“A big, workmanlike filly, and rather typical of her sire-line, Roland’s Song was well bought for only R20,000 at the 1987 National Yearling Sales. At the time, not many thought her worth even that amount, so unimpressive did she look as a yearling. But looks count for little on the track. Roland’s Song proved herself to be at the top of her sex and generation at 2,3 and 4. – Racing Record, 1990.
“Roland’s Song was the best I’d ever trained” – Jean Heming, March 2007. (Legends Of The Turf, Charl Pretorius, amazon.com, 2011).
Roland’s Song’s career began in March 1988 at Newmarket, Alberton, and she followed up by outclassing her Highveld rivals in her next two starts.
She then beat the boys at Greyville on “July” day before trouncing the favoured Millard trained Epoque, a half-sister to Ecurie and Empress Club, to leave little doubt that she was the best juvenile of her year.
The unattractive filly would go on to win 14 (10 places) of her 35 starts, be the first filly to win over R1 million in South Africa and almost get to R2 million. Along the way she gathered Champion Two-YearOld, Champion Three-Year-Old, Champion Older Filly and Horse of the Year accolades. Thirteen of her fourteen wins were in Stakes races and she won the Computaform Champion Stakes at Turffontein on three occasions and the Administrator’s Champion Stakes, also at Turffontein, on two occasions. She won two legs of the unofficial Triple Crown – the Southern Sun Classic and the Daily News 2000.
Roland’s Song’s sophomore year was marked by stunning wins and inexplicable losses. She started by losing her first Classic when running downfield in the Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas, but lameness was the excuse. Two more wins followed with the last a stunning victory by 4 lengths against the colts in the Southern Sun Classic.
Then disaster, as she finished unplaced in the Lancome Fillies Handicap and the SA Oaks. In the latter her saddle slipped, and she had an excuse, but in the former she simply looked ordinary and her loss was unexplainable. She bounced back with a win against the colts in the Daily News 2000 and ended her sophomore year with a close-up, but unplaced run in the July. Having won two of the top open Classic races and in the absence of a dominant Classic male she was an easy choice for best Three-Year-Old in South Africa.
She was crowned Horse of The Year in her third season of racing after winning 3 (4 places) of her 9 starts. All her wins and places came on the Highveld while she ran unplaced in her two ventures away from home. Her achievement in April 1990 when surpassing the R1 million mark, the first time this was achieved by a filly, probably swung the vote in her favour as the gelding Jungle Warrior had an equally good claim to the crown.
At five in 1990/91 the year younger St Just, another filly of some ability, became a formidable adversary. She raced Roland’s Song six times in what became a fascinating duel. In four of those races they each ran first or second with the spoils shared at 2 wins and 2 seconds. In the two remaining races which neither won they alternated, each finishing just ahead of the other.
As a fitting end to their personal battle both ran well back in the 1991 “July”, but even that was a contest as St Just managed to finish 18th just ahead of Roland’s Song. Roland’s Song got the verdict when she was crowned Champion Older Female, with her second win in Turffontein’s richest race, the Administrator’s Champion Stakes, likely proving the defining moment in the duel with St Just.
In her final year of racing at six she lost some of her brilliance but still managed to win 1 of her 5 starts. It was fitting that her last race in March 1992, saw the crowning of a new equine heroine as the crown passed from one Queen to another. Kept in training for an attempt at a third win in the Administrators’ Champion Stakes (today’s Premier’s Champion Challenge) she finished a tame fifteenth beaten 13 lengths by the three-year-old Empress Club who is widely regarded as the best female runner to ever race in South Africa.
Her retirement as a broodmare in 1992 ended in despair. She failed to produce any foals and was found dead in her paddock in October 1993, presumed to have been kicked by another mare.
Roland’s Song was trained by another female champion, Jean Heming, and owned by Mr Richard Scheepers and Jean Heming. She was bred at the stud of the Koster Bros. Eleven of her wins were on the Highveld with the remainder in Durban. She won from 1200m to 2000m.
She was partnered by jockey Rhys van Wyk in eighteen of her thirty-five starts. H (Frikkie) Vermaak partnered her seven times while Piere Strydom partnered her on six occasions.
She won the 1988 Gosforth Park Juvenile Fillies Futurity, the 1988 Erica Leuridan Fillies Stakes, the 1988 Administrators Champion Futurity Stakes, the 1988 Golden Slipper, the 1989 Gosforth Park Fillies and Mares Stakes, the 1989 Southern Sun Classic, the 1989 South African 2000, the 1989, 1990 and 1992 Computaform Champion Stakes, the 1989 John Skeaping Trophy, and the 1990 and 1991 Administrators Champion Stakes.
Her sire, Roland Gardens (1975: Derring-Do ex Katricia by Skymaster), was a winner of four races including the 1978 English Two Thousand Guineas and was rated 122 by Timeform. He sired three Horse of the Year award winners, through Roland’s Song – 1990, Enchanted Garden – 1986, and Pas de Quoi -1994. He also sired Wild West the Champion Three-Year-Old Colt of 1985.
Her dam, Lunar Lullaby (1979: Welsh Harmony ex Lunette by Preamble), produced nine foals of whom six were winners, and of which Roland’s Song was by far the best. She traces, on her dam side, to the exceptional racemare and broodmare, Pretty Polly, through the Sister Sublime branch. – Thanks to Notable South African Thoroughbreds, Facebook.