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It is less than 20 years since the vines were cleared and replaced with paddocks and stables on the lower slopes of the L’Ormarins Estate, giving birth to Drakenstein Stud Farm. 

Gaynor Rupert spoke today of her immense pride in what has been achieved by Drakenstein Stud in what is, in thoroughbred breeding terms, a relatively short space of time.

Years of hard work and astute investment and decision-making have led to the stud enjoying a phenomenal season, which reached its zenith on Saturday as they landed two important three-year-old Grade 1s at Hollywoodbets Greyville.

The Mike de Kock-trained Safe Passage won the Daily News 2000 and the Justin Snaith-trained Silver Darling won the Woolavington 2000.

Both are Drakenstein homebreds by Silvano and for good measure the Barend Botes and Yolandi Vosloo-trained Light Of The Moon, a Drakenstein homebred by Futura, finished second in the Woolavington.

Drakenstein thus extended their lead in the National Owners Championship and, if ultimately successful, it will have been accomplished almost exclusively with homebred horses.  A remarkable achievement.

The Stud has always aspired to breed quality and this is reflected in their results so far this season where their 161 runners have produced 14 stakes winners. 

Drakenstein Stud along with Wilgerbosdrift and Maurizfontein Stud are in fact just 1 stakes winner away from achieving the most stakes winners in a season bred by a Stud Farm in South Africa in recent history.  

Both of their respective 14 stakes winners have won 19 stakes races between them.

Drakenstein Stud are currently in third place in the Breeders Championship.

Safe Passage was part of the Stud’s 2020 National Yearling Sale draft. 

However, the effects of Covid-19 on the market were evident and the colt did not meet his reserve.  He was passed in at R500,000 and brought back to the farm to be retained as a racing prospect, a decision which in hindsight, proved a fortuitous one.

The choice of trainer for each individual horse is an important part of the decision making process, 

Mike de Kock, known for his meticulous attention to detail, decided to give Safe Passage 21 days off to make sure he recovered fully from an illness which had laid him low in the build up to the SA Derby.

He initially told Rupert the gelding would not be ready in time for the Daily News and envisaged him using the Grade 3 Cup Trial as his stepping stone into the July.

However, as the horse had been doing so well at Summerveld, he believed he would benefit from having two runs into the July, so decided to take a chance.

Kevin confirmed they had learnt something about the horse on Saturday.

Having won so well running fresh, he will now go straight into the July, for which he is ruling favourite.

Missing the SA Derby might well have been a blessing in disguise.

Safe Passage showed an exceptional turn of foot on Saturday and there are not many horses capable of doing that off a slowish pace, which is what he had to do.

He has been given a 122 rating, which will see him carry 54kg in the July.

However, Kevin felt having an important race like the Grade 1 Daily News under the belt was much more significant than going into the July well weighted.

The Daily News winners roll includes such great names as Jerez, Elevation, Sabre, Archangel, Prince Florimund, Bush Telegraph, Roland’s Song, Star Effort, London News, Free My Heart, Dynasty, Rabiya, Elusive Fort, Vercingetorix, Hawaam, Got The Greenlight and of course the Drakenstein Stud-owned Legislate, among others.

It is the business model of Drakenstein to sell their colts and keep their fillies, unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

According to Kevin Silver Darling’s full brother was due to be sold at Nationals this year but was withdrawn because, much like Silver Darling herself, he had simply been too immature.  

The decision was made to rather enter him into the BSA 2YO Sale in August this year.

The Drakenstein-owned Oh Susanna went straight back to Cape Town after her win in the Woolavington and, although not discussed yet, Silver Darling might do the same or have one more run up in Durban.

In the Grade 1 Brentford FC Garden Province Stakes, she would have to drop in trip and face the like of Captain’s Ransom, while she would have to carry a Grade 1 penalty in the Grade 2 Gold Bracelet later in the season.

As a progressive and still immature daughter of Silvano, whose progeny improve with time, she is highly unlikely to be supplemented for the July and risk being “knocked about” in the notoriously rough race.

Kevin said Saturday’s race had not panned out well for Light Of The Moon, who was trapped on the rail behind the leader, but he was not convinced better luck would have changed the result.

Light Of The Moon ending up on the Highveld in the yard of Botes and Vosloo, known for performing wonders with inexpensive horses and for reversing the form of horses who were previously treading water, is another example of the thought that goes into each Drakenstein decision. She has loved the Highveld tracks and has thrived under Botes and Vosloo’s care.

The Woolavington winners roll in just the last century shows how important a race it is for any stud farm to win with names such as Promisefrommyheart, Irridescence, Sun Classique, Igugu, In The Fast Lane, Smart Call, Bela-Bela, Oh Susanna, Summer Pudding and War Of Athena.

The stud’s three Grade 1-winning three-year-olds this season all have yearling siblings on the ground.

Rain In Holland has a Trippi half-sister.

Safe Passage has a full sister.

Silver Darling has a full brother, who is now likely be taken to the BSA National Two-year-old sale.

On a sadder note Kevin took time to pay tribute to the great Lester Piggott, who visited the Drakenstein box at Kenilworth on a number of occasions as Gaynor is a close friend of his and Barbara’s.  

However, he concluded by saying, “It was a wonderful weekend for Drakenstein Stud, one to remember for a long time.”

Drakenstein’s four Grade 1 winners this season in action (below):

Jet Dark (Trippi colt bred by Drakenstein)

Rain In Holland (Drakenstein homebred by Duke Of Marmalade) 


Silver Darling (Drakenstein homebred by Silvano) 

Safe Passage (Drakenstein homebred by Silvano)

Pictures Above: Wayne Marks 1, Candiese Lenferna, 2,3 and 4

Main Picture credit: (Drakenstein Stud)