Long-legged steed gallops into history with R5.2m price tag

24 January 2015 - 23:48
By Jerome Cornelius

He is not even two years old, but already he's worth more than R5.2-million and has South Africa's horse racing fraternity abuzz.

Shining Knight made history this week when he sold for the highest price yet fetched in South Africa at the Cape Premier Yearling sale.

And while buyers from around the world attended the auction at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, it was a South African buyer who had the deepest pockets - Rustenburg game reserve owner Piet du Toit.

"I am so pleased that we managed to get him," said Du Toit. "I want to name him Tsunami and he will be trained here in Cape Town by top trainer Mike Bass."

Du Toit also bought Shining Knight's half sister, three-year-old filly Cold As Ice, for R2.5-million.

Yearlings to the value of R60.2-million were sold on the opening night of the auction on Thursday, with an average price of R620619 per horse.

The previous highest record for a yearling in South Africa was R3.25-million for Racing Free in 2013.

But Shining Knight's pedigree was a deal-clincher. "His father is a superstar champ stallion, a 16-year-old named Dynasty who won the Durban July when he was three years old," said Justin Vermaak, who is the racing manager at Maine Chance farms in Robertson, where the horse was raised.

"His mother's brother was also a champion named Silvano, a 19-year-old race horse from Germany who has raced in group ones in the US, Dubai and Singapore - the highest type of race," said Vermaak.

"It's the best pedigree of its kind in South Africa. Shining Knight is a good size, not a super big horse - very athletic with a powerful walk that is correct, with legs that are 100% straight. He was always going to go for big money."

Tom Qata, a groom for 26 years at Maine Chance and the man who has raised Shining Knight since he was born on August 30 2013, said he had no idea that the horse would sell for as much as he did. "I was here last year, and three of our horses sold for over R2-million each. I told the other men here that I didn't have a good horse next year. I never thought he would sell for R5-million," he said.

While pedigree plays a big role, Qata said training was also important when raising a winning horse. "We take them for jogs twice a day for 15 minutes.

"The legs are also important. You get skew-legged horses that run fast, but the buyers prefer straight legs because they look better. A show horse is attractive. Buyers always want a good sizer that walks well."

Then there is the grooming. "He must shine. Every morning, we clean him down by using a soft brush and a sponge."

Adrian Todd, CEO at Cape Thoroughbred Sales, said the pedigree of the horses on offer was top quality. "There was a lot of interest and what we have is equal to anything in the world. We have top-quality horses," he said.

In October Shining Knight will move to Mike Bass Racing in Milnerton, where he will begin training for next year's Cape Thoroughbred Sales Million Dollar Race.

The race has a prize of $1-million (about R13.4-million) split over the top five horses.

Mike Bass Racing trainer Candice Robinson said the auction could be a win or lose process.

"Just because you're paying R5.2-million for a horse doesn't mean it will be the best. He [Shining Knight] was one of the better-looking horses, but two people could like the same horse and with the right budget, they start bidding and don't stop," she said.

"We all go out there hoping to buy our dream. Everyone is trying to buy what they think is a dream horse. With Shining Knight, it was all there - strength, a good athlete and lovely looking."