Our first big winner of the nineties was Kick The Habit, who won the Germiston November Handicap in 1990, as well as the Administrators Champion Stakes Trial. We had imported his grandam, God Willing, a lightning fast daughter of Red God who won four races with Herman Brown. By Contraband, she produced a similarly speedy filly, Go Straight. When Elliodor’s first crop hit the ground running in 1985 we were lucky to get a service for Go Straight, and Kick The Habit was the result.
We had a second Germiston November Handicap winner four years later, courtesy of Quick Wit, who also won the Transvaal Bookmakers Handicap. Along with Knife Edge, who won the Concord Stakes and the Star Sprint Trial, he was from the first group of two-year-olds we consigned to a ready-to-run sale.
From that same crop, but sold as a yearling, was Soviet Rising, who twice won the Allan Snijman Stakes. His female line is still represented at Normandy Stud via Centre Court.
The decade delivered our fourth classic winner, in the form of Little Ballerina, who beat the colts in the Cape Guineas. Her dam, Helenita, won the Grade One Stuttafords Cup and was owned by the same partnership as Envy. When she retired to stud we were first in line to do a deal with them. Prior to Little Ballerina she had also produced the Top Division winners Harry Percy and Hatch, and followed up with the Majorca Stakes winner Trojan Belle, which made Helenita one of our best-ever purchases.
In 1988, we’d been at the Pietermaritzburg broodmare sale, and picked up Hail O Dolly, a nineteen-year-old mare, for R2000. Her family hadn’t produced anything dramatically significant, but her sire was chef-de-race Hail To Reason, and her dam was by another chef-de-race in the form of Tudor Minstrel. The foal she was carrying, Sally Slew, was a decent performer on the track, and went on to produce Otter Trail. However, at the age of 22 Hail O Dolly produced Centenarian, a strapping colt who won nine races, including the Gilbeys Trial, a Grade Two stakes race.
Having a resident vet, specialising in equine reproduction, meant that we were often sent ‘problem’ mares. One of these was Arnold Galombik’s mare Song of Peace, who produced the stakes-winner A Song Is Born early in her stud career, but had struggled with fertility since then. We managed to get her going, and were rewarded with Annie, who won nine races, eight of which were stakes races (two Graded), and who went on to produce the Champion Two-Year-Old colt Ice Cube, as well as the Graded stakes-winner Jagged Ice.
The nineties were also marked by a substantial investment in stallions. Centenary (sire of two Guineas winners), Comic Blush (sire of Spook Express and others), Truely Nureyev (sire of a Guineas winner) and Melun were not without their individual successes, but in the final analysis certainly cost us more than they delivered in the sales ring. However, each of them produced daughters that were to make a significant contribution to Normandy Stud’s records on the race track.
The 1855 classification of Bordeaux chateaux – with Margaux, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite and Haut-Brion the famous first-growths – was done on the basis of selling price achieved. While it is necessary to achieve good selling prices for yearlings, ultimately the racecourse remains the only measure of success in this industry. And in that respect we had a lot more to look forward to in the ‘noughties’.