Saturday’s smart Victory Moon Stakes winner Christopher Robin will attempt to give St John Gray a second Gr1 Gauteng Summer Cup success and he has a very able understudy in the shape of fellow homebred Dance Class.
St John Gray in familiar pose
Ther latter, out of a Jam Alley half-sister to Dancewiththedevil, is a progressive filly who put together a handsome six-win streak between June and September and most recently ran fourth behind her stable companion in the Victory Moon.
St John Gray is one of a rare breed. A successful owner and trainer whose string is virtually made up of horses he bred under the moniker of Graystone Stud. In addition, the majority are sired by stallions he also raced himself.
St John’s champ Dancewiththedevil produced her trademark turn of foot to win the Summer Cup in 2011
His green silks with white rings and quartered cap are a familiar sight on the Highveld tracks and have been carried with distinction by many notable homebreds, prime amongst which the champion racemare Dancewiththedevil.
A five-time Gr1 winner, her finest efforts included a breathtaking last-to-first score in the first of two H F Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut victories at Turffontein, in addition to which she stormed home to claim the 2011 Sansui Summer Cup from a star-studded field.
That she was voted the champion older female of 2011 came as no surprise. Additional homebreds to have tasted top level success include Big Brass, Jam Alley and most recently, the filly Ronnie’s Candy, winner of last season’s Gr1 Empress Club Stakes.
Gray’s latest success story is Christopher Robin, who claimed some notable scalps when charging home in last weekend’s Gr3 Victory Moon Stakes.
Christopher Robin wins the Victory MNoon (Pic – JC Photos)
The four-year-old was bred at Jonathan and Cathy Martin’s Hadlow Stud in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where Gray keeps his 17-strong broodmare band, as well as his stakes winning stallion Announce. Out of a half-sister to the dam of breed-shaping sire Danehill, the son of National Assembly has sired many a fine Gray-bred galloper, notably the Gr3 winner Announce Speed and the Syringa Handicap winners Engagement and End Of Season. His son Call To Combat, a winner of the Wolf Power 1600, joined Announce at Hadlow and is the sire of Gray’s admirable Dawn Assault. A Gr3 winner of 11 races, the now seven-year-old chased Tilbury Fort home in the 2018 Summer Cup.
Sarge, a Gr3-placed own brother to Announce currently stands with ‘Cash’ Truter in the Kroonstad area and is sire of homebred Formation, who came into her own with maturity. Multiple Gr3-placed, she won eleven races from four to six, amongst which two renewals of the Listed Emerald Fillies Handicap at the now defunct Vaal sand track.
Quinton Riddle and Yer-Maan at Borrowdale (Pic -Rosemary Dorward)
Yer-Maan is another epitome of the durability displayed by Gray’s horses. Campaigned over eight seasons and still in winning form at the advanced age of ten, this dual Zimbabwean stakes winner was sired by Gr1 SA Classic hero Jam Alley, a son of Peintre Celebre Gray had bred in Australia.
Christopher Robin is yet another prime example of Gray’s breeding programme. His sire Damage Is Done won four times in Gray’s colours before suffering a career-ending injury.
From the family of Horse of the Year Politician and champion Al Nitak, Gray afforded the son of Rakeen a stud career, but as a non-stakes winner, he was always going to be on the backfoot and is no longer an active stallion.
Although Christopher Robin is his sole stakes winner, he has also sired multiple stakes-placed filly Shattered Image and the hard-knocking eight-time winner Shiver ‘N Shake, from limited opportunity.
Cleverly named for the beloved Winnie The Poo character, Christopher Robin is out of Onehundredacrewood, one of three stakes winners by Kingmambo’s Gr1 winning son Malhub.
Like her sire, she excelled as a sprinter, scoring a career-defining victory in the Listed Bauhinia Handicap and traces to the outstanding matron Saturna, the dam of champion sprinters Harry Hotspur and Rotterdam.
Congratulations to St John Gray!