Story of Devon Air and Foveros

The 1984 Durban July winner Devon Air has been in the news lately as a typically tough and classy English-bred whose influence in South Africa continues to be felt and there is a good story behind her purchase told by the man who found her, Durban Bloodstock Agent Andy Williams, who was also behind the great stallion Foveros's import to SA.

Williams flew over to watch the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with a number of SA industrymen in 1981 and on that same trip they attended a meeting at Ascot which featured the Group 3 Hoover Fillies Mile, a two-year-old event which is a Group 1 held at Newmarket these days.

The Queen's huge filly Height Of Fashion won the race to remain unbeaten as a two-year-old and she went on to win the Group 2 Princess Of Wales Stakes in record-breaking fashion before going to stud and producing the great Nashwan as well as the like of Unfuwain and Nayef.

However, the horse who caught Williams eye in the Fillies Mile was a big bay maiden called Devon Air who ran on strongly to be beaten about 2.5 lengths into fourth.

Here is a replay of the race:

This contradicts previous reports that Devon Air's UK form had been "dismal", although she did not build on that form and remained a maiden throughout the following season.

Williams attended a sale at Newmarket a year of so later and noticed Devon Air going through the ring unsold.

He recalled, "She was trained by a guy called Jack Cann, who was largely a jumps trainer and had not trained a winner on the flat for over a year."

SA breeder Robin Scott of Scott Brothers was at the Sale and Williams approached him advising him to buy the filly.

Williams said, "In those days breeders Mick Goss and the Scott Brothers etc were attempting to improve the quality of South African broodmare and had certain criteria. Females who did not have a black type dam or who were not black type themselves did not qualify and you couldn't bring in a maiden."

Robin was initially sceptical and Williams recalled him saying 'But her timeform rating is only 69.'"

However, Williams knew this horse was better than her recent form suggested and persisted.

Robin's brother Des, who has always been more interested in racing than breeding, was ultimately contacted on the telephone from the Sales grounds.

Williams continued, "Des asked me what her rating was and I replied 96. He said ok then buy her."

Williams was questioned by colleagues about the white lie and he replied, "If he ever asks me I will just tell him I'm dyslexic!"

Des and Robin sent Devon Air to Cape trainer Terrance Millard.

Her first SA start was in a B Division event over 1900m at Milnerton on July 16, 1983, and carrying just 49kg she won by eleven lengths.

She arrived in Durban for the 1984 winter season with a further two wins under her belt, including a 13 length demolition job in a 2400m Listed event. She had followed the latter race with a third place finish in the Met, beaten just 1,75 length by the great Wolf Power with Spanish Pool second.

In Durban Devon Air recorded a famous Greyville hattrick, winning the Grade 2 Republic Day Handicap over 1900m by 3,25 lengths, the July by 1,25 lengths and the Gold Cup by 4,5 lengths. The Scott Brothers had previously bred July winner Politician and Des made it three July wins in 1990 as part-owner of the great Millard-trained Illustrador.

At stud Devon Air produced two stakes winners with her first two foals but then went off the boil and was sold to Zimbabwe in 1996.

However, her daughter Bushgirl, born in 1999, has produced Grade 1 winner August Rush (Var) and stakes winner Miss October (Var) and the latter has produced Grade 1 winner Tempting Fate and the promising October Song, so Devon Air's influence lives on.

The Scott Brothers stood the great eight-times SA Champion Sire Foveros and Williams was also behind his import.

He recalled being at a sale at Newmarket and stumbling into the bar out of knee deep snow and ordering a brandy and coke to warm up. Next to him at the bar counter, watching this freezing person trying to adapt to his first experience of snow, was trainer Clive Brittain and after striking up a conversation he invited Williams to visit his yard the next day.

Brittain brought Foveros out during the visit and described him as "disappointing after running a Group 1 second and he is now for sale."

Williams was impressed by the magnificent bay, who was owned by shipping magnate Captain Marcos Lemos, and with a purchase price of 120,000 pounds he had soon put a SA syndicate together.

The majority share was held together by Brian Moore and the British-born Zimbabwean, Jim Redman, a famous motorcycle racer who won six world championships in all.

Herman Brown Snr trained Foveros and his SA racing career started colourfully. He won the Grade 2 Germiston November Handicap in his fourth start but was led in by an unknown lady. It turned out that the naive Redman had sold shares in Foveros to various friends "under the lap" and the stipendiary stewards consequently withheld the stakes money. Williams came to the rescue and told Redman to inform them he had sold them breeding shares, a story the stewards accepted and the stakes money was paid out.

Foveros, as an official six-year-old, won his next three starts, all Grade 1s, the Hawaai Stakes, the Queen's Plate and The Met. Basil Marcus was aboard for all four of his stakes wins in SA.

Foveros initially stood in the Cape before being moved to Scott Brothers in the KZN Midlands.

Williams was also behind Foveros's father Averof being imported to stand at Broadlands stud where he produced four Grade 1 winners, Pedometer, who won the Sun International by an astonishing 14 lengths, Priceless Assett, Dynamite Lady and Milleverof.

Picture: The Terrance Millard-trained DEVON AIR with Felix Coetzee up posing for the official 1984 Durban July victory photograph.

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