The athletic Mike and Adam Azzie-trained Wylie Hall filly Wylie Wench was one of the most eyecatching winners of the weekend and she looks capable of justifying the money Varsfontein Stud Farm South Africa paid to acquire her.
A quick glance at her rich pedigree is all that is required to know why she has brought two famous racing families together. Her story starts with Anthony Kalmanson, a Durbanite who used to enjoy riding in jumps races in England. He used to look for fillies in Europe to bolster his broodmare band at Varsfontein Stud, which he founded in 1974. He would race them over there and sometimes ride them in hurdles races before bringing them out to South Africa.
In the early 1970’s he bought a filly called Lucky Libra, who was by the Fair Trial line sire Great White Way. She won three races in England, one over 1600m on the flat and two over hurdles. Despite winning a hurdles race over two-and-a-half miles, she was destined to become the founding mare of a family whose most famous names are sprinters, although some members of the family are versatile.
Her first South African-bred foal Crown Sable (Peacable Kingdom) won nine races from 1000m to 1900m, including a Grade 3 over 1000m. Lucky Libra was then sent to Scott Brothers’ five-times champion sire Jungle Cove and the result was the filly Enchanting, who was a superb racehorse and became a matriarch at stud. She won two Grade 1s and a Grade 2 over 1600m, inlcuding the Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas.
Anthony Kalmanson passed away in 1979 and the running of Varsfontein had been handed down to his twin offspring, John and Susan. The twins, to their lasting regret, sold Enchanting. However, they always look for her family members at the Sales. Enchanting was exported to the USA after her racing feats out here and stood at her owner Graham Beck’s Gainesway Farm.
She was later sent back to SA to stand at Beck’s Highlands Farm Stud, but not before she had produced four USA-bred foals, including the Spend A Buck filly Enchanted Dollar.
Enchanted Dollar won twice in South Africa before standing at Highlands. She produced two Graded winners including the champion National Assembly colt National Currency.
The latter was purchased for R500,000 at the National Yearling Sales and Beck took a share in him together with A Christoforou, C J W and N Hilt and J E H Clarke.
National Currency, trained by Mike Azzie, broke 1000m course records at Turffontein and Newmarket on his way to nine career wins, including three Grade 1s.
He was an Equus Champion two-year-old and an Equus Champion three-year-old sprinter.
The big 16-hands-2-inch bay earned the nickname “the horse with the movie star looks” and was still said to be maturing when tragically passing away as a four-year-old.
In his penultimate start in South Africa in the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Clairwood, when still a three-year-old, he destroyed them by 5,25 lengths.
He then went over to Hong Kong and ran second to the legendary Silent Witness, who was named world champion sprinter for three years in succession.
Azzie had claimed before that race that had it been over six furlongs and not five the opposition would have been better off not pitching up.
National Currency’s next start in Dubai in a Listed race over 1200m on the dirt perhaps proved him correct as he cruised in by six-and-a-half lengths.
National Currency had the world at his feet and it was a devastating blow to Azzie and SA racing fans when his life was then claimed by a suspected snake or scorpion bite.
Azzie was once asked by the Racegoer when he had a runner in the Mercury Sprint to compare the favourite of that race to National Currency and he said, “National Currency could have stopped for a cup of tea at the 400m and still beaten him.”
That is how much he revered him.
Enchanting’s first SA-bred foal was Harry’s Charm, an ARCSA Champion two-year-old and three-year-old filly and she was later a Champion Older Sprinter.
Later in 1998, just a year before National Currency was born, Enchanting produced a filly by National Assembly called Enchantress.
Her eight wins included the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint and she was named Equus Champion Older Female Sprinter in 2002.
Enchantress has produced the Grade 1 Thekwini winner and Equus Champion two-year-old filly Laverna and the Grade 3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup winner Nevvay, proving there are still lines of stamina coming through from Lucky Libra.
Wylie Wench, bred by Lammerskraal Stud, is the eighth foal of Enchantress.
Susan Rowett (nee Kalmanson) of Varsfontein bought Wylie Wench at BSA’s National Two-year-old Sale for R600,000.
Mike Azzie had also liked her conformation and he and Susan had soon agreed that as he knew the family so well Azzie Racing Stables would be the right ones to train her.
After all her dam is a three-parts sister to National Currency.
The Azzies provided Wylie Wench with a test on Saturday which was going to help them plan her future.
It was just her second career start and she was being asked to overcome a wide draw in the 1450m fillies and mares maiden on the tight Turffontein Inside track.
After dwelling slightly she was caught wide in the running without cover.
However, she remained relaxed and made up the deficit easily at the top of the straight.
She then wandered around in the front before a backhander from Raymond Danielson saw her surging to win as she liked.
The Azzies said she had taken time to mature.
Her sire Wylie Hall is one of the best performed South African-based sons of the late great Australian champion sire Redoute’s Choice and he is already beginning to make waves as a sire himself.
The Azzies are not getting ahead of themselves but Wylie Wench undoubtedly has more to come and is definitely a horse to follow.
By David Thiselton