IT is a stark reality: breed, by careful mating and investment and rearing, a nice yearling; recognise that you have found yourself in the 2 Year Old Sale by a non-fashionable sire, but one that should sire runners to develop the mare; find that you have sold to go to Kenya or for bush racing, writes Turf Talk columnist DAVID ALLAN, who has returned from Central Asia and visited Kazakhstan.
The last vestige of optimism is ripped out of your being, either because you sold as a weanling and lost control, or because you had entered a partnership and had surrendered control, or because you were in control but lost it all by yourself.
No disrespect to Kenya. Their tenacity in sustaining racing is admirable and they have every right to come and buy, then travel the horses in good circumstances as they do. The feeling is no different to the sinking feeling of some breeders in the UK and Ireland – where the lower yearling market is currently screwed.
I bought yearling fillies this time last year for a socalled “small” racing nation and said – truthfully – to one stunned breeder that “I would have bought her to race in England”. That sire was/is “not wanted” (and we all recognise that syndrome in South Africa) yet we have been lucky with him before.
The filly won her maiden in the “small” country on debut by 20 lengths and won a juvenile Group 1 equivalent next time up. The celebrations will go on until next season, and the gracious UK breeder – who sells at the top end as well – was relieved that we were doing the buying (therefore the filly will go to a good place), took it on the chin and knows that the end user often spends more.
It is not so long ago that European breeders had that sinking feeling if their product were sold to Hong Kong. With Hong Kong promoted to Part 1 (International Cataloguing Standards Book) not all that long ago, not so sinking. Keep guarding that status, South Africa.
Sometimes the “small” racing nation is truly surprising.
POMELLATO is not only one of Europe’s top jewellers by sales, but is POMELLATO (GER) a cracking 2 year old in 2007 by Big Shuffle out of a Polar Falcon mare who won Group 3 in Germany and Group 2 in France. This earned him a year at stud but he was soon sold to Iran. Only 40 years ago pre-Islamic Revolution, Teheran was an international playground. Now, not so much. But it is still horse country.
When POMELLATO’s first crop did well, he was re-imported to France but of course could not travel directly because of health certification, or the lack thereof.
So he travelled via Russia, then into Germany (EU) with Russian export documents. Russia and Iran, whilst having an in and out relationship since the 16th century, are strategic allies as well as comforting each other economically under international sanctions. 225,000,000 people between them constitute a significant trading axis.
But Russia is useful in less flashpointy circumstances. Ex-Soviet bloc nations, however “western” or capitalistic they have become, tend to sustain a customs union with Russia. We have repatriated horses from Central Asia back to Europe via Russia, and have come to know how easy it is to move horses across Belarus and Russia to Kazakhstan and its neighbours, once cleared from the EU at the Polish border after statutory Kazakh quarantines are satisfied.
Once upon a time the Soviet Bloc was all the same customs area – like the EU is now, with one or two other administrative similarities but let’s not go into that. Although the rather abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union caused a sort of multiple nation no-deal Brexit, they all knew (and still know) how to work with each other.
There is something South Africa-related to be considered, emanating from all this although of course, there is no comparison in bloodstock standards and systems to be made with these “small” nations.
We consult there on everything from tracks to stud books to feed to bedding to breeding methods to the creation of a Tote… it goes on.
In addition to liaising with UK and other authorities, we have made presentations of how things are done in South Africa and what horses are produced at what cost. We have discussed the principle of direct (or nearly direct) imports from SA, including on into eastneighbouring Western China and north-neighbouring Siberian Russia. We only need a cargo airline as an operating partner to take things further!
It’s not as grand as EU, Hong Kong, Singapore, but it would be a trade, without the madness of 90 days in Mauritius. Makes me wonder about Kenya. Fly there – as they do from the 2YO Sale, and they can husband horses for a time. Loads of airlines fly into Nairobi, so where from there?
The Kazakh revival of racing is a ten year plan, hampered by current recession, and has parallels with South Africa – starting from a lower level of sophistication of course but in a very attractive city of 2 million, including umpteen universities.
Given a certain knowledge of horse history in that country, I have proposed a new slogan for taking into those seats of learning and bringing the students to the hippodrome: “No Horse, No Kazakhstan”. We’ll start with the Kazakh-British Technical University.
In sharp financial contrast, in neighbouring Uzbekistan, with Tashkent and Samarkand as its magnets for visitors, there is a burgeoning economy. A 50/50 government / private programme has already resulted in
a new racecourse and the purchase of 60 young horses in training from England and Ireland last year – mostly lower cost fillies to race then breed, plus several broodmares at about a million rand each. Just like that. Opposite hemispheres would put them off at this early stage, and the enthusiasm for UK and Ireland is great. But our SA flag will feature in a Tashkent hotel meeting before long.
The Kazakh President’s Cup (2400m local Gr1) has just been won for the second time by MAKE MEMORIES by STREET CRY, out of no less than a double USA Grade 1 winning mare by EL PRADO, unraced at 2 with John Gosden and bought by you-know-who for 9,000 guineas (today approximately R173,000.-). He also won their local 2,000 Guineas and Derby and a couple of other Group 1s and will become a stallion with a Book 1 pedigree. I often wonder how he would have fared elsewhere.