IN National Yearling Sale week, here is an update on the Birch Brothers, renowned breeders of yore, who will be in attendance at the 2016 Sale. This article is from the TBA’s 40th Anniversary at Gosforth Park Complex booklet, available at the Sale this week.
THE name Birch is synonymous with arguably the greatest era in South Africa’s breeding history – a time when true legends like Sea Cottage, Colorado King, later the mighty Wolf Power and even later Royal Chalice ruled the turf.
The mentioned runners were all bred and raised by the Brothers Birch at Vogel Vlei Stud in Dordrecht, Eastern Cape. They were multiple champion breeders of multiple Grade 1 winners and dozens of champions in a legacy of Birches that started way back when, just after the turn of the 19th century with transport horse breeder EV Birch, continued through World War II with his sons Sydney, Walter and Ted, and then into the 1960s and 1970s with Bob, Chris and Richard at the helm.
Vogel Vlei in Dordrecht: Lends itself to tough cattle and racing stock.
Birch Bros stood stallion Fairthorn (the sire of Sea Cottage), and most notably the champion sire Plum Bold (USA), later Sea Cottage himself, but the family diversified and as a breeding operation they never reached their spectacular heights again, nearing the turn of the 20th century.
After all the years, Bob’s son Syd (63) still farms at Vogel Vlei Stud along with his son Colin (33). The glory days seem so long gone, but father and son have set their sights on getting back into the winner’s circle. They have five yearlings at the 2016 National Yearling Sale and Syd tells: “We have lit the fires again. Colin is young and passionate about horses, he’s a talented guy and we’d like to breed Gr1 winners once more!”
They know that their dream won’t be easily realisable, but they’re open-minded all the same and Syd comments: “We don’t have a stallion, you can’t have one when there are no mares in the area to support you. But we’ve built our own band of broodmares back to 40 and some of them hail from the old, potent Drohsky line. We’re planning our matings and floating them in and out to our stallions of choice.
“As an area, Dordrecht still lends itself to good farming stock, including cattle and racehorses. They grow up tough here, like they used to, and there is no reason why our thoroughbreds won’t be able to run like they used to!”