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Rocking The Boat





Foal nobody wanted, wins SA Triple Crown

Caption: Louis The King, ridden by Robbie Fradd, beats As You Like to win the SA Derby and become only the second horse to win the SA Triple Crown. 


A host of accountants swooped on the factory and spent almost a week devising a process costing system which probably sent his auditing fees soaring, only to that whatever system the owner used was almost perfect to within a couple of per cent.

When they asked him how he cost his product, the answer was simple: “I buy for one rand, I sell for two rand.”

Some people have an innate ability to work it all out in their heads without calculators, computers and accountants.

That is a logic that George Kahan of The Alchemy stud farm seems to have. When he heard there was a move by some bloodstock agents to advise horse breeders to sell off mares who are too small, because their offspring would not raise a bid at the sales, he saw it as an opportunity to pick up a bargain or two.

On a sale he found a mare called Pamushana, who was in foal to a sire named Black Minnaloushe. The mare was by a horse Rich Man’s Gold, which stood at Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud and in whom George had bought a share.

He picked up the mare for R20 000 which he saw as a good deal. The cost of the mare being covered by Black Minnaloushe was around R80 000, so even if they got the minimum bid of around R50 000 at a sale, the R20 000 purchase would be profitable.

His son, Phillip, could not believe what his father had done. “When my dad told me he had bought this mare I thought he had gone crazy,” said Phillip. “She was tiny, nothing to look at all. My dad’s reply was: ‘I like Rich Man’s Gold and I like Black Minnaloushe.’

“When the foal was born he was not striking at all; he was a very ordinary horse and we were concerned whether he would be big enough to get on the Premier Sales in Cape Town,” said Phillip.

“He was too small for the Cape Premier Sale so we looked at the National Yearling Sale in Johannesburg, but they weren’t keen on him either. Their advice was to take him to the Durban sale before the July and felt he would stand out there.”

The Kahans followed the advice but even at that sale there were no live bids. “There was no offer,” said Phillip, “so I had Spencer Cook from Limestone Thoroughbreds buy it in for me at R55 000.”

After the sale Trainer Geoff Woodruff came to Phillip for a chat. “He came with his kids. He had just moved to Randjesfontein and was not at the sale to buy. He came to drop off tickets for clients who were going to the Durban July.

“He asked me why I looked so miserable, so I told him it was because I didn’t sell my best horse. He asked me what I wanted for him.

“I showed him the pedigree and he said: ‘I’ll take a chance on that.’ I asked him to look at the horse and Geoff said to me: ‘Phillip I trust you.’ I told him I wanted R60 000 and he said: ‘You got it.’”

Woodruff sold the horse for R60 000 to Tiaan van der Vyver who handed it over to his son Louis. Louis named the horse Louis the King, but nobody predicted what the future would hold.

Last Saturday Louis The King won the R2 million SA Derby over 2450m at Turffontein in Johannesburg and in doing so became only the second horse ever in South Africa to win the Triple Crown. The other was Horse Chestnut in 1999.  

The Triple Crown is probably the most revered prize in horseracing. For a start, it is only open to three-year-olds and as such, a horse only gets one chance to win it. It involved three races and in South Africa those are the Gauteng Guineas over 1600m, the SA Classic over 1800m and the SA Derby over 2450m.

What makes it so difficult is that the three races take place over a space of two months and it is difficult to keep a horse at his peak for so long, especially over the three diverse distances.    

In America the three races are the Kentucky Derby over 2000m the Preakness Stakes over 1900m and the Belmont Stakes over 2400m.

Since 1919 only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. The last winner was Affirmed in 1978 and the most famous was Secretariat in 1973. 

The Alchemy, which is in Robertson in the Cape, has bred some top horses but for a small stud farm to breed a Triple Crown winner is an amazing feat. Remarkably, from conception to sale, Louis The King was a horse nobody wanted.

“The biggest joke is that I put the mare back in foal to Toreador and put her back into the sale,” said Phillip. “Once again we did not get one bid. In the end I gave the mare to Spencer Cook but sadly three months later she got colic and died.”

Louis The King has only raced seven times, has a record of six wins and one second place and has now won more than R5,5 million in stake money. There are already stories of offers that would value the horse at $3 million (R30 million).

George remains quite amused by his decision. “I wanted to buy two mares but Phillip wouldn’t let me,” he laughs.

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