IT is conceivable that every tuft of lush green grass in the whole of Kimberley grows at Mauritzfontein Stud, where some recent modern touches have augmented the charm of one of South Africa’s oldest and most accomplished breeding establishments, writes CHARL PRETORIUS.

The main house at Mauritzfontein has a breath-taking back yard – a massive, manicured garden with groves of trees, flowerbeds, reservoirs of shrubs and succulents and even a fountain on the furthest side. In the distance, where the roving eye meets the horizon, the greenery contrasts sharply with the flat, parched plains of Kimberley that lie beyond.

A photographer is active out on the laws. He was up early for the use of sunlight and the best camera angles. He is accompanied by Jessica and Steven Jell’s four dogs, all running around like crazy and getting tiny in the distance as they chase each other to the fountain.

Mauritzfontein's Gardens, book material.
Mauritzfontein’s Gardens, book material.

“He’s getting photos for a new book being published on on Mauritzfontein’s gardens,” says Steven about this Northern Cape jewel sculpted and maintained by renowned landscaper Arthur Mennigke. I have a chuckle at the walking stick Steven employs as we strut down the garden, and later along the farm roads that lead to various stables and paddocks. “We caught a cobra here the other day, we have to be on the lookout.” 

When I visited Mauritzfontein in 2000 to work on the Horse Chestnut book with Mike de Kock, I was impressed with the way the staff kept this gargantuan operation in the fine shape it was. This time I was knocked out, blown away by the pristine condition of the place and wondering how they manage to keep 6,300 acres of farmland, paddocks and gardens so exquisite. In the middle of winter, too. 

Perhaps Steven answered that thought by asking a garden worker to remove a stray piece of paper that had blown innocently into an outbuilding from somewhere. I wouldn’t have noticed that. Attention to detail, that age-old secret of successful home and industry. 

Stud manager Guy Murdoch joins us for what is the actual purpose of this visit, and the reason for the lengthy intro above. The imported grey stallion Danon Platina (JPN), has moved in at Mauritzfontein alongside the stalwart Ideal World, and I remind myself to note in my review that he’d have to travel a long way to find a nicer, more immaculate place to sprinkle his precious seed.

Danon Platina was purchased off the racetrack in Japan by Mauritzfontein, Wilgerbosdrift, Moutonshoek and Ridgemont Highlands in a deal structured by Jehan Malherbe of Form Bloodstock. He’s is a young grey horse, only six years of age. He’s smashing, confident, athletic, stands over ground, and has inquiring eyes. He looks you in the eye, and while this is probably insignificant, it’s a likeable treat all the same. He comes with a big pedigree and a big race record, being a son of Deep Impact, the world’s most in-demand stallion of stallions next to Coolmore’s Galileo.

Notes Murdoch. “We’ve already given him a few test runs with mares and he took to it well, he loved it. He’ll be ready when the breeding season starts.”

Danon Platina (JPN), stands over ground.
Danon Platina (JPN), stands over ground.

Danon Platina was Japan’s Champion 2YO Colt of 2014 when he won three of his four races. He scored his most notable win at two in the G1 Asahi Futurity Stakes over 1600m, winning by three parts of a length in an 18-horse field –with third place finisher Clarity Sky going on to win the G1 NHK Mile Cup the following year. In total, he won or placed in nine of 14 outings, and banked ¥195,823,000 in prize money. He was the unanimous choice for the JRA Award for Best Two-Year-Old Colt.

Jehan Malherbe comments: “Sons of Deep Impact are not easy to find for stud. We had our feelers out for a while and when this one became available we jumped at the opportunity. We made the deal subject to approval of the horse by our inspection team.”

That team was Murdoch and Jell, who jetted to Japan last April and went to see Danon Platina at his base with his breeder, Chiyoda Farm Shizunai on Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern island.

“It was raining cats and dogs that day, there was a monsoon on the island,” recalls Murdoch. “They brought Danon Platina out in the rain, and we were all wet, but we just liked him immediately, imposing, correct and standing over ground. The deal was done.”

Steven, full of praise for Japan as horse country and tourist destination, points out how Japan has emerged as a world power in bloodstock in recent years.

Nancy Sexton wrote in an article published on TRC: “Japan is a place where the idea of breeding a supreme athlete remains top of the agenda. An in-depth knowledge of Japanese racing is not needed to appreciate the regard that the tough middle-distance horse is held in.”

She said about Deep Impact: “There is probably no better example than the Shadai Stallion Station’s Deep Impact, an overwhelming presence within Japan as his sire, Sunday Silence, was before him. Out of an excellent 12-furlong performer in Wind In Her Hair, Deep Impact’s victories ranged from the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) over 10f to the Tenno Sho (Spring) over two miles. In between, he also won the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby over 12f), Japan Cup (12f) and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger over 15f).

“Now 17 years old, Deep Impact was priced at 40,000,000 yen (£290,000) this year as he continues to remain Japan’s answer to Galileo. It also can’t be forgotten that decades of pursuing some of the best race mares to grace America and Europe have resulted in the accumulation of a seriously powerful collection of bloodstock.

“Such animals, the result of determination and wealth, have obviously helped play a part in making Japan a world player. They have the right mindset for success. For instance, nowhere in Japan will you find a colt who has retired to stud at two. Ultimately that has to enhance the breed while undoubtedly strengthening an already appreciative fan base, which, as anyone can tell you, are two vital components to the health of the sport.”

Murdoch says that Danon Platina will quite possibly inject a measure of speed into Mauritzfontein’s stoutly bred mares, and Jehan Malherbe adds: “I’d say his classic influence is the vital aspect. What we have here is a champion classic miler bred from one of the world’s great stallions. Deep Impact is an 11-time champion stallion in Japan, he’s produced an array of sensational miler-stayers including Gentildonna, A Shin Hikari, Real Steel and Saxon Warrior, names South Africans will be familiar with.”

Danon Platina also hails from a stellar female line. He is out of the Badeelah –a daughter of outstanding US sire Unbridled’s Song and Gr1 La Brea Stakes winner Magical Allure, a granddaughter of Seattle Slew.

His broodmare sire Unbridled’s Song, whose 110 plus stakes winners include six Breeders’ Cup winners, has been a superb maternal grandsire- with Unbridled’s Song daughters having produced more than 150 stakes winners to date, including Breeders’ Cup Mile hero Tourist and the G1 winning half-brothers Carpe Diem and J.B.’s Thunder.

Danon Platina will be standing at a fee of R45,000 (Live Foal). He’s a stallion that will make his mark in our industry, a smart horse you have to see in the flesh if you get an opportunity, or an invitation to visit stunning Mauritzfontein. 

Photos by Candiese Marnewick.