Life as a stud is great — but what about the fans?
Met champion Double Superlative follows superstar Charles Dickens into retirement. Who’s next?
Double Superlative had hardly gone up six pounds to a merit rating of 124 for his stunning 2024 WSB Cape Town Met victory, and barely been quoted at 12-1 in ultra-early HWB Durban July betting, when he was retired to stud.
The five-year-old son of Twice Over has a sparse 13 runs and three wins to his name, so racing fans have probably been deprived of his competitive peak.
Truth is, Double Superlative was raced sparingly due to a bad tendon injury and it took trainer Justin Snaith’s exceptional horsemanship to get him back for a crack at the Met. Also, two of his three wins were in Grade 1 events – which doesn’t look half bad on a CV.
There has also been mention of the fact that the coming KZN winter season ends soon before the start of the covering season. Race-ready stallions must be “let down” and calmed down, over a period, before they are allowed near valuable broodmares. So, if, like Double Superlative owner Nic Jonsson, you’ve got a Met champion on your hands – especially one with a history of injury – you probably want to cash in sooner rather then later.
We saw a similar thing in 2020, when One World was shipped to the paddocks after his Met triumph – just as enthusiasts were looking forward to seeing him continuing his winning ways up the east coast.
The racing public was already feeling a tad short-changed on the thrills front with four-year-old Charles Dickens (MR132) quitting the game after claiming a King’s Plate in the new year.
Dreams make the thoroughbred world go around and there are no more fevered dreams than those that drift into realms of love matches made in heaven. The trouble is, the currency of dreams is cold, hard cash. So, when money murmurs seductive sweet nothings, a rural idyll beckons – not to mention years of hard work, rogering away.
Even promising three-year-olds are not immune to the siren call of the mating barn. Young Highveld star Sandringham Summit has already been syndicated to stud – though he’ll keep racing for a while.
Breeding kingpin John Freeman revealed this week that Sandringham Summit, winner of Saturday’s Gauteng Guineas, has 30 new owners, all leading lights in South African breeding, who are racing him in the colours of Varsfontein Stud.
The colt came into the world at Varsfontein, with its view of the Perdeberg, and he was sold for R1.7-million in 2022 – to Rakesh Singh, on the advice of trainer David Nieuwenhuizen. Less than two years later, Varsfontein bought him back – for several orders of magnitude more – and sold off bits of him to breeder dreams.
After his impressive trouncing of Grade 2 opposition at Turffontein on Saturday, the official handicappers nudged Sandringham Summit up by two pounds, to 123 – just one behind Double Superlative’s new mark and, possibly, into retirement territory.
The Triple Crown is probably on Nieuwenhuizen’s mind, with the second leg, the SA Classic, to be run in two weeks’ time.
Sandringham Summit is a 13-2 third favourite for the Durban July on 6 July, but it will be asking a heck of a lot of a three-year-old to stretch his campaign so far beyond the Triple Crown third leg, the SA Derby.
Whether he gets to pursue his career as a four-year-old is anyone’s guess. If he continues, he will be more mature, and therefore more difficult to handle and less interested in racing.
So, Sandringham Summit might never have a KZN winter campaign and might go to stud even earlier than those Cape Town distant cousins.
Freeman comments: “What I especially like about Sandringham Summit’s pedigree is that it has loads of the sort of vital ingredients that we all look for in our mating plans.
“Most importantly, he isn’t already inbred to them, meaning he has only one line of Northern Dancer (and strategically via a daughter) and he has only one line of Mr Prospector. Those two are major keys in most breeding theories and are endemic in more than half of the mares in our stud book.
“This is a big plus for all of the mares carrying multiple lines of Northern Dancer via sons and mares that could do with another line of Mr Prospector. Then of course the pedigree is also loaded with blue hens, which love being repeated in champions. Class!”
Such bloodline lingo seems to translate into getting our chap back to the farm pronto. And who can blame them?
But, sometimes, ordinary fans of the sporting side of the game would love to see all these wonderful racehorses competing together for a few more months and years.
Hats off to owner Mario Ferreira, who has kept his wonder mare Princess Calla racing on into her sixth year. Happily, for him and us, the handicappers left her merit rating of 127 untouched after her facile victory in the Majorca Stakes on Met day – giving the connections room to keep racing.