Week in Rowe-view

‘I have no doubt that South African runners will be competitive here’

Expatriate South African trainer Mat de Kock, one half of the Griffiths-de Kock racing operation at Cranbourne and the son of champion trainer Mike de Kock, has implored his home country breeders to step up to the plate at the Bloodstock South Africa National Yearling Sale.

Young de Kock, who has trained 218 winners, eight of them at stakes level, in partnership with Griffiths since joining forces in 2020, says the recently relaxed and long-awaited equine export protocols to Europe from South Africa provided a tremendous opportunity to expose the country’s thoroughbred breed back on the world stage, Australia included.

“I have no doubt that South African runners will be competitive here, and my dad shares my belief. But the local buyers I have spoken to are not sure. They’ve only seen Yulong Prince [Group 1 VRC Cantala Stakes and South African Grade 1 winner] in action here, so they are hesitant,” Mat de Kock wrote. 

“If we can get a group of SA-breds to race here, we can prove to Australia and to the world how competitive they can be. Then, I am sure, the international buyers will flock to South Africa.”

The yearlings would be able to be educated and grown out in Europe without any restrictions for six months before being sent to Australia.

“It will be nice if some of those runners can come to me to train, but this is not a personal promotion, it is about getting SA-breds into the limelight in a massive and spectacular racing jurisdiction,” de Kock said. 

“If runners are exported and placed with high-profile trainers like Chris Waller, Bjorn Baker, Peter Moody, the Hayes partnership or Gai Waterhouse, it will be just as good. 

“This will be an exercise in marketing the South African thoroughbred, in which I and many others have faith. 

“Also it will be good for these trainers to see how tough and durable South African horses are, alongside their ability.”

Some of South Africa’s best race mares have been exported to Australia in the past with three-time Grade 1 winner National Colour (National Assembly) producing the Inglis Easter-sold South African Grade 1 winner Mustaaqueem (Redoute’s Choice) and the unraced Sarraqa (Snitzel), the dam of recent Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) and Randwick Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Celestial Legend (Dundeel).

Via Africa (Var), a champion sprinter in South Africa, is the dam of Newgate Farm’s Golden Rose (Gr 1, 1400m) winning stallion In The Congo (Snitzel) as well as the unraced two-year-old Autumn Glow (The Autumn Sun), a promising filly who topped last year’s Inglis Easter Yearling Sale with a $1.8 million price tag.

The two-day, 393-lot BSA National Yearling Sale held in Johannesburg started on Thursday night.

Well-known Kiwi auctioneer Steve Davis, who contracts to New Zealand Bloodstock and Magic Millions, is behind the rostrum for the sale.


Rich Hill’s John Thompson and his business partner Alan Galbraith are at the peak of their thoroughbred breeding powers, at least 25 years in the making.

With champion sire Proisir (Choisir), shuttler Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact) and Ace High (High Chaparral) as well as Shocking (Street Cry) and Vadamos (Monsun) on the Rich Hill roster, the Matamata stud will be one of the busiest in New Zealand come the 2024 breeding season with Kiwis and Australian breeders clamouring for access to the proven stallions.

So, is Rich Hill doubling down and trying to find the next stallion? Not just at the moment, says Thompson.

“It’s a bit unusual for all five stallions to be Group 1 sires. And if that hadn’t happened, you’re probably looking to move one on and bring in another horse, but we’re probably in a bit of a unique position in that we’ve got these horses and their profiles have just kept going up,” Thompson told us. 

“For our broodmare band, when you do bring a new stallion, you’ve got to change tact somewhat and set aside some of your best mares to support the new stallion, but I just felt the position we’re in, we are better to breed to these horses who are consistently throwing top racehorses, particularly in the season coming up, given they’re commercial horses as well.” 

So, rather than investing in a new stallion Rich Hill is aiming to bolster the ranks of its broodmare band as it did last year.

Thompson signed for two mares at the Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale and three from the Magic Millions last year.

“I said to Alan that we really need to take advantage of these stallions while they’re going so well and improve the quality of the mares, so we’re probably better spending a million dollars on mares rather than a million on shares in a new stallion,” he said.

“You’ve got to drop the bottom off and bring some younger mares in on the top if you can. I think five to six is a good number to aim for. But you have to buy three really commercial mares and if you can buy something with a good pregnancy inside it, that always helps because you’re getting a return fairly quickly. 

“I always like a nice, young mare with a reasonable pregnancy. But everyone has the same idea.”


The market is always looking for new investors and “new money” and global wagering giant Entain, which operates Ladbrokes and Neds in Australia and took over the New Zealand TAB last year, has certainly invested its fair share into yearlings in 2024.

Entain has been operating its Ladbrokes Racing Club, initially buying some tried racehorses as well as partnering with Arrowfield Stud, but the group stepped it up this year through an affiliation with Newgate Farm and Henry Field.

The fillies will enter either the Australia-based Ladbrokes Racing Club or the TAB Racing Club for its New Zealand punters.

Modelled on the Newgate-China Horse Club colts syndicate, they have invested in 22 fillies as well as three colts sourced from 22 different vendors at five different sales conducted by respective auction houses Magic Millions, NZB and Inglis. 

Among the haul is a Kia Ora-bred half-sister to Moir Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) winner Wild Ruler (Snitzel) and Group 3 winner and VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) and Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) placed Pavitra (American Pharoah) for $725,000 at the Easter sale. Kia Ora has remained in the partnership.

While a number of the yearlings, who are being educated and pre-trained by Matt Vella at Hawkesbury, are yet to be allocated to trainers, some of the stables to benefit from the new investment will be Chris Waller, Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard, Te Akau’s Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson, and fellow Kiwi stables of Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray, Roger James and Robert Wellwood and Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.

At least 20 stables will receive horses across Australia and New Zealand.


Canberra jockey Kayla Nisbet this week announced her retirement from the saddle, joining Sky Racing as its southern NSW form and mounting yard expert and presenter.

Nisbet, 29, the daughter of jockey-turned-trainer John Nisbet and sister-in-law of Tommy Berry, has ridden 589 winners during her almost 14-year career in the saddle, a highlight occurring only earlier this month when she scored on Asgarda (The Brothers War) in the $1 million Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick. 

Of those 589 wins, none were more important than a Wagga maiden in February 2022, not to me anyway.

When you owe money to the Australian Tax Office, you don’t want it hanging over your head for too long. The outstanding amount wasn’t exactly in Scotty Brunton territory ($1 million), but it was substantial enough that I needed a win to ensure the ATO was back on my side.

Thus, entered a pint-sized filly called Pretty Extreme (Extreme Choice), a horse I co-owned who was second up in that said Wagga maiden. At 33-1, with Kayla on board, in my eyes Pretty Extreme couldn’t miss a place, so full advantage was taken with the bookmakers to ensure the debt would be cleared.  

Kayla rode her perfectly, they duly saluted and the ATO got paid. Pretty Extreme (and Kayla’s) photo is on the wall at home as a permanent reminder.

Nisbet will ride the Doug Gorrel-trained Asgarda one more time, either at Hawkesbury or in the Wagga Town Plate early next month, before trading the saddle for the microphone.

And I’m certain she’ll be an asset to Sky, too.

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