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Posted 2024-04-18 06:52:56  
South African Breeding: Are we breeding correctly?

The opening of the South African market to the world is a step in the right direction, but the question remains: are we too far behind the curve to export quality stock that can be competitive on the world stage?

This question is rather uncharted territory and will continue to be so as long as South Africa has few to no current runners on the international scene. To date, the best runners who have traveled overseas have been failures. They have been few and far between. The likes of Catch Twenty Two have failed dismally on the world stage after competing in Gr1 races in South Africa. The question remains about the quality of our current stock and the depth of our breeding. Note that the current export of our horses via the United States shipment may answer some of these questions rather quickly, but even then, will it be too late to reassess the way we breed, with a likely impact only 3 to 4 years from now.

There is no doubt that South African breeders have fallen by the wayside after years of isolation. The scandal around our operators and their well-documented failure, COVID, and lack of public support have driven many breeders into not investing or, to a lesser degree, consolidating. This has meant that the broodmare stock has been depleted and the lack of quality stallions is evident. This is relative, though. If we want to compete on the world stage, we need stock comparable, breeding-wise, to Australia and South America. We aren't at that level and will likely not be for decades to come unless there is a well-thought-out plan.

The plan is quite simple. Or so it seems. Our breeders, by and large, are dead set on breeding sprinter/milers, yet we cannot compete with Australia in this area. They believe, and the myopic operator stance is geared toward the 2-year-old sprint program. As we've seen, the copycat of Australia's system is clear, themselves a copycat of other systems around the world, has led us and our breeders to breed for sprinter/milers. This is wrong in many ways.

The reason for this is largely obvious, though. The Sprinter/milers come early and are early to race and sell well. All good, but that does nothing for the longer-term international sales market we aim to capture. We cannot compete in this sprinter/miler area with Australia, but we can compete with them in the middle-distance market. However, our stock isn't geared in that direction any longer and by the way our breeders are investing, will likely not be for a long while.

Also, with the number of locally bred stallions at stud and almost every horse who won a Gr1 mile race here and not gelded at stud, it has led to a bunch of largely poor stallions in the marketplace. Poor, by international standards, that is, with world ratings and rankings that aren't worthy of standing anywhere but South Africa.

Now, while this is, in the short term, fine, in the long term, we are putting back poorly bred mares into the system. A system that is now creating mediocrity in the sprinter/miler division that we can't compete in anyway for sales to international clientele looking for horses to compete against better-bred Australians. We may be better value, but there is no use competing against the Australians as, in terms of the statistics, we cannot.

The days of Fort Wood, Western Winter, Al Mufti, Rakeen, Var, Silvano, and further back to Northern Guest, etc., are gone. All imported stallions they were. We had a few successful local breds too that have done well but punctuated by these very nice international bloodlines. The mares of these are in the system but getting old and retiring. We need new stock.

As we move into the depths of the National Sales week, the question remains, are we breeding correctly and if so, can we be competitive in the market we are breeding for? We certainly aren't big enough to breed for both Sprinter/milers and middle-distance horses, so should we concentrate on the stamina side and become the go-to Southern Hemisphere region for that?

There is absolutely no doubt that this should be done.

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