Profile: Warwick Render of Bush Hill Stud

A strong and hardworking figure behind the scenes of the Thoroughbred breeding industry, Warwick Render of Bush Hill Stud has enjoyed success at the highest levels, breeding the likes of Gr1 winners Zirconeum, Stellite and Dubai resident Wolf Whistle amongst many. Warwick is also a TBA Council Member, a former Chairman of the KZN Breeders Club and currently the Vice-Chairman.

We have a chat to Warwick to find out more about the man behind Bush Hill Stud – a family managed establishment with his wife Karin and son Jason and get his thoughts on what it is like to be a Thoroughbred breeder.

How did you get into horses and the breeding world? 

I was interested in horses from a very young age, and started to ride at about five or six, but growing up only ever really had experience of stock horses used for working with cattle on friends’ farms in Zimbabwe.

After my first year at university I was looking through the Farmer’s Weekly magazine and came across an advert for an assistants job on a thoroughbred stud farm, (I had little idea such opportunities existed for people in the normal world). I phoned to apply for an interview and two days later packed my suitcase, drove for two days to reach Roodefontein Stud in Plettenberg Bay and started work the next day, that was at the beginning of 1990.

How long have you been at Bush Hill Stud? 

We purchased the farm in April 1998, so going on 24 years now.

What motivation about breeding horses makes you get up in the morning?

First and foremost the well-being of the horses in our care.  The positives and the potential of the animals we work so closely with. The reward of walking through a paddock of happy healthy horses, admiring a rewarding new born foal, or a smart youngster developing or seeing an old friend happy in her paddock appreciating the fresh pastures you have provided, there are so many aspects of farming, livestock and nature that I find rewarding – it goes without saying that they all bring their own challenges, hence the need to focus daily on the positives and resolve small issues before they develop into big issues. There is great motivation and reward in seeing an animal that has been critically ill nursed back to full strength, and rehabilitation of racing or other injuries is definitely a highlight of the job.  We are blessed to have many wonderful owners who understand and appreciate the efforts and progress of their horses.  

What is your best achievement to date?  

After some turbulent times in our economy and more specifically the racing and breeding industry as a whole, I feel it an important achievement to still be participating in this unique and special industry.  To survive the tough times not only for ourselves, but for the many longstanding employees who have risen to challenges, learnt and loved the individual mares and avidly follow the progress of progeny, and who are so appreciative that horses are the animals providing for them and their families. This achievement we recognize and are grateful for.

What breeding theory do you have when it comes to matings?    

It is always a challenge to try to strike the balance between breeding what you hope and believe will be a racehorse, and what you think may have commercial appeal. 

Standing stallions for owners and syndicates takes a big dose of commitment, courage and boldness,  especially in these very competitive times when I believe the market tends to pass a stallion by too quickly. To contra this, we always try to send a portion of our mares to more proven commercial options.

In terms of choosing matings we go with the normal practices of going through pedigrees and families and looking for pointers, and making use of some of the computer programmes available has certainly made this easier in recent times, but the physical attributes probably play the biggest part in our thinking – then look for a reason on paper to vindicate your thoughts – you can nearly always find a reason to see why a mating was good once the horse is in the winners box.

Do you have a special story you can share?  

Many many stories  – but these would take a book to relate – not sure if it would be a James Herriot, Wilbur Smith or Monty Python flavour –  probably all of the above.  We have been blessed to share time with many horse people including trainers, farriers, veterinarians, stud masters, owners – it seems horses attract a particular ilk of person – mostly stern, preoccupied, of few words, but when the ties come off, outrageously funny stories abound – roll on the floor, tears kind of stories that keep one giggling for years to come. A common thread runs through horse people – long days, short tempers, hard decisions, and endless nights tending to individuals – patience and fortitude born out of grief after losing a special horse, and gratitude when an animal recovers.   

This horse world is a mixture of salt and sugar, and a wealth of knowledge and wisdom learnt over the years, and many many lump in the throat times.  

Yearlings headed to sales this year, what can buyers look forward to? 

I believe we have a very nice spread of yearlings for the various sales this year and amongst them are individuals with appeal to most sectors of the market.

Naturally we are excited to be taking the first crop of New Predator’s foals to the sales, the first of these will be at the National Yearling sales where we expect him to have some good representation. In addition we have a spread of youngsters by proven sires from around the country including Willow Magic, Querari, Rafeef, Master Of My Fate, Captain Of All, William Longsword and Pomodoro along with some of the new and exciting prospects such as Lancaster Bomber, Heavenly Blue and Hat Puntano.

Any special foals on the ground this season?

 It is always a difficult thing to single out foals and we are thrilled with the crop we have been blessed with this year. The first of Last Winter’s foals arrived and they have been exceptional – one that we really like is a colt from the “Mouse” family that has served us so well [including Gr2 winner The Mouseketeer], this colt being out of Penthouse Mouse.

