The recently concluded 2009/2010 racing season, saw Jet Master top the South African general sires list with Captain Al heading the juvenile sires list (by money earned). Exciting young sire, Dynasty won an Outstanding Stallion Achivement Award at the Equus awards, and top sprinter Cataloochee was the second leading first crop sire by earnings.
Strikingly, all of the stallions mentioned above were bred in South Africa.
For many years, South African horse racing has largely been dominated by the stock of imported stallions. Until Jet Master burst onto the scene in 2006, no South African bred stallion had headed the sires premiership since Elevation in 1984.
And prior to 1984, the only locally bred horse to be named champion sire in South Africa was Dignitary way back in 1934. Interestingly enough, Dignitary, Elevation and Jet Master were all exceptional champion racehorses. Dignitary was the best of his generation at two and three, Elevation won the important Holiday Inns on three occasions, whilst Jet Master was a superb sprinter- miler, a horse who thrashed the country's best milers and sprinters alike. Dignitay and Elevation both took superb pedigrees with them to stud, whilst Jet Master had more modest parentage.
Dignitary was a son of Greatorex, a horse who topped the South African general sires list on ten occasions. Greatorex himself was a son of the great Australian champion Carbine and Epsom Oaks heroine Mrs Butterwick. He himself was a top-class 2yo, winning two good races in Britain and defeating subsequent Triple Crown winner Rock Sand when second in the Middle Park Stakes. He was also third in the Dewhurst Stakes behind Rock Sand.
Dignitary was out of Dignity, described as one of the best mares ever bred in South Africa, who was known for her weight carrying exploits during her career. Dignity, described as the "Sceptre of South Africa" was third in the SA Derby (2400m) before winning the Merchants (1200m). At stud, Dignity also produced SA Nursery winner Decorum. Dignity herself was a daughter of Minor Forfeit, a once raced son of Minting who topped the SA sires list in 1915.
Dignitary himself was a top-class racehorse, who was dominant at both 2 and 3. He was bred and owned by Henry Nourse, one of the most successful breeders in the history of the South African turf.
Winner of 15 races, Dignitary won all of the major 2yo races of his era, including the South African Nursery and Gosforth Park Plate, before going on to classic success at three. During his sophomore campaign, Dignitary won all of the Benoni Guineas, SA Derby, St Leger and Jockey Club Stakes. He was beaten twice at 3, once by Flush of Dawn (one of the greatest fillies ever bred in South Africa) and once when giving the winner, Oribi, over 3 stone in the Johannesburg Winter Handicap.
He was, at the time of his death, regarded as one of the three best horses bred in South Africa, along with Moonlit and Lenin.
Retired to stud in 1923, Dignitary quickly featured among the leading sires of winners, despite not receiving the best of opportunities.
The esteemed Bloodstock Breeders Review of 1935 says of Dignitary, "it can hardly be said that he is a "worthy" champion", as his figures reveal that his position is more to the number of his winning offspring than to their quality as racehorses." In the 1934/1935 season, Dignitary was represented by 50 individual winners, who won 116 races for the total sum of 13,526 pounds.
To be fair,Dignitary was amongst the top ten sires from 1928 until 1943, when he finished out of the top ten for the first time. He was a remarkably consistent sire of useful winners and was also 3rd on the sires list, posthumously, in 1943-1944.
Dignitary's better-class offspring include top sprinter Tenon, winner of the Gosforth Park Plate, Shy, successful in the Johannesburg Spring Handicap, high-class juvenile Pegger, and the top-class sprinter Lordship.
Dying at the ripe old age of 25, Dignitary was a true rarity, a superbly bred horse who fulfilled his genetic destiny both on the race track and in the breeding shed.
Elevation, the triple Holiday Inns winner, was a superb racehorse. His 11 wins came over distances ranging from 1000 to 2450 meters. He was a top-class juvenile, who went on to land the SA Derby at three, before becoming one of best horses in training as a 4yo. Only one other horse reeled off a hat-rick of wins in the Holiday Inns, namely Java.
Elevation was by the Hyperion horse High Veldt. Second to Ribot in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, High Veldt retired to stud in South Africa, where he became champion sire.
Elevation was out of Distiller, a half-sister to champion racehorse Excise as well as Rhine Valley, dam of leading sire Trocadero.
Champion sire in 1984-1985, Elevation sired 530 foals, 41 (8%) of which won stakes races. Although he was a very good sire, his statistics suggest that Elevation was not a truly great stallion. Be that as it may, Elevation was responsible for three Gr1 winners, one of them , Rain Forest, won the Cape Guineas before going on to an unsuccessful career at stud. Other top horses sired by Elevation include champion Yamani, Oaks winner Daddy's Darling and Vodacom July runner up Versailles.
The other locally bred champion sire, Jet Master, was a sensation from the first day he stepped on a race track and made a winning debut. A huge, flashy bay, Jet Master won 17 races, eight of which were Gr1's, and was Horse of the Year in 1999 . Jet Master was a truly great sprinter- miler, who won from 1000 - 1600 meters, in spite of breathing problems which required a hobday operation during his training.
His sire, Rakeen (a Northern Dancer half-brother to Rahy and Singspiel) was a respectable sire in South Africa, but was never champion. Jet Master was out of a mare, Jet Lightning, who won twice, but produced just one stakes winner. Jet Master is the only stakes winner in the first three generations of his family.
Whilst Jet Master was well supported numerically in his early days at stud, he generally didn't cover particularly classy mares in his first few seasons. Nonetheless, he became a sensation. His first crop included no fewer than 16 individual stakes winners, one of which was Pocket Power, a triple Horse of the Year, as well as three other Gr1 winners. Jet Master headed the sires list for the first time when his first crop was just four, and he has yet to be dethroned.
Without question the greatest stallion yet bred in South Africa, Jet Master's success continues to grow. His success and popularity has seen a trend of growing belief in young South African bred sires, and it will be interesting to see how local stallions fare in coming years, and if there is another Jet Master among them.