By Justin Casse
(Editor’s note: Bloodstock agent Justin Casse is attending the Premier Cape Thoroughbred sale and weekend of racing in South Africa and has agreed to share his journey with the TDN).
If I’m being honest with myself, this did not sound appealing: a 24 hour and five minute trip to South Africa for the Cape Premier Yearling Sale. But somewhere between Iceland and Orlando when flying back from the European mixed sales in December, I decided it must be done. Several influential counterparts in Europe recommended on more than one occasion that I make the trip and thus far, I can say that I am glad I listened.
Upon arriving in Cape Town at 9:30 p.m. Monday night, I was greeted in the hotel lobby by Mick Flanagan (one of the few agents I know who travels more than me). We chatted for a bit and were later joined by Amanda Skiffington, Peter Doyle, Nicolas Clement and a group of others. It’s a nice feeling after you’ve travelled half way around the world to see some familiar faces. The nice part about arriving at night after a trip of that magnitude is that you can go to bed sooner to avoid the jet lag and that is exactly what I did.
The following morning I woke up very early, eager to start my day, and what better way to kick off the morning than with some coffee, fresh fruits and sushi? Yes, sushi for breakfast was laid out in the hotel restaurant (and it’s not as bad as it sounds). Hermione FitzGerald (daughter of the late Lord John FitzGerald) was considerate enough to play tour guide as myself and a few others were off to see Drakenstein Stud, which was roughly a 40-minute car ride from the center of Cape Town.
Besides admiring the Franschloeck Motor Museum (220 vintage cars) which was on the property, I was very much looking forward to catching up with Trippi, who was purchased by Gaynor Rupert roughly eight years ago from Ocala Stud, for several reasons. I am very good friends with the O’Farrell family; the Casses and O’Farrells have a mutual respect and admiration for one another and to this day I feel privileged be able to call them my friends. Also, my brother Mark had acquired the sire of Trippi (End Sweep), planned the mating of Trippi, and eventually sold Trippi to Dogwood for $65k in Keenland April 1999.
Needless to say, the 19-year-old stallion looked phenomenal, and why wouldn’t he? If I was living on that beautiful piece of land snuggled against the Drakenstein (dragon stone) mountain range, I’m sure I would as well. We were escorted around by Kevin Sommerville who showed us Trippi, Duke of Marmalade, Kingsbarns, Philanthropist (a half-dozen of which I had sold as 2-year-olds a few years back) and local hero What A Winter. The latter of that group boasts quite an impressive race record: South African champion sprinter of 2012 and 2013 and champion older horse in 2013. He won 4 Grade 1 races, a total of 15 races from 26 starts. But after further investigation, the staggering part was for all those efforts, he accumulated $200,000 based on the current conversion rates. (Editor’s note–What a Winter’s official earnings stand at $406,434).
That last bit makes this next sentence all the more interesting. On Saturday, at Kenilworth Racecourse, Bernard Kantor’s Investec is sponsoring a sales stakes race for US$1 million. This is obviously unheard of in South Africa and is hoped to be a driving force behind the sales preceeding the race on Thursday and Friday afternoon. This promotion has created quite the buzz in and around the sales grounds, which is nothing like any sales grounds I have ever visited, as it is inside the Cape Town Convention Centre, horses, sales ring and all. And although this seems unorthodox, it really works quite well. It is easy to maneuver around the consignments and the horses don’t mind it one bit.
As far as the quality of horses go, it is a very diverse group, the reason being that the local sires are drawing from sire lines around the world, both dirt and turf pedigrees. You have a son of Forest Wildcat (Var) who has been hugely successful, grandsons of Sadler’s Wells (Horse Chesnut and
Dynasty), the German-bred Arlington Million winner Silvano, just to name a couple of the many stallions that have been imported from around the world. And for that very reason you have a selection of horses that look simlilar to horses I could see in Ocala, Lexington or even Europe. It makes it a very unique experience inspecting the stock here. The conversion rate is extremely favorable than any of encountered with the 1 million rand equating to US$59,000 or £42,000 (US$1=R16.76). This should entice anyone who is earning their living outside of South Africa to buy horses here and help propel the sales. We will find out soon enough as the sale begins Thursday evening and continues Friday evening.