MUCH has been made of the role of pedigree in the production of great horses over the years. While there’s no denying the value of parentage and its contribution to the fashioning of the breed, the glorious thing about racing is that some horses have been known to defy logic.
Great race horses and great stallions like Foveros and Jet Master who were both of relatively plebeian beginnings, are stark examples of the importance of physique, and the role that an athletic countenance plays in enabling one horse to run faster than another, whatever their beginnings.
In the human realm, Usain Bolt is another good example. There is no history of a runner in his genetic background, yet here he is, the freak of all freaks, doing what no man had ever done before him.
The Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale is probably the best reminder of why we all like racing. Its record of producing top athletes is, pound for pound, unrivalled in this country yet you wouldn’t necessarily have anticipated this through a simple glance at the catalogue. If ever a testimony was needed that you don’t have to have a flashy father to be a great racehorse, the Ready To Run provides it.
If ever you wanted evidence of a defiance of probability, the Ready To Run provides it. Graduates of the sale often mock those who put their faith in six generation pedigree charts. They confound vets in matters of engineering, and the judgement of horsemen who rely on the aesthetics of balance and style and presence. They triumph despite their wheels or their lack of illustrious parentage. They can be splendidly unscientific, often doing what they shouldn’t be able to do.
In recent times, horses like Imbongi (Russian Revival), Pierre Jourdan (Parade Leader), Winning Leap (Labeeb), Dynamite Mike (Fard), Hear The Drums (Gold Press), Catmandu (Makaaram), Phunyuka (Slew The Red) and, all of them either classic winners, champions or millionaires, have emerged from this sale to scale the heights in their respective divisions.
The modest returns in the sales ring point instantly to the fact that they were unfashionably bred, or that they may have suffered from some fault in God’s engineering, yet their records are in bold black type. This is not a new phenomenon though, as the likes of Imperial Despatch, Cereus, Bianconi, Amphitheatre and Icy Air, remind us that this is a phenomenon of long standing.
The Ready To Run is also racing at its democratic best. Last November, a one-time electrician took on an Arabian Sheikh for the top lot at R2.1million. It was every bit as dramatic as “the rumble in the jungle”, Ali vs Frasier, or the epic bout between Verus and Priscus at the opening of the Flavian amphitheatre. In the end, Andre Macdonald gave best to Sheikh Mohammed, but he was right back on the board when the presently unbeaten Igugu entered the ring. R1million later, Macdonald walked away with the spoils, a filly by the present champion sire of Europe, Galileo, who on present form, looks like she may have been something of a bargain.
Yes, there is something gladiatorial about a horse sales ring, where auctions are an adversarial form of shopping, and this is none more so than at the Ready To Run. No doubt, Sunday, 7th November will be the scene of some more fireworks.
Photo: Imbongi (yellow silks, wins in the UK)
Make a note of November’s most important dates!
Saturday, 6 November: 2010 Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup
Sunday, 7 November: Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale