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Sarah Whitelaw

Some of South Africa’s best judges of thoroughbreds attended the Paardeberg Stud Open Day on Wednesday. The guests were treated to a selection of drinks and snacks before the showing of both Paardeberg’s draft for the upcoming National Yearling Sale and Expert Eye, one of the most exciting stallions to arrive in South Africa this year.

The farm itself made a big impression on guests visiting for the first time, with newly laid out paddocks and well-spaced fences enhancing the attractive farmhouse. Steve Ajax and Charles Palmer had returned to the UK before the open day, but Sally Bruss, the third partner in Paardeberg, was on hand to welcome and chat with visitors.

Paardeberg, looking to add substantially to their quality band of broodmares, is set to be represented by their first National Sale draft this year. And, despite Sally having to prepare her draft in open paddocks, the string made a positive impression on guests. The farm, situated just outside Paarl, is set to offer six fillies and four colts at April’s National Sale.

The fillies include two daughters of Master Of My Fate, as well as daughters of the likes of Rafeef, Soqrat, The United States and What A Winter, while the quartet of colts destined for the 2024 National Sale include sons of Master Of My Fate, One World, and Querari.

With yearlings hailing from the families of such stars as Grand Emporium, Ice Cube, Little Ballerina, Nania, Nhlavini, Red Ray, and Russet Air, this string is bound to find favour with buyers come National Sale time.

However, the one horse everyone was keen to see on Wednesday was 2018 G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Expert Eye, and he did not let visitors down. Strutting into the paddock, the handsome bay looked both in fine fettle and relaxed, with Expert Eye exuding class.
While Graham Hawkins did a fine job as MC for Wednesday’s afternoon, it was left to Robin Bruss to introduce Expert Eye to guests. Bruss touched on his relationship with Expert Eye’s breeder Juddmonte Farm, and how the son of Acclamation ended up in South Africa.

A brilliant two-year-old, Expert Eye won his first two starts, by an aggregate of six lengths, and won the prestigious G2 Qatar Vintage Stakes by four and a half lengths. (Other notable winners of the Vintage Stakes include the likes of outstanding sire Shamardal, and subsequent classic winners Troy, Dr Devious, and Sir Percy).

At three, Expert Eye won all of the G3 Jersey Stakes, G3 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes, and ended his career on a high note when winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile. In landing the Churchill Downs turf feature, Expert Eye accounted for such G1 winners as Divisdero, One Master, Clemmie, Lightning Spear, Happily, and promising young sire Oscar Performance.

Retired to stud in 2019, Expert Eye left behind 22 two-year-old winners in his first crop, while his second crop was headed by his first stakes winner, Snellen (Chesham Stakes), and first group winner, Juniper Berries (G3 Ire-Incentive, It Pays To Buy Irish Dick Poole Stakes). Snellen holds an entry for the 2024 G1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas.

Paardeberg is planning to acquire another 25 well-performed mares to support their new resident stallion, and Expert Eye is expected to cover a good book of mares in 2024.

The well-bred Expert Eye, whose close relative, and dual classic winner, Special Duty, is the dam of 2024 classic hope Task Force, shares his G2 Diadem Stakes winning sire Acclamation with a pair of top-class stallions in the form of Dark Angel and Mehmas respectively, with Dark Angel having already sired more than 100 stakes winners, and Mehmas having already come up with such notable G1 winners as Chez Pierre, Going Global, Minzaal, and Supremacy.

Other sons of Acclamation to have enjoyed success at stud include dual G1 King’s Stand Stakes winner Equiano (whose progeny include a Breeders’ Cup winner in the form of Belvoir Bay) and Aclaim (sire of English classic victress Cachet).

A magnificent stamp of a horse, Expert Eye is set to stand his first season at stud in South Africa for a fee of R25 000. There are still a few shares, priced at R105 000 apiece, remaining.

NB In the next couple of days Turf Talk will carry further details of the stallion Expert Eye and Paardeberg’s yearling draft, but for today we are just showing pictures of the people who attended (see below).