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Sporting Post
One of South Africa’s leading owners and breeders for decades and a successful businessman, Mike Rattray has passed away.
He had been ill for some time.
Michael Loring Peter Rattray famously brought the Santa Gertrudis cattle breed to South Africa, founded Mala Mala game reserve in 1964, and most significantly for SA horseracing, imported multiple champion sire Western Winter to this country.
He was a director of The Citizen newspaper for 15 years.
He also operated the iconic Lammerskraal Stud for many years.
Mike Rattray was born in 1932 into KwaZulu-Natal farming stock and his father and grandfather farmed at Kwambonambi.
Sugar and timber were the primary crops and Rattray himself later farmed at Mkuzi and Heatonville.
His grandfather was responsible for planting what is now the forest between Richards Bay and St Lucia.
Mike Rattray had a lifelong connection with horses after his Dad gave him a horse, imaginatively named Pony, when he was three.
From the age of 13 he got involved with polo. He was selected for the Springbok team and was head of the SA Polo Association. He played actively till the age of 64 and was the life president up to his passing.
His association with racing also goes back to his youth. He bought a horse called Royal Dandy. In those days they had races at gymkhana’s and he used to train him and ride him.
Later he joined the board of the Durban Turf Club and became Chairman.
He was on record about how the Lammerskraal purchase came about.
“One day I went with Terrance Millard to look at horses in Ceres. I asked if there were any stud farms for sale. The answer was no, but a sheep farm was on the market. The end result was that I bought Lammerskraal. We concentrated on getting quality mares. The rule of thumb was that they had to have won five races before we would consider them. So we had a set base with quality mares, and then [stallion] Western Winter came along – he made the whole show. His progeny have won more Grade 1s than any stallion in the history of this country. But when he died I decided to sell.”
While he never won the big race, the Durban July was always a special race and an ambition that he sadly never fulfilled.
“My first July was in 1951, when I was 18. We were friendly with Dennis Labistours and his Gay Jane won that year. I borrowed R10 and won R100. I had never been so happy.” he was on record as saying.
Rattray enjoyed three seconds in the July, two with his Lammerskraal home-breds.
Celtic Grove was second in 2001 and Yard-Arm second in 2003.
His SA Horse Of The Year Rainbow Bridge ran second behind Do It Again in 2019.
His Lammerskraal home-bred Jagged Ice was beaten less than half-a-length into third in the 2007 Durban July.
He also has the honour of having owned the only odds-on favourite in July history, Yard-Arm, who finished a disappointing fifth at a starting price of 8/10 in 2004.
His last major success was Rainbow Bridge’s victory in the Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge, won by Rainbow Bridge in 2021.
Mike Rattray is survived by his wife Norma, seven children and 18 grandchildren.
Our condolences are extended to his family and friends.
Picture: Mike and Norma Rattray at Mala Mala.