Gone West hits the century mark: his legacy here in South Africa

Gone West hits the century mark: his legacy here in South Africa 31 January, 2012
– Lisa Barrett

Gone West

Another equine milestone was achieved recently, when the late sire Gone West achieved his 100th stakes winner in the desert kingdom of Dubai where Treble Jig won the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes.

Gone West was one of super sire Mr.Prospector’s best sons at stud, and his untimely death in 2009 robbed the world of a true equine superstar. Out of Secrettame, a stakes-winning daughter of the legendary and iconic Secretariat, Gone West went on to sire an incredible 100 Stakes winners, including Breeders Cup hero, Da Hoss, who won the event twice in 1996 & 1998. His American sons gave Gone West some of his best successes at Group One level. The first being, Elusive Quality, himself a winner of two Group 2 and two Group 3 races, and whose son Smarty Jones (now a top earner with lifetime earnings of over $7 million) came heartbreakingly close to capturing America’s Triple Crown in 2004 with wins in both the Kentucky Derby & Preakness. However he was denied a much deserved crown, in the eyes of many, by another future star Birdstone, (sire of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird).

Crossing the continent has also proved that the grass is definitely greener on the other side for Gone West’s sons as well. Another one of Elusive Quality’s sons Raven’s Pass is living testimony to that. After an impressive win in the Group 3 Solario Stakes, he came close in both the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James Palace Stakes (Gr.1) at Royal Ascot. However, it was felt that he needed to improve before attempting Group One company again, and it seems the drop in level spurred him on as he went on to beat his longtime rival Henrythenavigator in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr.1) in 2008. Raven’s Pass got the ultimate revenge in September of 2008, when he beat his arch rival the mighty Curlin at Santa Anita where became the first English trained winner of the American Breeder’s Cup Classic. It is here in South Africa however, that Gone West will be remembered as the sire of champion sire himself, Western Winter. There has been much written about the legendary Western Winter, one thing is undeniable – his profound influence on shaping the South African breeding and racing landscape through his progeny.

KZN is blessed with two grandsons of Gone West. The first being Lion Tamer, winner of the Southern Cross (Gr.2) and earner of more than R1 million in stakes money thanks to his impressive Group performances. Owned by Klawervlei, he is standing at Avalon Stud where he is in his 4th season at stud.

Visionaire at the Investec Summerhill Stallion Day. Image: Candiese Marnewick

The other is Visionaire, who stands at Mick Goss’ Summerhill Stud, and is owned by leading international racing syndicate Team Valor. Visionaire is out of Grand Slam, a son of Gone West. His racing success came in the form of a Group 3 win in the Gotham Stakes at the Aquaeduct racetrack in New York. What made his win all the more impressive was that it was achieved in horrendously foggy conditions (so bad the jockeys could hardly see each other) and against a highly competitive field among whom were Derby hopeful, Texas Wildcatter and 7-1 favorite, Giant Moon (son of Giant’s Causeway), who had come off a string of four consecutive wins in a row.

However it was his victory in America’s premier “stallion-making” race, the Kings Bishop (Gr.1) over 1400m in an impressively fast 1:21.94 sec that saw his profile soar. Sadly, he suffered a knee chip injury after the race, and despite surgery, he didn’t bounce back to his previous form. On the back of this, it was decided to retire him to stud in America, where he stood at Crestwood Farm near Lexington, Kentucky for a season.

The iconic Team Valor’s Barry Irwin took the bold decision to send Visionaire to stud here in South Africa. For Irwin it was simple, by sending Visionaire to stud, at Summerhill Stud, in KZN, he demonstrated not only his own faith in the breeding operation of Mick Goss’ Summerhill Stud, but in the South African racing scene in general through his continued involvement. Visionaire’s first foals will be on the ground this year, and on the back of his foals in America, there is considerable interest from breeders as to their looks and conformation. If they are anything like their father in terms of looks and personality, they will be amazing!

One of Visionaire’s favourite things to do is to ambush unsuspecting visitors to his paddock at Summerhill Stud by his sticking his tongue out for a tongue massage. If one doesn’t mind being slobbered upon excessively, this, for Visionaire at least, is the height of bliss!

Even though Gone West has been deceased for almost three years, it is clear that in South Africa in particular, Gone West’s legacy is alive and well.

Lisa Barrett
– Guest Writer

“Lisa Barrett”, her psuedonym, currently works at a stud farm in the KZN Midlands – a position she has held for the past eight years. She describes herself as “absolutely and totally besotted by horses” and she is in a fortunate position to work with a stallion she idolises every day. She describes herself as “continually fascinated by every aspect of the racehorse business, especially pedigrees!”

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