Ishnana – First Run, First Win For Horse And Owner Thabo Mhlongo

Smiling connections pat Ishnana for a job well done and congratulate Mandla Ntuli on a splendid ride. Image: Candiese Marnewick

A flashy bay colt was the news of the day at Scottsville last year, as the white faced juvenile Ishnana blazed to a debut victory not only for himself, but for his first time owner Mr Thabo Mhlongo.

Thabo is a highly successful businessman who amongst his company Ishnana Holdings has significant portfolios such as property development, retail, manufacturing and resources, including one of Howick’s iconic landmarks Thabo’s Antiques amongst them.

At odds of 20/1 under jockey Mandla Ntuli, the Garth Puller trained two year old won by almost a length going away from Black Ball (Black Minnaloushe) and Sniper Shot (Judpot) over the 1200m straight at Scottsville.

The colt is bred by Mr Robert Smith out of his Northern Guest mare Bird Strike, by little know sire Al Miqdaam – a resident son of Danehill at Roy Moodley’s breeding operation in Mooi River, and the sire of Al Ciberano. The combination of Al Miqdaam and Bird Strike has been a winning formula previously, with his full sister, a 2010 foal named Shikra, a previous winner over 1600m for trainer Lola Crawford.

The flashy juvenile colt Ishnana storms home to victory in a 20/1 win. Image: Gold Circle

Robert Smith interestingly bred the dam of multiple Gr1 winner Captain Of All, the Fard mare Serious Side.

Upon enquring with Mr Thabo Mhlongo’s contact details, they matched the horses name, Ishnana. “We named him after our company, which is a name made up from our children’s names. My son before school this morning said  ‘hey Dad, I have this feeling Ishnana is going to win today!”

Mr Mhlongo begins the story of how he came to owning the colt, Ishnana. “About 10 years ago, Rob introduced me to what he was doing with the horses and tried to pursue me to get involved, he said its a sport that can unite families and enjoy it with your wife and family and friends.” Mr Mhlongo chuckles and continues, “I kept ignoring Rob and continued doing other things besides the horses. Two years ago he came back strong – he invited us to his farm to look at them, where he breeds them and we looked. Then last year again, Rob said he had some babies without names coming up, and he asked me if I was sure I didnt want a horse – and that I needed to find time to enjoy life. I told him I would think about it.”

“I asked Rob to take me through the process. Eventually, I went to see the horse on my own and Rob said to me, I think this is the one for you and I could come in as a partner, if I didnt want to own the horse outright. We went into the paddock and Rob began to chase them around, and they all ran except for Ishnana. He just stopped and looked at us. I asked Rob, why is this horse not running? Ishnana was looking at us with his ears pricked. Rob chased him again, and once more the colt stopped, turned and looked at us, and I said to Rob, this is the one I want.”

A joyous lead in! Image: Gold Circle

“I went home to talk to my wife and get her approval. My wife and family came with me the next day after church to look again. I showed her the horse I liked and my youngest daughter Nathi, said ‘Daddy I like this one too’ and my son agreed. My wife said well that is that – this is the horse for us!”

“We had a separate meeting with Garth [Puller] who took us through the process and explained everything to us. He has been keeping us informed and up to date and encouraging us. He has also invited us to see the horse at Summerveld and we went to the training stables to see Ishnana. I am convinced the horse remembers us from the farm because he came straight towards us and walked up, his ears up and he was swishing his tail.”

Thabo recounts the race day. “The feeling when we went into the parade ring – Ishnana is different to the other horses and I felt good, this is a nice horse. When they cantered to the start, Garth told us ‘you have a good horse here, I am telling you!’ I had a feeling inside me that he was going to win. I told Rob I wanted to put more money on him and Rob said no (he was trying to manage my possible disappoinment) but I still made R460 on him from what Rob suggested I bet. As we saw him coming we started shouting him home! Rob just hugged me and said the horse has come through for us, it was great fun!!!”

Al Miqdaam. Photo: Candiese Marnewick
Al Miqdaam, the sire of Ishnana, Al Ciberano and Roy’s Twilight. Image: Candiese Marnewick

“Garth is a great guy and I can see now what Rob had wanted to show me ten years ago, and experience.”

Ishnana’s dam Bird Strike is by Champion broodmare sire Northern Guest, in turn out of a Bush Telegraph / Royal Prerogative mare, Winged Signal. This female line has produced Gr1 Champions Stakes winner Swan Prince, as well as 1987 Arcsa Champion in 1987, Mark Anthony – a Gr1 J&B Met and Queen’s Plate winner.

From very small crops to date, Al Miqdaam has produced winners Al Ciberano, Shikra, Roy’s Twilight and Ishnana.


Al Miqdaam is out of Gr1 winner St Clemens Belle(AUS) in turn out of British mare St Clemens, by Canadian sire London Bells out of American mare Emotional by Sensitive Prince – truly an international pedigree.

St Clemens Belle achieved seven wins from two years of age over 1000m to 1600m. She won the WATC Stakes Gr1, the MVRC Champagne Stakes Gr2, Bill Stutt Stakes Gr2, SAJC Smoke-Free Stakes Gr3, VRC Hilton on the Park Sprint Handicap Listed as well as the MVRC Silver Jubilee Stakes Listed.

Her half-sister Sanctus is a Stakes Winner too, producing three decent horses with 11 wins between them.

Under the third dam is Be My Princess, another Stakes Winner who won six times and produced Turffontein Goldfields Sprint Handicap Listed winner, Flying Princess.

Al Miqdaam was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and began his racing career in Australia. He ran in seven Barrier Trials over five months – winning two, placing second twice and a third and fourth, and changing trainers in between.

Three months after being in a different yard, he placed twice more and arrived in South Africa – sent out for his first start a month short of two years later, at Scottsville.

Al Miqdaam finished second for trainer Mike De Kock over 1000m. He only raced four more times, twice finishing just short of the placings and preferring shorter trips over 1000 – 1200m, once finishing just behind Art Of War.

Congratulations to the winning connections of Ishnana – we are certain to see much more from this horse in the near future.


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