The ‘Mike and Laura’ team: 13 winners from last 46 runners
“A part of our vision has always been to bring new people into the game we love to share its unique highs with us” – Mike de Haast.
Anyone who has been in racing long enough knows that nothing in this industry can be taken for granted, and this is why we view our recent success on the racetracks with gratitude and appreciation first; pride and some bragging rights second.
The International Racing Club (IRC) last 45 runners in South Africa have won 12 races with 18 places, a top-class strike rate of around 66% and more consistency all round for our valued racing partners and syndicate members. If you’ve ever managed, or been involved in a syndicate, you’ll attest to these being quite remarkable figures in what can be a frustrating business. In the UK on Monday, Winnetka also won for us, bringing the total to 13!
We’re on our way to the 70-winner mark now and we’ll be putting our second ‘50’ on the board quicker than the first 50 because our co-founder Mike de Haast and wife, Laura, have selected better horses over the last few years and have hence yielded better results. There is every intention to make even better picks from various future sales and to get a few solid stakes winners in our mix. It really is just a question of time and when we look at our young horses soon to come through the ranks, we’re tempted to say there’ll be a really smart horse or two among them!
There are lots of racehorse lovers in this world and any number of them try their hand at selecting yearlings or two-year-olds at auctions, using their knowledge and own methods or with help from trainers and bloodstock agents. But there are, and have been, stories about licensed owners who’ve had to wait up to 10 years and longer for their first winner, even a few who raced in top stables.
It’s not just a roulette wheel, however, and while Mike de Haast acknowledges that elements of luck (‘right place, right time’) can play a role in acquiring the right horse, there are basic principles to follow that can narrow one’s chances of buying better horses.
He explains: “As a team, Laura and I have tried to refine the best ways of selecting horses and our results show that we have made marked improvement since we launched the IRC brand and concept with Joao Da Mata six years ago. This is due to constantly learning and being open to learn – the adage that one never stops learning about horses is entirely true – but we’ve also worked hard at it, researching pedigrees and making firm decisions that had to be made.
“Laura is an expert on horse conformation. She grew up around horses, rode when she was five, attended a pony school and comes from a racing family that included two jockeys and an uncle who was assistant trainer to erstwhile top trainer Henry Eatwell.
“I have focused on pedigrees and matings, the nicks that work best and I’ve looked for speed in the female lines, essential especially in the South African market. I’ve also eliminated certain stallions and in the last three years we’ve stopped listening to trainers. We do our own thing as a team, follow our own procedures and work only with two veterinarians who have become part of and work well within our team now as they understand what our needs are.
“We look at every horse at every sale we attend, watching them walk or trot, checking knees, joints, hocks, scoping and getting x-rays done if necessary. We make a shortlist of up to 40 horses, grading them from 5 for the best down to 2. (We’ve had 4s, but never a 5) Then, we eliminate perhaps 10 lots on average on what we deem to be inexcusable physical faults. So we mitigate risk as much as possible to start the process. For the rest it’s down to the auction ring to compete with other buyers for the final bid, many of whom have also done thorough homework. We put a value on every horse and I never cross that value, ever, because when you do that you start to cross swords with wealthy buyers’ egos and agents chasing prices and you can get a proper hiding.”
Another factor that has contributed to the IRC’s good results is that Mike and Laura have been able to buy in a higher bracket. “We started buying horses for between 50k and 70k which obviously limits you to the lower end, trying to secure the best among the breadcrumbs from the table. Now, with our brand growing and more owner participation we are able to compete in the 200k to 300k bracket, which gives us a better chance of finding the plums!”
We’ve given our readers and prospective owners many opportunities to join our syndicates this year. You can join as a syndicate member, partner or fractional owner and we’ll make the process as seamless and affordable as we can.
The IRC team most recently bought three lovely two-year-olds from the BSA August Sale (scroll down for more). They’re being backed at Adam Kethro’s The Thoroughbred Shed facility and all look promising, won’t be long before they join their trainers and we look forward to welcoming new partners. Racing is at a watershed with lots of important decisions being made for the sport’s future and lots of disagreements in its ranks. While all of this is going on and we trust things to be resolved, a part of our vision has always been to bring new people into the game we love to share its unique highs with us. The experience is important and this is why they start loving it and come back. Without new participation and investment racing cannot survive.”
Below is a review of the three two-year-olds bought in August. If you are interested, mail Joao Da Mata on firstname.lastname@example.org and he will attend to your needs, work out a package that suits. Kindly don’t mail us if your only wish is to obtain tips or get a pass to visit our farm and trainers!
In Lots 89, 303 and 177 Mike found what looks like some truly promising two-year-olds and he discussed them, briefly:
“Lot 89 is Wallace Sword, a William Longsword colt from a mare by Street Sense. He’s a first foal with not much in the female line, but he’s a beautiful, neat specimen by a Captain Al stallion who will upgrade his mares. He should win his races. He’ll be off to trainer Dennis Bosch.
“Lot 177, to me, was the bargain buy of the sale. She’s Stormz Power, a smashing chestnut filly by What A Winter from an unraced half-sister to Pocket Power and River Jetez with a deep, high-class female line. She is correct with a deep girth, strong shoulder and hind-quarters and we got her for R60,000. The average for What A Winter offspring at the sale was R202,000! We’re sending her to Robbie Hill.
Lot 303 was one of my top six at the sale, I was the underbidder on four of them and manage to get this one near the end of the sale for R260,000. He is Excalibur Calls, correct as can be, everything in the right places, a lovely colt by William Longsword from former Zimbabwe star Duffi’s Call. He’ll be going to Wayne Badenhorst and Barbara Kennedy.” -IRC.
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