Once in awhile, you meet a person and you are easily able to identify a few innate things about a person. Boland Stud's Catherine Hartley is one such person.
During our conversation with Catherine, we realized that her knowledge and passion do not just come from imbibing information, observation or experience. A lot of it also comes from an inborn quality. It is almost as if she was born to do this.
2020 is an interesting year, to put it mildly, in these times we have witnessed almost every emotion. What is interesting for us to know is how the bigger names from the industry are coping with it. That is exactly why we met Catherine.
In this tete-a-tete, Catherine Hartley speaks about their successes in the BSA National Yearling Sale, their challenges during the COVID19 restriction time and much more:
Q: We are very excited about your high-value sales. Can you please tell us more about the Thoroughbred owner who is new to breeding?
A: The top-priced lot sold at the Bloodstock South Africa National Yearling Sales in July is a full brother to the multiple Grade 1 winning colt Hawwaam, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, who is on his way to a racing campaign abroad.
By Silvano out of the champion broodmare Halfway to Heaven, Lot 185 Celestial City was knocked down to the new owner of Summerhill Stud, Mr. Henning Pretorius. He recently took over the reins of the Kwa-Zulu Natal based former Champion Breeding Stud and has renamed the organization Summerhill Equestrian.
Henning Pretorius is a farmer and horseman but his breeding interests up until now have been firmly rooted in the production of Warmblood Showjumpers, having imported breeding stock from Europe.
With his purchase of Summerhill Stud, to relocate his warmblood horses, he also takes on the legacy of an established Thoroughbred nursery with a long and impressive history. (Summerhill Stud was the Champion Breeder for 9 consecutive years from 2005.) He confirmed his intention of getting more involved in Thoroughbred racing and breeding by bidding R7 Million for the very well related colt, who already has stallion potential.
Pretorius also purchased a top filly by Querari, a full- sister to Grade 1 winner Querari Falcon. The filly was another stand-out individual, powerful and racy, who could also be a valuable addition to the broodmare ranks.
Q: Could you please tell us about your bloodstock initiatives and the story about what your groom proposed and how did that journey result in the R1.2 million sales?
A: The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, together with the Cape Breeders Club and the Kwa-Zulu Natal Breeders Club, is instrumental in driving ongoing education and training of stud staff who are absolutely integral to the efficient functioning of a stud farm.
This is with a view to continually developing staff and their capabilities, allowing them the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills, through a formalized training program, accredited by the Equine Qualifications Authority of South Africa (EQASA), as a fully recognized qualification.
Requirements for skills training start from a basic level, (some staff is only semi-literate), including important life and practical skills such as personal finance, handling credit, wills and retirement, legal rights, communication, etiquette, and workplace conflict, through to business skills and computer literacy for more advanced students. The program involves increasing levels of technical and business skills development, starting with the professional grooms’ program, and certificate, through to head groom and yard manager. Individuals progress to the next level based on their technical, and practical ability and performance in oral exams.
In addition to the training provided, long-serving stud staff and those that have passed specific levels are included in inclusive co-operative programs, which enable staff to be more fully vested in the industry and the outcomes. Mostly these programs include ownership of a mare and foals, and/or weanlings to be produced for yearling sales. Apart from the potential returns, this also allows the staff involved to better understand the business side of the stud farm and gives a broader understanding of the importance of all aspects of the operation and how each relates to the final results. In addition to the formal training plan, life skills, and relevant topics such as showing a horse for sale, are covered in short lectures arranged for staff attending the various auction sales.
The most successful of these co-ops to date has been the Riverside Thoroughbred Co-operative who were responsible for selling the up-and-coming young stallion Vercingetorix at the National Yearling Sale in 2011.
The Silvano colt which they had pin-hooked as a weanling from Klawervlei Stud was sold for R1.4 Million. Vercingetorix began his career in South Africa, racing in the silks of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, and went on to race in Dubai and Hong Kong, with his most notable win in the Gr. 1 Jebel Hatta. He stands at Andreas Jacobs Maine Chance Farms in Robertson.
Some stud farms run their own grooms’ bloodstock programs, independently of the Association, and this year’s National Yearling Sale will see Cheveley Stud Farm consign a Futura colt for their staff.
Cheveley’s Vaughan Koster says: “We bred the mare Siena’s Star and decided to keep her when she didn’t realize her value in the sales ring.
I had been looking for a mare for our grooms to breed from for a little while and so when she retired from racing they accepted the option to breed with her. They keep the mare on Cheveley Stud at no cost, and I try to help them with services to stallions that we have shares in. The final decision on which stallion they go to lies with them. The gratuity runs deep, with our vet Dr. Hannelu De Villiers, the dentist Gary Waters and our farrier John Gatt giving their services free of charge.”