The second crop of New Predator foals have been just as impressive as his first and it would be hard to single out individuals here, a very smart half sister to this past season’s very promising two year old, the Gr2 placed Remember When, would have to be one of the highlights along with a half sister to the Gr1 placed Neptunes Rain.

A smart full sister to MK’s Pride stands out in what has been a very nice crop of Willow Magic foals born on the farm this year.

We again have a lovely spread of outside proven stallions including foals by the leading sires Gimmethegreenlight, What A Winter, Master Of My Fate and Querari (a cracking colt out of our Zirconeum/Stellite family).

We have several very nice foals by the up and coming Act Of War.  

New Predator. Image: Candiese Lenferna

What makes you proud to breed in KZN? 

Personally I don’t like to regionalise our breeding industry more than necessary, in these times more than ever we need a breeding community that stands together. In saying that I am very proud of the fact that KZN has always managed to punch well above its weight in terms of capital expenditure relative to results, this I believe proves just what a good area, for many reasons, KZN is to breed top class horses.

Bush Hill Stud is the biggest breeding facility in the province of KZN, any comments on the future of the industry? 

Like most breeding operations that are not funded by outside capital we and most of our clients have been forced to be fairly harsh in cutting back numbers and trying to maintain quality.

This has been a country wide trend, but it has now meant that the supply/demand ratio is at a very favourable level for breeders, something that was reflected in general at the sales this past year. In a year where there was every reason for sales to be depressed every sale delivered well above everyone’s most positive expectations, especially the regional level sales.

I believe that now with the positive changes happening in racing and a general commitment to the rebuilding of what racing should be we will see this positive trend continuing. It is great credit to the breeders that through the TBA and BSA we have played a major role in the boosting of stakes for our sales graduates and this is a fine example of what can be achieved with the right people and energy behind things.  

Tell us about New Predator’s first crop that will be going to sales this year?

It is always an exciting time taking the first crop of a stallion to the sales in particular when they are as pleasing as the first foals of New Predator have been. He is a stallion that offers much that should appeal to the South African buyer. He was a tough as teak Gr1 quality sprinter miler , with the speed to have beaten such top notch sprinters as Rafeef and the class to have toppled a horse of the quality of Legislate.

His pedigree backs this up in that he offers many aspects that are so suited to a lot of the dominant lines and families we have in our South African pedigrees, he being by New Approach, probably the son of Galileo who has been the biggest speed influence, out of a mare by the champion Fastnet Rock. We expect he will be well represented at the National sales as he covered a very respectable book of mares in his first crop and we are most grateful for support shown from a wide spread of breeders.

Warwick and Jason Render receiving a trophy from Lee Scribante at the KZN Breeders Awards. Images: Candiese Lenferna

Tell us how it feels to produce a Gr1 winner? 

Exhilaration, pride, a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction once the reality sinks in.  Also enormous gratitude to the owner, and trainer for producing the horse to full potential. Each and every individual involved in the care and training and riding of these horses must be recognized, because all are an integral part of the machinery and excellence it takes to achieve a Gr1 win.

How many mares do you stand and tell us about your stallions?

The number of mares on the farm is always a moving target – we aim for adequate numbers to support the stallions we stand, plus additional mares to support outside stallions and ensure a good spread of what our country has to offer in genetics.

We have discussed New Predator, suffice to add that we, and the breeders in KZN as whole are most appreciative that Laurence Wernars chose to back us with this horse and support KZN in such a big way, and to facilitate the involvement of all in him, we all hope he gets the rewards he deserves.

Willow Magic needs little introduction and the support he received this past season shows that people are recognising just what a start he has got off to in his career, with his three year old crop of the past season he was right up there in the top five active sires with his AEPR index – a fair measure of a sires ability across the board. He was a Gr 1 winning sprinter as a two year old and has thrown this speed in many of his progeny, but his class from Dubawi has come through, resulting in top performers at all distances. 

Though he has had a very good number of winners Flying The Flag has not yet lived up to what we hope for from him and that is for a top level performer or two, he has a pedigree that is as good as it gets and judging by the fact that many of the trainers who have his progeny have returned to buy more this past season we are still of the belief that his class may yet emerge.

Last Winter. Image: Candiese Lenferna

Last Winter had his first foals born this season and they were very pleasing.

He is a horse who has perhaps flown a bit below the radar having arrived late in his first season. He was a racehorse with unbelievable ability , ranked by Longines in the top 5 turf horses in the world to race in the first quarter of 2018, after his phenomenal run in the Met –  who can forget the way he finished that day, always worth watching that run again, an unbelievable turn of foot.

Add to this he has the looks to have been a R 3.7m yearling, being by a Champion sire in South Africa in Western Winter, who has already sired champion sires in SA, and he is out of a mare who was a Gr1 winner here and who in turn was by another local champion sire in Silvano.  What more could one want!

We wish Bush Hill Stud all the best for 2022 and look forward to the progeny of New Predator! Bush Hill Stud can be contacted at

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