Nothemba Mlonzi Breeds 100% Winners In First Season

Nothemba Mlonzi recieved special recognition at the KZN Breeders Awards. Image: Candiese Marnewick

There was plenty to celebrate at the KZN Breeder’s Awards held at Fordoun in Nottingham Road on Saturday night but the most heartwarming story was of a new breeder, Nothemba Mlonzi, whose first two runners she has bred both won in their first racing season.

Nothemba owns a farm in the Midlands where she had been growing tomatoes. A Cedara graduate was managing this operation and thoroughbred breeding doyen Anton Procter, who lives nearby, was also regularly helping out. The manager one day recommended she should do something with the section of empty land she had, where the kikuya grass would provide good grazing. He informed her of Procter’s success in breeding racehorses in the area and advised her to chat to him.

Master Keys showed serious toe to pull away and win by three lengths under star jock Lyle Hewitson. Image: Candiese Marnewick
Master Keys showed serious toe to pull away and win by three lengths under star jock Lyle Hewitson. Image: Candiese Marnewick

Procter recommended she should first travel to watch the Epsom Derby, where the winner represents the pinnacle of breeding achievement, and this would give her a good idea of what the game was all about.

He had soon organised her a Derby ticket with the help of Larry Nestadt.

Nothemba, who works in Johannesburg for the company she herself founded, Econ Oil, had a wonderful time at the Derby, where she was hosted by Bernard Kantor. She came home with no more doubts about starting the new venture. She had soon purchased two mares, On A Wing (a three-time winner over 1200m by Tiger Ridge) and Celestial Cloud (a twice-winner by Toreador and a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Patchit Up Baby). The resulting progeny were the filly Master Keys and the colt Galaxy Tunes. The pair  were sold at the National Yearling Sales and the KZN Yearling Sale for R100,000 and R50,000 respectively through her Mwetwood Stud.

Master Keys gave Nathan Kotzen his first winner as a trainer when scoring on debut and Galaxy Tunes also won on debut for Mark Dixon.

Master Keys had her second start at Scottsville yesterday and finished unplaced.

Procter has advised Nothemba throughout and she could not have asked for a more experienced and passionate mentor.

Procter played cricket for Natal together with his legendary brother Mike. However, he was always destined to be a farmer and horseman. He began following pedigrees in his school days as he was keen to find out why different horses by the same sire kept on winning. Later he became involved in amateur horseracing as an owner and trainer in Donnybrook. He travelled all the way down to Umtata to win his first race, the horse being ridden by a young African who had never ridden in a race before. It felt like winning the July to Procter and his passion grew. His later career in thoroughbreds included being secretary of the Richmond Gymkhana Club; he had a public trainer’s license in Zimbabwe; and he spent nine years working for perennial KZN champion breeders Summerhill Stud. He also had a stint as a bookmaker.
He had been unhappy at his place of employ at the time in the late 1960s and when a bookmaker’s license became available in Greytown he purchased it for R1020. On Durban July day in 1970 just about the whole town descended on his premises thinking it was a Tote and he stood to lose a fortune on the favourite Naval Escort. Fortunately the latter ran unplaced and an outsider his wife had dreamed vividly about winning the race, Court Day, duly won. An exhausted Procter arrived home on the Saturday evening and asked his children to count the contents of his satchel. It came to a princely R34,000, which was three times more than it had cost him to buy the property and build the house where they were staying.
Galaxy Tunes, related to Cumulus and Patchit Up Baby. Images: Candiese Marnewick
Galaxy Tunes, related to Cumulus and Patchit Up Baby. Images: Candiese Marnewick

Procter’s influence is still felt in SA breeding as he was instrumental in bringing Rakeen over to South Africa. This son of the great Northern Dancer went on to sire the phenomenal champion racehorse and seven-times South African National Champion Sire, Jet Master. It was Nestadt who had given Procter an instruction to find a horse good enough to win a stakes race in South Africa and have a pedigree good enough to stand at stud. The buying team’s first option was on Mark Of Distinction, but the deal fell through. Then, Procter, with the help of pedigree fundi Robin Bruss, identified all of the Northern Dancers left in the world and they found Rakeen, a four-year-old trained by John Gosden who had not yet raced but who had a superb pedigree.

They approached Sheik Mohammed’s manager Anthony Stroud and he agreed to sell for £100,000. However, a few days later Rakeen won comfortably on debut over nine furlongs and the deal was off. Three days later he ran over a mile and was beaten as odds on favourite. Stroud did an about turn and said he would sell for £125,000 and the deal was done. Procter went to watch Rakeen’s next race a few days later at Doncaster with Henry Cecil’s assistant and a Sheik Mohammed representative. Under Walter Swinburn he won the ten furlong event by five lengths. Rakeen won four races in South Africa and finished third in the July of 1991, the same year the celebrated import Al Mufti ran second.

Procter was working for Aldora Stud in the KZN Midlands when Rakeen stood there. He recalled the late Hugh Jonsson wanting to send his mare Jet Lightning to him but stalling as he was convinced R5,000 for a live foal was too much. Procter, in a session of bartering which lasted about two hours one morning, eventually convinced Jonsson the fee was worth it for such a well bred stallion and the resulting progeny was Jet Master.

Procter, with the help of veterinarian John McVeigh, also identified the successful stallion Toreador on a visit to Coolmore and he was also instrumental in bringing over Crusade, who was announced as the KZN Stallion of the Year at Saturday night’s awards.

Nothemba currently owns six mares and has also bought a share in the exciting new Maine Chance Farms-based Dubawi stallion, Erupt.

Her enthusiasm will surely rub off on others so her importance to an industry which needs new participants can not be underestimated.

-David Thiselton

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