The colt they sold at this year’s national yearling sale was Lot 394 by Futura (Dynasty) who has had a wonderful start to his stallion career. He was an outstanding individual and was knocked down to Plattner racing for R1,2Million. Of the 300 yearlings sold, only 12 achieved a price of R1 Million and above, so this was an excellent achievement, especially in this difficult market.
The Association and Bloodstock South Africa waive any entry fees and commissions on the sale of any groom’s horses, so that all proceeds are for their account, to be invested in further bloodstock and/or as the group agrees.
Among this group of Cheveley staff is currently the top qualifier of all the stud staff, to have successfully completed all levels of the Stud Yard Managers training, Stoffel Mouton.
Stoffel started at Cheveley Stud in 2004, marking 16 years of service. He has worked incredibly hard to elevate himself to an Assistant Managerial position and is responsible for the barren mares, weanlings, and yearlings.
To mark this milestone, the TBA presented Stoffel with an award, directly after the successful sale of their colt.
“Our Stud Staff are the heart of our Bloodstock and Breeding industry, it is their hands-on care, dedication, and patience, that produce the horses that grace our race-tracks and go on to be champions. They deserve all the support and recognition that we can offer them.” Catherine Hartley, CEO TBA
Q: Please tell us some of the challenges you have faced with the COVID19 outbreak and restrictions?
A: The onset of Covid- 19 delayed the national yearling sale by 3 months, racing was on hold for 2 months, until it was re-instated behind closed doors, and thus cash flow for breeders and owners was negatively affected. On the back of a shrinking local economy and racing industry, this has proved to be a difficult year to remain positive and for many breeders, it has meant reducing breeding stock and restricting costs for the foreseeable future. As an industry, we have had to re-look the way sales are conducted, and like many other sales world-wide, a bigger reliance on online platforms has been required. Ultimately this is a positive, as costs can be reduced, and by having detailed pedigree, conformation information, and live auction action, the ability to reach a far greater audience is enhanced. The national yearling sale demonstrated this by the number of online bidders who were on the live platform, and actively participating in the sale in real-time.
Bloodstock South Africa which is the sales arm of the TBA has also launched a monthly auction sale, which provides a cost-effective and efficient platform for breeders, owners, trainers, and even sport-horse producers to put their available horses up for sale to a wide audience.
Q: Please tell us more about your role at TBA and how you have seen this role evolve over the years?
A: I joined the TBA in March 2017 initially handling the Breed Affairs, before I took on the CEO role a few months later. It has been challenging in some respects and very rewarding in others, mostly due to the challenges and economic down-turn that the racing industry has faced. However, the very nature of breeders is one of optimism and looking forward simply by virtue that you are planning a champion racehorse from the moment one selects the stallion to cover a mare. The results of that decision only come to fruition some three years later. Against many local challenges, and the ongoing export restrictions, the shared passion and abiding love for the Thoroughbred keeps us all going and standing together.
The National Yearling Sale held in July was a very good example of this. Breeders stood fast, had the faith to send their horses to the sale and the drafts they sent were of very good quality. While we were all a bit uncertain as to how the sales results would reflect the extraordinary times we live in, everyone did their bit and mostly the results were positive and better than anticipated.
The Association has more recently taken on International Marketing efforts, overseeing the role of Racing South Africa and the SA Equine Trade Council, liaising with the Department of Trade and Industry. These are important initiatives to keep South African bloodstock in the International minds and maintain our presence and positive relationships in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore, who have seen much success with South African bred horses.
South African breeders are also major funders of Equine Research and the ongoing protocol requirements to achieve direct export approval.
The TBA is also instrumental in the promotion and coordination of training, education, and bloodstock programs for our stud staff. This important aspect of the Association allows more stud staff and grooms to be more vested in the outcomes of their respective horses.
Q: Can you tell us more about how the export situation is evolving for Thoroughbred breeders in South Africa?
A: We are awaiting a virtual audit by the European Union, which would allow them to approve direct exports from Cape Town to the destination country. Currently, our horses are still having to spend 3 weeks in quarantine in South Africa and three MONTHS in Mauritius, before arriving at their final destinations. It is obviously a long and expensive diversion, and not fair on the horses, as they are in transit for so long, and maintaining health and racing fitness is a challenge. The South African Health and Equine Protocols are working very hard to ensure that we are able to get this approval as soon as possible. Once again COVID-19 has delayed the final actions for this to happen.
Q: What are the life-lessons that you believe you have come away with during the COVID crisis?
A: Catherine: Embrace life, live life in the present, and take opportunities that come your way. Most importantly, know that the things we take for granted can change at any time. Roll with the changes, do your best to adapt and adjust. Above all always be kind and be patient, with yourself, with others with animals and our environment.