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Varsfontein Stud’s best family received yet another boost when the Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained Wilgerbosdrift And Mauritzfontein Stud-bred Erupt colt Karangetang remained unbeaten with a half-a-length victory in the Grade 3 Protea Stakes over 1100m at Turffontein Standside on Saturday under high-flying jockey Keagan de Melo.

He showed good cruising speed in front and never looked seriously threatened despite hanging inward late and tiring in the last few strides, which allowed the three time-winning filly River Queraress to close within half-a-length.

River Queraress, who was bred by Boland Stud, had to give the well regarded Karangetang 1.5kg so that was a fine performance and she will be one of the chief players in fillies Graded races for the rest of the season. 

She is by Querari out of the Windrush one time-winning mare Clockwinder, who is a half-sister to Irish Flame (Dynasty), so she should get further.

Karangetang’s third dam is Promisefrommyheart (Elliodor), the dam of Varsfontein’s top sire Master Of My Fate (Jet Master), who is currently lying fourth on the National Sires log, having finished second last year.

Promisefrommyheart’s dam is of course Secret Pact (Bush Telegraph), who Varsfontein were so determined to buy they went to a then record price for a broodmare. 

Varsfontein Stud’s Susan Rowett told Sporting Post writer Robyn Louw the details of that purchase a few years ago:

“The story of how we bought Secret Pact herself goes back to the National Yearling Sales in 1992. John (Kalmonson, her brother) and I had been very keen on Secret Pact who was in the Cheveley draft, but we had held back because we weren’t sure about Bush Telegraph (Jungle Cove) as a sire and the class of the family.

“After that London News (Bush Telegraph) took off and Secret Pact did so well, so when she came up again on the dispersal sale in 1998, we were determined not to make the mistake again. Carl was despatched to Mooi River and reported that she was a magnificent mare. With her own performance, an international star full-brother, her stand-out physical conformation and in foal to Elliodor (Lyphard), Carl warned that she would be very expensive. His favourite line in such circumstance is ‘We mustn’t over pay for her’.

We knew that there was no way Carl’s nerve would hold in a sustained bidding battle without one of us instructing him on the phone. At the time of the sale I was in Zimbabwe and the telephone connection was risky.

John and I decided that the best bet of getting Secret Pact was that Carl had to have John on the line from Monaco. John is far stronger at bidding than me and less likely to be swayed by Carl’s caution.”

And just as well too as Secret Pact caused something of a sensation at the time when the hammer fall for a then South African record price for a broodmare at R750k.

I believe Carl also nearly ended up in jail for the speeding fine he picked up on the way back to the airport!

Susan continued, “Secret Pact duly produced a magnificent colt by Elliodor who we sold in 2000 and was a winner in Singapore. Her second foal for us was the Fort Wood filly Secret Heart and she went to Nationals in 2001. She sold to Mr Jaffee who raced her and then sold her on to Barry Irwin.”

Irwin bought Secret Heart due to “her racing class, her ample size and her terrific pedigree.”

He was also drawn to her speed.

Irwin chose More Than Ready for her first cover as he liked the cross of Turn-to over Northern Dancer.

Pluck was the result and Irwin said, “He was a looker from day one and I told our racing partners that we should retain him for racing,”

Irwin gave a memorable recount of his inner thoughts while this horse was running in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.

He said, “Halfway through the race my main concern was whether my colt was injured because he was so far back and the rider had collected him and was not moving. As he started his move, I watched at ground level on the dirt track and had a hard time believing what I was seeing. When Pluck reached his top end speed, it was like a runaway locomotive–he was powering into the lead with an amazing degree of force. I was so stunned, I never said a word, never cheered–I just watched in pure amazement.”

Irwin revealed he had also tried to buy Promisefrommyheart, who was Secret Pact’s third foal. However, he said Varsfontein Stud would not consider selling despite him offering almost double what he had paid for his Dubai Duty Free winner Ipi Tombe.

Dennis Drier was trainer of Master Of My Fate, whose defeat on debut was followed by six wins on the trot including two Grade 2s and he was then an unlucky fifth in the Met. He would surely have gone on to greater things had subsequent injury forced his retirement.

Secret Pact and her daughters have produced a plethora of black type winners besides Master Of My Fate and Pluck, including Triple Crown winner Malmoos (Captain Al), Grade 1 winner Covenant (Western Winter), the Grade 2 winner and now sire Erik The Red (Captain Al), Grade 2 winner Hack Green (Gimmethegreenlight), Grade 3 winner Hashtagyolo (Dynasty), Grade 3 winner in the USA Three Hearts (Hat Trick), Grade 3 winner Ghaala (Var), Grade 3 winner Due Diligence (Silvano), dual Grade 3 winner Captain Splendid (Captain Al)and a number Listed winners and stakes-placed horses … the list seems almost endless and Secret Pact must have close to the longest page in the SA stud book. 

Karangetang is the latest to add black type to her page and looks destined for big things being by a son of the great Dubawi (Dubai Millenium) and a daughter of Grade 2-placed La Revere (Var).   

Karangetang was a player in  what was a great day for both trainer Janse Van Vuuren and owner Laurence Wernars.

It was a particularly great day for his breeders Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein Stud (see today’s Newsletter article). 

Picture: Karangetang winning the Grade 3 Protea Stakes (JC Photos).