Guest Column: A Bleak Winter: The Passing Of Western Winter

Guest Column: A Bleak Winter: The Passing Of Western Winter

16 September, 2013
– Lisa Barrett

Western Winter colt born at Backworth Stud to the mare Dancing Royale (Danehill Dancer), on the day his great sire died. Image: Ian Todd - Backworth Stud

Editors note: A picture speaks a thousand words. Just 10 minutes old, Backworth Stud had this magnificent Western Winter colt born 14 September, the same day his illustrious sire passed away – to their Australian mare Dancing Royale. Thank you to Ian Todd and Keith Russon for sharing this magnificent photo with us. Image: Ian Todd

South African racing and breeding is in mourning following the passing of one of its super sires Western Winter. For well over a decade, the son of Gone West was one South Africa’s top sires, and his influence in this country has been overwhelmingly profound.

Western Winter hailed from far off shores, born in America to one of the great Mr. Prospector’s brightest sons, Gone West, who went onto sire: Zafonic, Speightstown, Elusive Quality and Grand Slam (sire of resident Summerhill stallion Visionaire) all multiple Group One winning sons, who themselves became highly successful sires in their own rights.

A moderately successful runner in his home country of America with earnings of $312,310, Western Winter was a many time Group Stakes placed winner, with a second in the Metropolitan Handicap (Gr.1) and the Commonwealth Breeders (Gr.2) Cup, before a disappointing third in the Carter Handicap (Gr.1), saw him being retired to stud in South Africa. The change in hemispheres obviously suited Western Winter and he quickly got down to business, and thanks to the success of his first season two year olds, he was crowned champion first season sire for the 2000/2001 season, something he was to repeat for the next four seasons – a new chapter in sire dominance in South Africa had begun.

Western Winter. Image: Lammarskraal Stud

Among his first season standouts were Ice Cube, South Africa’s champion two year old colt of 2002/2003, thanks to his multiple Group victories in the Gold Medallion (Grade 1) and the Premier Champion Stakes. It’s abundantly clear that his first crop was one of the best he ever produced, and nowhere was this was starkly evidenced by the brilliant Winter Solstice, who went on to two successive Queen’s Plate triumphs (2005 & 2006) and the crown for Horse of the Year for the 2004/2005 season.

It wasn’t only with the guys that Western Winter had spectacular success, his daughters from his 2002 crop proved that they had inherited his brilliance in spades: Roxanne became his second juvenile champion and champion filly of the 2004/2005 season, thanks to her brilliant victory in the Thekwini Stakes (Grade 1) at Clairwood in 2005, though she is somewhat overshadowed by the brilliant filly On Her Toes, who raked up several Group victories including the S.A. Fillies Guineas (Gr.1) and the Paddock Stakes at Kenilworth.

What is interesting here is the versatility over distances that the cross of Western Winter on a Badgerland mare (Savannah Breeze) bought to On Her Toes. Completing the trio of the best of Western Winter’s daughters is the Plattner-owned Bad Girl Runs, who managed a slew of Graded and Group One victories: the Paddock Stakes (Gr.1), the Cape Fillies Guineas (Grade One) and Odessa Stud Fillies Championship (Grade Two).

Like a good wine, Western Winter got better with age and the quality of his crops followed the same path. He showed impressive versatility, siring horses that could run over distances from sprint to staying, and in 2005 he cemented this when Reveille Boy won South Africa’s most famous staying race, the Gold Cup (Gr.1) over 3200m at Greyville.

Lion Tamer at Yellow Star Stud. Image: Candiese Marnewick

It wasn’t only in South Africa though, that Western Winter achieved success with his progeny, Yard Arm out of Fashing, the 2003 Champion Broodmare, managed multiple Group 1 victories in his home country, before being sent to Dubai where he won the Group 3 Al Fahidi Fort in Dubai, Like his illustrious brothers Winter Solstice and What A Winter, Yard Arm also managed to secure a Horse of The Year title, but went one better with Champion Older Middle Distance Horse for 2003. Another of Western Winter’s brilliant sons who raced with success overseas was Oracle West, who like his half-brother Yard Arm managed to win in Dubai, in his case, the Dubai City Of Gold Stakes (Gr.3), and was runner-up to the brilliant Vengeance Of Rain in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Gr.1). Rounding out his overseas contenders was Surveyor who managed a hard fought second in the Singapore Internationals Cup (Gr.1) in 2004.

In more recent years, Western Winter has produced some of this country’s best sprinters, the brilliant but mercurial Capetown Noir, who achieved impressive Grade 1 victories in the Cape Derby and Guineas, and the outstanding multiple Group One-winning What A Winter, who has just been retired to stud at Gaynor Rupert’s showpiece, Drakenstein Stud.

KZN breeding and racing is lucky to have two of his sons standing here in the province, the first is Lion Tamer who stands at Koos and Lorraine De Klerk’s Yellow Star Stud outside Mooi River. Even though he never achieved Group One success, Lion Tamer was an outstanding racehorse, with winnings of over R1 million, placing over a variety of distances from 1400m to 2000m. Showing once again just how Western Winter is able to stamp such versatility into his progeny.

Apart from his illustrious sire, Lion Tamer’s dam is Blushing Dove, a six time winner from 1000m-1600m and the daughter of the French champion racehorse and sire, Blushing Groom. Already the sire of several winners from his first crop, Lady De Winter, Lion’s Print and Tapping The Stars, he looks set to climb even higher.

The second son of Western Winter who stands in the province is Meet At Malamala, a Listed winner (Secretariat Stakes) and who placed in two Group One races, the Cape Guineas and the Summer Cup. He only took up stud duties in 2012, so 2013 sees the first of his offspring emerging, and it will be interesting to see how much of the influence the Western Winter has been able to transmit through Meet At Malamala to these foals.

Thanks to his brilliance and precocity as a sire, Western Winter has left an indelible imprint and legacy on the South African racing and breeding scene, and it’s hoped that his sons at stud will continue this through their own progeny and further increase the lustre of a brilliant star now in the heavens above.

Lisa Barrett
– Guest Writer

“Lisa Barrett”, her psuedonym, currently works at a stud farm in the KZN Midlands. She is absolutely and totally crazy about horses and every aspect of them. She is fascinated by every aspect of the racehorse business, especially pedigrees and would like to one day write a book on her favourite sire!

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