Ridgemont Highlands, based in Robertson of the Western Cape, is widely acknowledged to be one of South Africa’s biggest, and best, thoroughbred racehorse breeding operations.
It is known that the great things in life carry an aura, and the history and tradition of Ridgemont Highlands is one of excellence and success. It can be traced back to originating in 1950, when Jack Stubbs purchased a 100 hectare cattle and fruit property in the Robertson Valley, with his love and passion for the thoroughbred racehorse the driving force in creating the original Highlands Farm Stud.
All the thoroughbred breeding operations based in the Breede River Valley of Bonnievale, Ashton, and Robertson were commonly known as the BAR Valley breeders; and in the late 1990s amalgamated with all the other thoroughbred breeding operations in the Western Cape to become the Cape Breeders Association.
Alabama, a chestnut mare bred by Alex Robertson, was introduced in the early 1950s as the first broodmare of Highlands Farm Stud. Born in 1945 she had three live foals – a filly by Liberality II (1956), a filly by Dialogue (1957), and a colt by Mystery IX (1959).
1963 proved to be a key year in the history of Ridgemont Highlands. Persian Wonder (born in 1959, by Persian Gulf out of Lilac Belle) was imported to South Africa as a four year old, having won nine races in the UK and achieving a Timeform Rating of 117. Upon being retired to stud, and standing just over fifteen hands, Persian Wonder attracted no interest from breeders and he covered just seven mares in his first season and seventeen in his second.
As a stallion he displayed an abundance of quality, despite being a bit lengthy on top, rather light over the loin and somewhat narrow behind the saddle. He turned out a little in front, but was true on progression. A courageous and consistent horse, he could sprint and stay, had an equable temperament and could act on any going.
However, breeders support turned one hundred and eighty degrees after Persian Wonder produced the top-class Shah Abbas in his second crop. A brown colt out of the mare Judith Ann, he became the highest rated three year old in South Africa in 1969/1970. At two and three years he won nine races, including seven feature races, before being exported to North America.
Persian Wonder went on to become South African Champion Sire an incredible six times with the first being in 1972/73, and four times South African Champion Broodmare Sire. He sired twenty one Grade One winners and goes down in history as Highlands Farm Stud breakthrough champion sire. Sadly, he died on the 9th of November 1979, the same year he won Champion Sire for that sixth time.
Persian Wonder is on record as having had thirty two of his sons stand as stallions at stud in South Africa. He was also the broodmare sire of another seven stallions at stud – including Bush Telegraph (Champion two year old and three year old and winner of the 1987 Rothmans July Handicap as a three year old). A truly remarkable stallion, who constantly produced quality, classy individuals of both sexes during his sixteen seasons at stud.
The late leading industrialist and prominent racehorse owner Graham Beck bought Highlands Farm Stud from John Stubbs in 1985 and in a short space of time Graham Beck assembled at his Highlands Farm Stud, Maine Chance, and Noreen Stud operations a stallion roster including all of Elevation, Harry Hotspur, Golden Thatch, Jungle Cove, Badger Land, Jallad and National Assembly.
An extraordinary horse with an extraordinary story, in 2003/04 Jallad was named South African Champion Sire. As a racehorse he won eight times from 1200m -1400m and as a sire produced sixty stakes winners from 1000m to 3200m, including sixteen Grade 1 winners. While Jallad had many wonderful attributes, good looks weren’t one them – and his first year as a sire he covered fifty mares. His first crop came out running from the bell and he was declared Champion Freshman Sire in 1995/96.
He was stood down from stud duties in 2009, but will best be remembered for the Horse Of The Year and seven time Grade 1 winner Free My Heart, ill-fated champion Rabiya, Cape Derby hero Grande Jete, J&B Met hero Zebra Crossing, Equus Champions Icy Air, Russian Sage and Successful Bidder, star sprinters Scarrena and Vega, Gold Cup winner Major Bluff, Garden Province Stakes winner and outstanding broodmare Lyrical Linda, and Woolavington winner Zirconeum.
Enter Dynasty – a name which gets the pulses going.
A R475 000 graduate of the 2001 Bloodstock South Africa National Yearling Sale, the colt in total raced twelve times for nine wins – with four of those being Grade 1 and three Grade 2. As a racehorse he was declared Equus Horse of the Year and Equus Champion Three Year Old Male in 2002/03, and is still the highest rated three year old to ever win the Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July.
As a stallion Dynasty carved out a legacy for producing classic type horses. He was named the country’s Equus Outstanding Sire four times before succumbing to illness in 2019 at the age of 19 and is one of only three sires in the history of South Africa to get three Horses of the Year – Irish Flame (2010), Legislate (2014), and Futura (2015). Having sired twenty five Grade 1 horses, winning nineteen Equus awards, over R111 million in stakes, and constantly producing ‘sale topping’ yearlings he will go down as one of the all-time greats.
In 2017, Wayne Kieswetter acquired Highlands Stud from Antony Beck and Graham Beck Enterprises and the new Ridgemont Highlands was born.
