Thrilling news has arrived from among the string I have in training in South Africa.
For clarity, I should say that the string is a chestnut colt I possess in partnership with the estimable Neil Gough. And White Tiger is not part of our international matrix of thoroughbreds. We both live in Johannesburg.
That is not to take away from the astounding news. We are about to realise the dream that is carried by fantasists all over the world who get involved in racehorse ownership.
We have been told that in about two months’ time – or maybe a little more – White Tiger might be ready to run in his first race. Suddenly, the SA Triple Crown seems within touching distance.
It was meant to be like this from the moment we first saw him at the TBA Sales Complex at Germiston last November. We asked Mike de Kock and Jehan Malherbe to bid for Lot 135 and, as the price rose to 320,000 rands, for whatever reason, there were tears streaming down our cheeks. We had bagged one of the more valuable products of the Emperor’s Palace Ready-To-Run Sale.
“Like an emboldened teenager returning from his first term at college, our colt had more confidence”
As detailed, the mighty Tiger was not quite ready to run. But he has been ready to eat and ready to accept medication.
The interim has given us a chance to research his pedigree and possibilities. He is by Tiger Ridge, a Storm Cat half-brother to AP Indy and Summer Squall. You should curtsy before
The dam side is not so obviously impressive, but Rich Man’s Gold is in there and he’s regally considered round these parts. “It’s a good pedigree,” Mike informed us over a post-sale drink. “Inshallah.”
If that sounded a little fatalistic and away from the premise that we had hired Mike to be our horseflesh version of an Antwerp diamond cutter, we didn’t let it show.
Further investigation ensued. Tiger Ridge seems to have been named after a community in the Bible belt of Georgia, where, according to local legend, close relations between the inhabitants have resulted in birth defects ranging from extra fingers to dwarfism.
We were not unduly put off by these revelations. After all, White Tiger was himself inbred to Native Dancer and Nasrullah and he was going to need small people to ride him.
What mattered was the horse himself. Neil, and his family, went on a reconnaissance mission to KwaZulu Natal, where the Tiger was chilling at Summerhill Stud after the exertions of his breeze-up and sale. This was fairly near the Spion Kop, which encouraged further dreamy notions of dramatic victory. We, of course, would play the Boers.
The photographic evidence Neil brought back suggested a different White Tiger. At the sales we liked his look, demeanour and walk, but here was a different beast altogether. He was more confident, more muscly and whiskery, like an emboldened teenager coming back from his first term at college.
The Tiger has now graduated and is in training at Fort De Kock in the Summerveld Training Centre near Durban. Our line of communication is with Nathan Kotzen, the long-time assistant trainer. For a while now, Nathan has told me the horse is promising and eating. That he is still alive.
But, on the latest call, Nathan seemed more positive. Maybe it was what my ear wanted to pick up. “The horse was on the grass this morning and Mike saw him do a canter,” he said. “He is eating well, he has filled out and he is keeping his condition. He is just getting better and better.”
The camp hasn’t done better themselves since I sprinted back as the messenger with this news. Why was he named White Tiger before we got him? Why was Nijinsky already taken?
In about two months’ time – or maybe a little more – everyone will begin to know what we now know. We will all be in on the secret.