Back to the home page
News, Newsletter, Updates
Our Services
The Facilities at Bush Hill Stud
Our Philosophy
Resident Stallions
Foals 2011
Our Achievements
The Team
Contact Us

Speed vs Stamina In South African Thoroughbreds

- By Sarah Whitelaw

Kahal at Bush Hill Stud stallion day, 2012. Image: Candiese Marnewick

The South African sires log is dominated by descendants of two male lines, Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector. Of the top ten sires on the current general sires log, (at the time of writing), five are descendants of Northern Dancer, while two others, Kahal and Western Winter, trace back to the great Claiborne sire Mr Prospector.

But how balanced is the local list in terms of speed versus stamina producing stallions?

The top ten log is headed by Maine Chance’s wonderful sire Silvano, who has had an unbelievable season headlined by the Gr1 winners Martial Eagle (J&B Met) and Heavy Metal (President’s Champion Challenge), as well as Guineas winners Vercingetorix and Tellina.

At the time of writing, Silvano’s runners have won over R13 361 000 for the season, and include 70 winners.

Silvano is one of South Africa’s leading classic influences, and is well known as a sire of horses who need both time and distance. Of his nine local Gr1 winners, none have won their principal races at under 1600m, and Silvano has, to date, produced one SA Oaks winner (2450m), one SA Derby hero (2450m), a July Handicap winner (2200m), and a champion stayer in Aslan (Gold Cup).

The great sire Jet Master, had had previously headed the local log for six straight years, was a tremendously versatile stallion. His progeny have won up to 2450 at the highest level, and include Gr1 SA Derby winners Ravishing and Pomodoro as well as Gr2 Gold Circle Derby hero Master Plan. He is also the sire of G1 Gold Cup runner up Vertical Takeoff.

On the other hand, Jet Master was capable of siring exceptional sprinters such as J J The Jet Plane and Mythical Flight, the fast filly Comet Chaser, and this season’s promising 3yo Chave de Oura. Another daughter, Ebony Flyer, won the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint over 1200 metres.

Jet Master, however, was such a great stallion that he was capable of siring high-class winners at all distances – and his statistics reflect this.

While the excellent, and ultra consistent, sire Kahal, third on the list, has sired a Gold Cup winner in Desert Links, he is best known as a sire of sprinter milers. This is underlined by his progeny’s average winning distance of 1444 metres.

Kahal’s 28 stakes winners include nine whose biggest wins came at 1200m or less. In other words, 32% of Kahal’s best performers were out and out sprinters.

Avontuur’s resident stallion Var was a flying machine himself, who won the G1 Prix de L’Abbaye over 1000m. An excellent stallion himself, Var is definitely a huge speed influence. Only one of Var’s 15 stakes winners have won a feature race over 1600m – and that was the stoutly bred Princess of Light.

Var’s very best progeny, with the notable exception of Horse of the Year Variety Club, have tended to shine between 1000-1200m. They include champion Val de Ra, star filly Via Africa, and brilliant juveniles Villandry, Vacherin and Valdivia.

Another very consistently successful sire is the Klawervlei based Captain Al. The son of Al Mufti (Roberto) has headed the juvenile sires list four times, and is currently fifth on the general list. Unlike his sire, Captain Al is best known as a sire of fast and precocious stock.

Of Captain Al’s five G1 winners, four were at their best between 1200-1600m. His progeny have an average winning distance of just over 1300 – in contrast to his sire Al Mufti.

Former champion sire Western Winter is consistently one of South Africa’s top sires. As is Jet Master, Western Winter is a truly great sire who is capable of producing high-class horses over a range of distances.However, of his 20 Gr1 winners, only one (Reveille Boy) won at the highest level over 3200m, and one (Yard-Arm) won the Gr1 SA Derby over 2450m. Half of Western Winter’s G1 winners showed their best form at 1600m, and three others were outright sprinters.

South Africa’s most consistent sire of classic horses and stayers is Fort Wood, whose progeny have been quiet of late. Fort Wood, who is currently 13th on the SA sires list, has built his name as a sire of outstanding classic horses who excel over 2000m plus.

His son, Dynasty, is fast making a name for himself as an heir to his sire’s throne. Dynasty’s progeny, by and large, need 1600m plus, with his best runners including Gr1 Gold Cup (3200m) winner Ancestral Fore, and classic winners Irish Flame and Jackson. Of the stallions mentioned above, it is clear that South Africa has three major sources, in Silvano, Fort Wood and Dynasty, of classic horses, who can get a trip.

Another promising young sire who is establishing himself as a potential top-class classic/stamina source is Greys Inn. A Gr1 SA Derby (2450) winning son of Zabeel, Greys Inn always had the look of a potential classic sire, and he is proving to be just that. His first crop produced both Gr1 SA Derby winner Royal Bencher as well as Gr2 Gold Bowl (3200m) hero Canterbury Tale. He could still make a big mark on the SA sires list with his classic offspring.

The likes of Jet Master, Western Winter, Kahal and Captain, while capable of siring the odd big race winner over 2000m tend to produce their best runners between 1200m and 2000m.

Var is the real star in South Africa when it comes to consistently producing exceptionally fast and precocious stock. In each of his first four full crops of racing age (2yos excluded) Var has produced at least one genuine star, which is a remarkable record.

Clearly, the South Africa stallion ranks are dominated by sprinter-milers. While speed is a major factor on the SA sires log, classic and staying sires still play an important role in the South African racing and breeding industry.

- article first published on

Visit Bush Hill Stud's Facebook page, Bush Hill Stud, for regular updates.

Our ServicesThe Facilities at Bush Hill StudNews, Newsletter, UpdatesResident StallionsBroodmaresContact Us
Our Philosophy Our Achievements History  The Team   Links