting with the sun reflecting off gleaming door brasses announcing Dubawi, New Approach or Exceed and Excel or whoever it is you want to see after they have paraded.

The acres of lobster – depicted in a much earlier Monday Column – must never be taken for granted nor must the colossal scope of the Darley organisa-tion. Few hosts could invite his guests to accept a welcome glass while standing next to 60kg of solid gold Dubai World Cup Trophy, with the Epsom Derby Trophy a few yards beyond with plenty of opportunity to stop and admire.

Most of the industry is extremely pleased that Godolphin has at last won the Derby with a home-bred – Masar by New Approach, the first since Lammtarra in related, not blue colours in the 90s.

Lavish Lunch follows the Parade, or rather followed on Friday a slightly awkward rendering of Happy Birthday to Sheikh Mohammed, on hand to receive a gift from HRH Princess Haya and the children. Joining in the song were representatives of Coolmore, reaffirming the cessation of hostilities and causing darkly humorous remarks about a Good Friday Agreement from Irish contingents.

After already a long hot day, it was only a quick drive to the July Course on Friday to catch the Falmouth Stakes Group 1 to see best 3 year old of either sex, the Mastercraftsman filly ALPHA CENTAURI owned and bred by the Niarchos family and trained by Jesse Harrington. Stunning.

Then quickly back to the sales and a couple of litres of ice cold water, followed by an evening sales session.
Saturday was a story in itself with a runner in the Bunbury Cup first run in 1894 – quite a new race for Newmarket – and the July Cup itself. People came from far and wide…..and had a great day.

Through the week, I was as usual something of a lightning rod for conversations about South Africa and this time they fizzed and crackled. I can’t count the number of times a reference was made – expressing sympathy or concern towards me in many cases – to the imminent collapse of South African racing.

This of course was the inevitable reaction to the Racing Post article that dealt with Mike de Kock’s blog/release, as well as the simultaneous Daily Telegraph piece, both of which were discussed in this column two weeks ago.

A prominent young trader couple had been to Cape Town in January 2017 on the sales trip, all expenses paid as first timers presumably, and had politely taken a small share in a yearling. He did not go back the following year and it took 15 months to get his chosen investment onto the track. Knowing him well, I made a pithy comment about selecting more carefully but assured him that it is not as bad as broadcast. I could have spelled out the irony that the breeding industry might be in a precarious state rather more so than racing, but I am too obsessed with the “Four Upsides” to allow such negativity.

Alpha Centauri clear in the Falmouth for her third Group 1 win.

Alpha Centauri clear in the Falmouth for her third Group 1 win.

A very good trainer friend who has great affection for South Africa quizzed me closely about the unrest at training centres. He knew of it but not its cause. Having visited trainers in SA, he thought it was probably about safety standards and equipment for grooms and riders. I explained the root causes including the political wing behind it. “How can they let all this bad press out continuously?” he asked. “If it’s not one thing it’s another”.

We discussed all this in the column two weeks ago. The worst that could happen now would be a sudden “rush”, excuse the expression, of unrealistic superlatives whereas what is required is a steady flow of engaging, intelligent press releases creating more than fleeting knowledge which, with a few exceptions, is all there is at the moment.

Maybe I’ll try a piece about that impressive Langerman Listed on Saturday and see if someone will publish. – tt.