In 2018 Ridgemont Highlands purchased Canford Cliffs from Coolmore in Ireland. He won five consecutive Group 1 races over a mile and was quoted by the English Champion Trainer, Richard Hannon Snr, as ‘the best I have ever had’. An outstanding racehorse and fierce competitor to the mighty Frankel, he retired as one of the greatest milers in history, with a Timeform Rating of 133, and United Kingdom Champion Miler in 2010 and Champion Older Miler in 2011.
The tradition of breeding champions is proven on the green pastures at Ridgemont Highlands. With the continual improvement to the broodmare band with the likes of Front And Centre (Grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas and Grade 3 Diana Stakes), Miss Florida (Grade 1 Alan Robertson Championship), Nastergal (Grade 3 Champagne Stakes), Nona In Command (Listed Turffontein Swallow Stakes and dual Graded race winning progeny from first two crops), Run Fox Run (Grade 1 Cape Flying Championship, Grade 2 World Sports Betting Southern Cross Stakes, and the Listed Olympic Duel Stakes), and Takingthepeace (Grade 1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, Grade 2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas, and the Grade 3 Victory Moon Stakes) to name a few.
The tradition is ongoing in these exciting times.
Jack Stubbs acquires a 100 hectare cattle and fruit farm in the Robertson Valley and Highlands Farm Stud is created.
Persian Wonder (Persian Gulf x Lilac Belle) wins the first of his six South African Champion Sire titles. Along with his six Champion Sire titles he is on record as having thirty two sons stand as stallions at stud in South Africa, adding to that another seven stallions at stud as a broodmare sire.
Becoming one of only two horses to have ever won the Grade 1 Summer Cup three years in a row, Elevation (High Veldt x Distiller) retired with fourteen victories, and at the time of his retirement in 1974 was the highest stakes earner in South African history. Crowned South African Champion Sire in 1984/85 – one of only two South African bred horses to do so.
Badger Land (Codex x Gimieroom) won five races in the USA from 1600m – 1800m before retiring to stud in South Africa. Producing an exceptional return from only six full crops due to his premature death – crowned South African Champion Sire in 2000/01 and 2004/05.
Jallad (Blushing Groom x Petrava) produced sixty stakes winners from 1000m to 3200m – including sixteen Grade 1 winners. South African Champion Sire in 2003/04.
Loyal Linda (Averof x Ever Faithful) is one of only eight mares in the history of South African thoroughbred breeding to produce three Grade 1 winners (Succesful Bidder, by Jallad), (Gold Flier, by Golden Thatch), and (Trust Antonia, by National Assembly). South African Champion Broodmare in 2006/07.
Dancer’s Daughter (Act One x Reason To Dance) retires to stud as one of South Africa’s greatest racing fillies. The smashing grey filly achieved five Grade 1 wins including the Paddock Stakes, Majorca Stakes, Gold Challenge, Empress Club, and Durban July.
Highlands Farm Stud crowned South African Champion Breeders.
Wayne Kieswetter purchases Highlands Farm Stud from Antony Beck and Ridgemont Highlands is born.
Front And Centre (Dynasty x Alignment) becomes Ridgemont Highlands first classic bred winner when romping to victory in the 2018 Cape Fillies Guineas. Won six of her thirteen starts (including four wins from her first four starts), with an extra four finishes in the places – including both the Grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas and the Grade 3 Diana Stakes.
The inspirational Dynasty (Fort Wood x Blake’s Affair) passes away after carving out a legacy as one of the all-time great thoroughbreds of South Africa. A sensational racehorse with four Grade 1 victories and three Grade 2 wins – including Equus Horse Of The Year and Equus Champion Three Year Old. As a stallion he is only one of three sires to ever produce three Horses Of The Year – Irish Flame (2010), Legislate (2014), and Futura (2015). Sired over twenty five Grade 1 winners and won four Equus Outstanding Sire awards.
Katak (Potala Palace x Sapphire Silk) becomes one of three horses (with African Night Sky, also bred by Ridgemont Highlands, and Pocket Power) to win the Western Cape Winter Series Triple Crown. In taking his unbeaten record to five wins, he picked up the Grade 3 Variety Club Mile over 1600m, the Grade 3 Legal Eagle Stakes over 1800m, and the Grade 3 Pocket Power Stakes over 2400m. He was subsequently exported to race in Singapore.
Rafeef (Redoute’s Choice x National Colour) is crowned South African Champion Freshman Sire for 2020/2021. Making an explosive start to his stud career, he ended the season have supplied fourteen first crop winners, who won nineteen races between them.
Canford Cliffs (Tagula x Mrs Marsh) begins with a bang! In the space of just five days he produces his first South African bred winner and South African bred Stakes winner.
Body Electric bolts to victory by five lengths on her debut run over 1000m to become the first South African bred Canford Cliffs winner.
Cliff Top, becomes the first South African bred Stakes winner for Canford Cliffs, when demolishing the field to win the Listed City Of Cape Town Summer Juvenile Stakes over 1000m.
Craig Careycraig@ridgemont.co.zaT: +27 (0) 23 626 2331C: +27 (0) 82 654 5169
Shaylene Van Zylshaylene@ridgemont.co.zaT: +27 (0) 23 626 2332C: +27 (0) 72 603 1094
Ross Kieswetterross@ridgemont.co.zaC: +27 (0) 82 920 6005
Julia Conwayjulia@ridgemont.co.zaC: +27 (0) 63 667 5383
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