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Destination South Africa

Travellers have long admired the South African landscape as one of the most beautiful places on earth. The cognoscenti will tell you that this is hardly surprising, as it owns a gloriously healthy climate and graces some of the finest vistas on the planet. It's no secret the farmlands of the Southernmost tip of this, the World's oldest continent are the envy of many an international stockman and that, given the choice, most peoples' idea of paradise would be a neat estate in the winelands of the Cape, the great space and tranquillity of the Karoo, or the verdant pastureland of the hills and valleys to the East of the Drakensberg.Less well known though is that the British Empire's wars of conquest owed much to the courage and toughness of more than 300 000 South African horses, and that the Australian thoroughbred industry was rooted in stock drawn from our "colonial" families. The American studbook shall forever be indebted to Candlemas who was exported from stud duties in the Karoo to become the grandsire of the magnificent Frizette, ancestress of Mr Prospector, Seattle Slew and Champion French sire, Tourbillon. One wonders how much poorer American racing would've been without the contributions of these two gentlemen, whilst the racing empire of the great French breeder Marcel Boussac might've looked considerably different without Tourbillon and his son Djebel.

The Nation's obsession with sporting excellence has presided over many a famous victory and in thoroughbred terms, the story begins at Royal Ascot with the 1907 renewal of England's fastest sprint, the King's Stand in which Camp Fire II prevailed over the swiftest in Europe.Though political and technical constraints deprived the world of the spectacle of South Africa's finest racehorses for much of the last century, those few that travelled glorified themselves on America’s best racecourses. South African racing enthusiasts recount with pride the exploits of Colorado King, Hawaii, Wolf Power, Bold Tropic and more recently Spook Express and Horse Chestnut, all of whom endured the 60 day post arrival quarantine at New York’s JFK airport. But it wasn't until 1996 that the first "South African" was able to accept an invitation to race in international company in Hong Kong. History was being made when the strapping GR1 Durban July Handicap winner, London News, became the first horse to be exported under the EU ratified South African Export Protocol to give weight and a length-and-a-half beating to Group One competitors from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. That he did so in record time over the extended ten furlongs of the Sha Tin main track after the most arduous air journey any horse had ever undertaken, reflects the professionalism and toughness that typifies our Thoroughbreds.

Since then, over 650 horses of all breeds have been exported under the protocol, allowing the first step towards truly internationalising South Africa’s horseracing and breeding industry to be taken. Based on the control of African Horse Sickness (AHS), the protocol was developed under the World Organisation for Animal Health's  (OIE) prevailing acceptance of how to manage the risk posed by vector transmitted diseases like AHS in horses and Blue Tongue in sheep. In 2008, revisions to the AHS Code and Surveillance Chapters were adopted by the OIE's General Assembly which paves the way for significant changes to the way in which horses are exported from South Africa. Coupled with advances in science and technology, South Africa's delivery system is expected to challenge that of other major bloodstock exporters in time to come.

Dubai, our biggest trading partner and nearest hub is home to a truly international racing event, the Dubai International Racing Carnival.

Worth US$31 million in prize money, the Carnival joins other famous celebrations of the world’s elite racehorses like Royal Ascot in England, the Breeder’s Cup in the US, Hong Kong’s International Festival and Australia’s Spring Carnival in Melbourne.

In recent year’s, it is Dubai that has offered South Africa a showcase for it top racehorses and the likes of Ipi Tombe (ZIM), Victory Moon, National Currency, Crimson Palace and most recently, Lizard's Desire (runner up in the 2010 Gr.1 Dubai World Cup) and Musir (winner of the Gr.2 UAE Derby) to name a few, have made their mark.

Bloodstock South Africa, South Africa’s leading Bloodstock Sales Company enjoyed a record-breaking National Yearling Sale in 2007 with all indices surging above previous marks. The US$510 000 (R3.3 million) outlaid by leading international owner Fieldspring Racing, for a son of Fort Wood, was the highest price paid at auction for a yearling in the history of South African bloodstock. Whilst a buoyant economy would have underpinned the market’s confidence, many bloodstock watchers believe it was a newer, less scientific phenomenon: the Dubai Dream!

Exports drive the world’s bloodstock markets and given the greater riches on offer outside our borders, South Africa’s elite racehorses command international prices. This value-added journey is best described by following the career of Zimbabwe’s greatest equine hero and former GR1 Durban July Handicap winner, IPI TOMBE. Bought for roughly US$1250 as a yearling in Zimbabwe, she was sold to US interests for US$750 000 before being exported to Dubai where she won US$1.4 million in Stakes and was sold as a mare in foal to Sadler's Wells for US$1.7 million!

However, under its present technical restrictions, South Africa cannot easily compete for a share of the world’s yearling export trade. On this basis, Racing South Africa believes there are real incentives to purchase and race horses locally, using South Africa, with its world class horsemanship and excellent racing infrastructure, as a nursery for later export. South African bloodstock is also very competitive: in 2004, buyers on average spent less that one fifth at Bloodstock South Africa’s auctions than they would have at the equivalent Tattersalls Sales in the UK. With training fees averaging less than US$600 per month South Africa offers both local and international racing enthusiasts one of the lowest entry levels into the world of horseracing.

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