Imported Mares Making A Mark In Australia

As his name would suggest, In The Congo is out of Via Africa (SAF) (Var {USA}), who was imported from South Africa by Nordic Racing and Breeding after the end of her stellar racing career, which saw her claim three Grade 1 level successes and be crowned as South Africa’s Champion Sprinter in 2013/14.

Now residing at Newhaven Park, Via Africa has produced four foals. Her first colt, by Redoute’s Choice, secured $320,000 to James Moore/Summit Racing Australia through the Newhaven Park draft at the 2019 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. Now named Pleasant Endeavor, he is making good progress for trainer Ricky Yiu in Hong Kong, winning two of his six starts.

In The Congo, a $350,000 buy for China Horse Club and Newgate Bloodstock through the 2020 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, looks a future star for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, having won two of his four starts, including a very strong renewal of the San Domenico S., a race which from the past five winners has produced five future stallions.

A Vancouver filly followed, purchased by Ryan Bloodstock for $260,000 at this year’s Easter Yearling Sale, while Via Africa recently produced a filly by Arrowfield Stud stallion The Autumn Sun.

Beautiful mare leaves beautiful foals

Newhaven Park’s John Kelly describes Via Africa as a beautiful mare who is making a strong impression with every foal she leaves.

“She was very fast and they took her to England to race at Ascot and something went wrong and she didn’t get to run there. She was a very elite sprinter in South Africa [trained by Duncan Howells].”

Fast Grade/Group 1-winning mares are a welcome addition to any broodmare band, and Via Africa had the added advantage of her genetic compatibility with such a wide range of Australian stallions.

“She’s all South African blood, so it’s a great outcross for the Aussie stallions. So far it’s working,” Kelly said.

“She’s the most lovely mare and she has the best nature. She’s one of the quietest mares on Newhaven. She never does anything wrong. She is very “laconic.” said Kelly.

That good nature has transferred to her foals, including In The Congo, who Kelly rated very highly as a younger horse on the farm.

“In The Congo was a beautiful yearling. Obviously, he never went to the sales complex because that was the COVID year. No-one actually got to see how good he was,” he said.

“He was the most magnificent yearling with that beautiful temperament. He never put a foot out of line for the whole prep. That’s something she seems to have passed on and the Vancouver filly this year was the same.”

Having foaled already, and produced an early season stakes winner, Via Africa is set for a quick return to the breeding barn, but it is not yet confirmed where she might go.

“We haven’t really decided yet. We have to make that call in the next few days. She will either go to Snitzel or Capitalist,” Kelly said.

In The Congo as a yearling

Across the Indian Ocean

Via Africa is part of a select group of South African broodmares in Australia, with Studbook data revealing only nine of them getting in foal last season. Of those nine, four are Grade 1 winners in their home country, while the other five have won at a minimum of Grade 3 level.

The expense and logistics of importing horses from South Africa has necessitated a very select approach from Australian breeders.

According to Racing Australia data, just 13 horses in the past decade have been imported to Australia from South Africa.

When you compare that to the over 750 horses that have gone the other way across the Indian Ocean in the same time period, it gives you a good sense of how rare it is for a South African broodmare to prosper in Australia.

Of those nine mares on Studbook active on Australian studs in 2020, one is a Group 1/Grade 1 producer, while Via Africa became the second of that group to produce a stakes winner thanks to In The Congo’s success. A further three have produced stakes performers, while many of the rest are early in their breeding careers and are yet to have runners to the track.

The Group 1 producer is Alexandra Rose (SAF) (Ceasour {USA}), a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed herself on the track. She is owned by Team Valor International and her Animal Kingdom (USA) filly Oleksandra won the G1 Jaipur S. at Belmont Park in the United States in 2020. She has also produced four other winners, including the stakes-placed Hostwin Galaxy (Redoute’s Choice).

Grade 1-winning 2-year-old Asylum Seeker (SAF) (Count Dubois {GB}), has developed into a handy producer for Tara Farm, with two stakes, placegetters in Scarlet Dream (Sebring) and Runaway Girl (Sebring), as well as four other winners. Scarlet Dream, runner-up in a G1 Australian Oaks, secured $750,000 as a broodmare this year.

Chocolicious (SAF) (Kahal {GB}), another Grade 1-winning juvenile in her home country, is currently a resident at Esker Lodge and she too has produced a stakes performer in Notation (Fastnet Rock).

Sweet Sanette (SAF) (Jallad {USA}), a Grade 3 winner and placed in a G1 King’s Stand S. on the track when trained out of Hong Kong by Tony Millard, has produced five winners, including Group 3-placed Sweet Rockette (Fastnet Rock) and the promising Tony and Calvin McEvoy-trained filly Royal Dress (I Am Invincible).

A joint effort

Arrowfield Stud has been a supporter of bringing South African mares to Australia, notably through a joint venture with Klawervlei Stud Farm. That agreement brought multiple Grade 1 winners and South African Horse of the Year National Colour (SAF) (National Assembly {Can}) to Arrowfield, from where she produced two Grade 1 winners in Rafeef (Redoute’s Choice) and Mustaqeem (Redoute’s Choice).

National Colour, who has produced five winners in total, died in November 2018. The joint venture has since brought Carry On Alice (SAF) (Captain Al {SAF}), the five-time Grade 1 winner and Champion South African sprinter, to Arrowfield, where she has been bred to Snitzel on three consecutive years. Her first foal, a colt, was purchased by Mick Price Racing for $700,000 through this year’s Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.

The late National Colour

Arrowfield’s enthusiasm for South African-bred horses saw it secure two fillies through last year’s Cape Premier Yearling Sale. Named Red Boulevard (SAF) (Visionaire {USA}) and All That Jazz (Trippi {USA}), they are in Paul Messara’s stable.

The other notable enthusiast for South African bloodlines has been Sean Buckley. Grade 1 winner Dane Julia (SAF) (Ceasour {USA}) is part of his broodmare band at Barree Stud, as is Grade 2 winner Winterinthewoods (SAF) (Western Winter {USA}).

Another Barree Stud mare, Miss Ethics (SAF), who won at Grade 3 level in her homeland, and is the dam of this year’s G3 Bow Mistress S. winner Ethical Solution (Shamus Award), was not served in 2020.

The notable thing that stands out when looking at the stallions which most of these South African mares visited in 2020 is that they are being bred to the best.

Sweet Sanette and Love To Boogie (SAF) (Trippi {USA}) both went to Justify (USA), Alexandra Rose and Carry On Alice to Snitzel, Chocolicious to Deep Field while Grade 2 winner Flying Ice (SAF) (Go Deputy {USA}) went to Blue Point (Ire).

On the other side of the pedigree page, Australian breeders will have access to a South African-bred Group 1-winning stallion in 2021, in, Yulong Prince (SAF). The son of Gimmethegreenlight makes his debut at Yulong Stud in Victoria at $9900 (inc GST).

-Bren O’ Brien /

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