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Vercingetorix won three times in Dubai including the G1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m and the G2 Al Rashidiya over 1800m (Picture: Sporting Post).
Vercingetorix Kick-started The Improvement For Grooms 13 Years Ago
David Mollett
One of the big racing stories this year has been the betterment of grooms countrywide when it comes to remuneration and living standards.
Interestingly, it was Vercingetorix – currently the hottest property in the breeding industry – who got the ball rolling for grooms some 13 years ago.
Back in 2010, a Cooperative consisting of two grooms from Klawervlei Stud, one each from Highlands Farm Stud and Maine Chance Farms Stud, and three from Riverton Stud, acquired a weanling named Vercingetorix for R200 000.
Fast forward 12 months and Form Bloodstock’s, Jehan Malherbe, signed the sales at the 2011 National Yearling Sales at R1,4 million for the son of Silvano.
One can imagine the grooms had a party of note that night!
Four years later – in March 2014 – the New York Times ran a story headlined “Horse and Handlers Groomed for Success.”
It stated: “When Vercingetorix runs in the Dubai Duty Free on Saturday, a group of seven grooms in the Western Cape Province of South Africa will be gathered around the nearest television set.”
“The grooms – a Cooperative consisting of two grooms from Klawervlei Stud, one each from Highlands Farm Stud and Maine Chance Farms Stud, and three from Riverton Stud were the grooms – purchased the colt as a weanling for R200 000 in 2010 and sold him as a yearling for R1,4 million in 2014 – a veritable fortune given their modest incomes.”
Last weekend Vercingetorix was in the headlines once again with two of his daughters fetching R1,5 million and R900 000 respectively at the BSA November Two-Year-Old Sale in Germiston.
James Armitage of Sandown Stud will be particularly happy to have fetched R900,000 for their Vercingetorix filly Warrior Royale and that she will be going to the in-form Summerveld yard of Mike Miller, having been purchased by his son Sterling Miller’s aptly named bloodstock company Pound Bloodstock.
It proved an excellent sale for Sandown. They had four of the top five selling lots, two of them purchased by Pound Bloodstock and the other two purchased by the Alyson Wright yard and Jonathan Snaith respectively, and their 12 lots grossed R3,89 million.
Vercingetorix’s five lots on the Sale averaged R634 000.
It was Malherbe who brokered the deal for Vercingetorix, who raced with such distinction for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum, to stand at Andreas Jabobs’ Maine Chance Farms.
The bottom line is that any breeder consigning a yearling by Vercingetorix to the Cape Premier Sale or National Yearling Sale in 2024 will be rubbing their hands in glee.
Perhaps the only blip for the stallion at the weekend was the no show of his son, Cousin Casey, in the Betway Summer Cup. There is no mention of the Sean Tarry inmate in the stipes report on the race. I had told my bank manager “You can have a bet to nothing – there’s no chance of him not finishing in the first four.” Tough game, racing.
Turf Talk published De Kock’s positive thoughts on Betway ahead of the Summer Cup which appeared on his website. He wrote: “I am writing to convey my thanks to Betway for what they are doing in the 4Racing regions – I am sure I speak on behalf of owners, trainers, jockeys and grooms based in Gauteng and Gqberha.”
The local media have gone out of their way to praise Betway’s grooms initiative (20 of these guys each pocketed R20 000 on November 25) as well as the role 4Racing CEO, Fundi Sithebe, has played in the promotion of racing on the Highveld. There hasn’t been such a good rapport from a CEO with the media for years.
Nevertheless – not for the first time – De Kock saw fit to criticise the local media. “Betway’s massive contributions seem to have gone over the head of our racing media and social media contributors. The media should be picking up on the grooms issue.”
This is incorrect. The media have been publicising the improved payment and accommodation for grooms for the last six months.
I know from personal experience of attending overseas meetings where the former champion trainer has had runners that he goes out of his way to give interviews to whoever asks. But when it comes to the local media, he cannot resist a chance to criticize.
What is really important regarding Turffontein’s big meeting last Saturday is how many first-timers will be coming back? Celebrities will have enjoyed the free food and drink but one wonders how many put their hands in their pockets and placed a bet.
My view that the result of the big race was not a good one for the majority of punters is not shared by Turf Talk editor, David Thiseleton.
He feels it wasn’t an “unfavourable result as punters may have cottoned on to the formlines that showed Royal Victory to have the likes of the favourite Atticus Finch and Cousin Casey well held on paper.”
David adds that “the winner must have been backed on the tote anyway considering he paid only R18 for a win.”
These are two valid points.
No problem in differing views from journos but my case is that punters must have been shocked that all of Atticus Finch, Cousin Casey, Puerto Manzano, Billy Bowlegs and Winchester Mansion failed to finish in the first four.
Let’s look at four of this quintet.
ATTICUS FINCH – Alec Laird is an outstanding trainer and many pundits and punters fancied his Victory Moon winner. Personally, I preferred his former stablemate, Billy Bowlegs, but that was another sad story. Atticus, backed in to 11-2, was hampered by Son Of Raj which got Athandiwe Mgudlwa a 14-day suspension.
BILLY BOWLEGS: S’manga reported something amiss with the Brett Crawford runner who was much better off at the weights with Atticus Finch. The vet reported the colt to be not striding out left hind. Neither were his supporters!
WINCHESTER MANSION: More despair for the Crawford camp as the Hollywoodbets July hero trailed in eighth. He was priced up the early 5-1 favourite but was friendless in the market and started at 14-1.
PUERTO MANZANO: No big race joy this time with Johan Janse van Vuuren’s runner finishing tenth and failing to add to his bankroll of R4,7 million.
At the end of the day, it’s hats off to trainer Nathan Kotzen and jockey Muzi Yeni. They pocketed the substantial first cheque of R2 875 000.