Over the course of our 50-year history, the broodmare half of the Normandy Stud equation has developed into one of families, curated from a few original foundation mares, with performance-based selection thereafter.

So, the families that gave us many of our best horses were first introduced into the stud in the 70s and 80s. Of course, several other mares also entered the stud at a similar time, but due to non-performance they were dispersed.

A winner at Durbanville yesterday was out of the mare Nordic Spring, which immediately had the breeding-orientated people at the table remarking that this must be from our ‘Nordic’ family. It wasn’t, but it turns out that we’re in the middle of a big development phase with the Nordic Vine family.

In the corporate world, one might call this R&D. On a stud farm, it’s a long-term process of finding the best branches of a family, and then working with them.

My mother bought the unraced Northern Guest mare, Nordic Vine, a little over 20 years ago. The reason for the purchase was that she was out of the stakes-winning mare Montrachet (a full-sister to the Grade One winning Yquem), and therefore from one of Jan de Clercq’s top families. In years to come, we would breed the Grade One winners Sergeant Hardy and Captain’s Gal from other branches of Jan’s families. Incidentally, all of these trace to Abadan mares, like two of our most important tap root mares, Tramore and Entre Nous.

Nordic Vine produced the last of her 14 foals at the age of 24. Nine of them raced, and eight were winners. Crucially, two of them were graded stakes-winners (Rushing Wind and Nordic Breeze). She also produced the stakes-winning Ice Wine and the stakes-placed Nordic Wind. That’s a solid breeding record, if somewhat short of the stellar standard set by Halfway to Heaven (nothing halfway about her!).

The physical type produced by the family is generally medium-sized (more likely to be small than big when it varies from this) and close-coupled. Almost all of them have blazes, with splatterings of white elsewhere. It’s hard not to make the connection with Northern Dancer (via Northern Guest, the sire of Nordic Vine).

So, Nordic Vine’s runners almost all won, a third of them were black type winners, and there is a consistent physical type.

We currently have four of her daughters in the stud, as well as a granddaughter. The only one with runners is Arctic Breeze, a mare with a perfect score of winners from runners, including the promising sprinter Rio Querari and three other winners of a total of 15 races (thus far).

Arctic Breeze’s full-sisters Nordic Wind and Nordic Breeze don’t yet have runners, as with their half-sister, Nordic Light, but they all have a full-house of yearlings and foals in the pipeline, which will soon give the family plenty of new representation on the track.

We previously had two other daughters of Nordic Vine, both of which produced six- and seven-time winners, but they both died.

One of the interesting additions from the family is Arctic Breeze’s Querari filly, Icy Gust, covered at two after she cracked a pedal bone during RTR preparation. She’s just produced an Erupt filly foal.

In 2018, we sent all three full-sisters (i.e. Arctic Breeze, Nordic Breeze and Nordic Wind) to Twice Over. We hoped to get a bit of extra stamina and scope into the family. Also, Observatory (sire of Twice Over) is from the family of Storm Bird, who also features in the pedigree of Windrush. All three produced fillies – it will be interesting to see how this genetic experiment turns out!

Following on the success of Arctic Breeze’s visit to Querari, both Nordic Breeze and Nordic Wind have either been to him, or are booked to him.

There is a fair amount of ‘reading between the lines’ in the investment we’ve made in the family, but what we’ve seen gives us confidence in the outcome. A by-product of the disproportionate number of fillies produced by the family is that in years to come there will be new branches to develop – or opportunities for other studs to introduce the family.

All I can add is that we have now officially exhausted all name references to ‘nordic’, ‘arctic’ or ‘winds of the world’. It might now be time to revert to Jan’s wine-related references (e.g. Sauterne, Yquem and Montrachet). It would be a nice way of acknowledging a good friend, a lover of food and wine, and a breeder whose influence on South African graded stakes results is not given enough attention.