The Kings Cup run last Sunday at Hollywoodbets Greyville is a traditional precursor to the SA Champions Season, a three month feast of world class horseracing from May through July, and this year’s winner Born To Perform was fitting as he has a pedigree with the Vodacom Durban July stamped all over it.
Yet this grey gelding might never have seen a racecourse at all had it not been for the fine horsemanship and patience of trainer Dennis Bosch.
Born To Perform’s father Silvano is the most successful July stallion in history and his mother Dancer’s Daughter won the July in 2008 in a dead-heat with the great Pocket Power.
Silvano is the only stallion in history to sire four July winners and he is also the only stallion in history to have the first three past the post in a single running.
His four winners have been Bold Silvano is 2010, Heavy Metal in 2013, Power King in 2015 and Marinaresco in 2017. In 2015 the first three past the post, Power King, Punta Arenas and Tellina, were all by Silvano. In 2017 the first two past the post, Marinaresco and Al Sahem were both by Silvano and in 2014 he sired the first and third horses past the post.
With a pedigree like that Born To Perform was always going to attract interest at the Sales, especially as he was bred by one of the country’s top breeders, Highlands Farm Stud. He also strongly resembled his robust grey mother, Dancer’s Daughter.
He was duly hammered down for R500,000 at the CTS Cape Premier Yearling Sale.
He was then put on another sale, the CTS Empress Palace Select Yearling Sale, and was bought by Markus Jooste’s Mayfair Speculators for R800,000.
Jooste was then exposed in the Steinhoff scandal and Born To Perform, whose stubborn reputation preceded him, was sold on at a dispersal sale. Bosch managed to secure him for a mere R55,000 on behalf of R Hurchund.
Dancer’s Daughter was difficult herself. She would drag riders around the training centres and on the racecourses, other times she would stop dead-still and look around and then only go when she was ready to and she would usually go faster than the rider wanted her to, and by the end of her career she was becoming reluctant to jump out of the starting stalls.
Born To Perform inherited the strength of his mother in both mind and body. Bosch explained how he would walk out of the ring in the mornings and then just stand stock still and no amount of effort would budge him. He just refused to work.
Fortunately Bosch was a top jockey in his day and he decided the only way was to ride the big horse himself,
He said, “I rode him for three months myself. I won’t do that again in a hurry! We gave him a lot of time to play in the paddock too and nursed him. A lot of work was put in by everybody in the yard. He is a sound horse but the main thing was his mind started coming right.”
There was a lot of concern when Born To Perform was taken down to the racecourse. However, he fortunately behaved everytime, sometimes with the help of a lead pony.
Born To Perform, due to his antics, only made his debut in the December of his four-year-old year.
Bosch today thinks his late start was probably a blessing as the horse has been able to progress steadily. He believes even as a five-year-old today he is still improving.
The grey gelding has now won six of his 12 starts and the Kings Cup was the first time he had won a feature.
South Africa’s current champion jockey elect Warren Kennedy has played a big role in the horse’s success. Kennedy knows all of this horse’s quirks. In a race he leaves him alone to do his own thing and never pushes him in the early stages. Therefore, Born To Perform usually produces a strong finish from off the pace, as he did on Sunday. Kennedy has ridden Born To Perform seven times and won on him six times, an incredible strike rate.
Bosch will now be thinking of targeting a couple of similar features during the SA Champions Season. He believes Born To Perform to be of Listed to Grade 3 class at present, which is still a couple of rungs below the Grade 1 class of his mother.
Bosch admitted Born To Perform was still a difficult horse to train but concluded, “He knows us now and enjoys us so is manageable. On Sunday he didn’t even need a lead pony, he went down to the start on his own!”
By David Thiselton