THE Kalmanson family’s Varsfontein Stud deservedly ranks among South African breeders’ royalty, having raised international stars Spook Express, Perfect Promise, Irridesence and more recently Yulong Prince (Surcharge), on the plains of their fine Paarl establishment.

Perfect Promise (Caesour), was the first South African runner to win a Gr1 race in Australia; Irridesence defeated Europe’s Horse Of The Year Ouija Board in the QEII Cup in Hong Kong; Spook Express finished second in the prestigious American Breeders Cup and just recently the magnificent looker Yulong Prince bagged a Listed race in Australia.

Varsfontein’s latest ace Kilindini is set for a career in Hong Kong following his facile win in the Gr1 Cape Guineas last month. Kilindini’s merit rating jumped from 99 to 122 after he showed his mettle, making his first start in a feature race of any description and proving to be a cut above his opposition in a contest that many consider to be South Africa’s premier three-year-old event.

A R2.8 million buy and signed for by World Wide Bloodstock from the 2018 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale, Kilindini was picked by trainer Tony Millard for owner Edmund Siu, who will undoubtedly already be looking forward to his colt’s first appearance on Hong Kong soil.

So will we. Kilindini, considered a bit immature when he joined trainer Brett Crawford, is the type that has a load of improvement to come on top of what he’s already shown. When he gets to the East and settles down, he’ll be even better than he is now. “When he came into the yard he needed time to develop, but he had a presence about him. There was something there and all of us could see it. He was impressive from day one, and he kept improving,” Crawford recalled.

Top horses invariably have a colourful history, a story behind the story and nobody better to tell it than Varsfontein’s Carl de Vos.

Kilindini as a weanling with is dam, Kiss And Fly.
Kilindini as a weanling with is dam, Kiss And Fly

He took us back to the late 1980s, probably 1988, when he and Susan Kalmanson (Rowett) hooked a horse box to their truck and drove from Paarl to Somerset West to buy the mare Young Polly from a dispersal sale at breeder Guud van Heesch’s Hoog Eind Stud.

“We brought the horse box along because we wanted Young Polly at all cost and we were confident we’d get her,” De Vos remembered.

“That we actually did make the successful bid on Young Polly (Del Sarto), who went on to produce Durban July runner-up Young Rake (Rakeen), is beside the point, however. That was a special day for us because we were told about Kiss Of Peace, who’d become Kilindini’s granddam.”
While walking around at Hoog Eind, Carl bumped into the already then ever-present John Freeman (jr. at the time) and a conversation ensued.

“John said that he had spotted a really good buy for us, a mare called Kiss Of Peace, owned by AK Peer, and that she was boarded elsewhere.

“Although Kiss Of Peace was by the unfashionable sire Fordham (Forli), she was a multiple Grade 1 winner and champion race filly of her year, plus her pedigree boasted Grade 1 winners Harry Hotspur and Rotterdam. John, Susan and I discussed it. He
convinced us, and we decided to buy her unseen, just on what we saw on the racetrack.

“We did the deal right there and then, drew it up on a piece of paper with some proviso that both Harry Hotspur and Rotterdam had won Grade 1s – in those days you could not check things like that on the internet! What was to be was to be.”

“The next step was to get Mr Peer to agree to our offer, and a few days later he did. Susan, who was overseas at the time, wired me the money and I put it “on call” until all the official paperwork was to be completed. I shouldn’t have done that, because Mr Peer insisted on immediate payment. I had to squeeze my bank manager’s arm or lose the deal, and thankfully he agreed to release the funds!”

Kiss Of Peace was relocated to Varsfontein and, as Freeman predicted, she became a stunning broodmare, soon producing five-time winner Mason Dixon (Foveros), six-time winner Kiss Me Quick (Caesour) and later Kiss and Fly (Jet Master), the black type filly who in turn foaled multiple winner Kiss Me Hardy (Captain Al) and Kilindini.

“Kiss Of Peace was a fantastic asset to us, and all her daughters were grey. She also gave birth to Whatsinakiss (Elliodor), who in turn gave us Kiss Again (Al Muft) and Top Jet (Jet Master).

“As for Kilindini, he was a typical Silvano, we always though he would need time, but I agree with Brett, he was special even as a young horse. Susan named him ‘Kilindini’ after the deep-water harbour in Mombasa, Kenya. The Kilindini Harbour is a natural geographic phenomenon, and we’re hoping our horse can become an equine phenomenon.

Rowett added: “At the time of purchase of Kiss Of Peace, my twin brother John was working in Mombasa. I remember when we got back to Varsfontein from Somerset West that day, we put in a call to John in Mombasa to tell him of our day’s shopping! So it is particularly apt that the colt’s name comes from Mombasa!”