The Very Beginning
Varsfontein Stud was started by Anthony Kalmanson in 1974. An enthusiastic owner and amateur rider, Tony rode in races in England, South Africa and Rhodesia, and he won the first South African Steeplechase on Thunder Peel in 1969. A leading buyer at the National Yearling Sales his top racehorses included Attila, Top Brass and the fillies Indira (Paddock Stakes), Kendal Green (Fillies Guineas) and Singing Winds (Clairwood Free Handicap). With his top fillies retiring to stud, Tony bought Varsfontein – a wine farm near Paarl, and his friend and riding adversary Hennie de Jager became the manager. Up until a few years ago the farm still used to send grapes to the nearby Perdeberg Winery but now horses are the primary concern.
The very first yearling sold by Varsfontein was Kings Rhapsody, a son of Singing Winds who won ten races for Laurie and Jean Jaffee including the Smirnoff. Early Grade 1 winners produced by the stud include Jumpup and Kissme, Enchanting (and also the dam of Champion Harry’s Charm), This England, Marie Galante, Model School, Tickets and Tax, Duchess Daba and Promisefrommyheart . Champions born and raised at Varsfontein include Young Rake, Spook Express, Duchess Daba, Promisefrommyheart, Irridescence, Thundering Star, Along Came Polly, Yorker and Captain America.
Mexico II (GB) was the first stallion to make Varsfontein his home. He was Champion Sire of 2 year olds in 1979/80 and 1980/81. As the sire of Champion Sire Harry Hotspur and a leading broodmare sire, he made a huge impact on the breed in South Africa. Fair Season (GB), imported by Sir Mordaunt Milner in 1982 was the second sire to stand at Varsfontein. A very well-supported stallion, he sired Jungle Warrior, Tickets and Tax, La Mancha, Turbo Star, London Season, etc. Caesour (USA), selected for Varsfontein by Alexandra Scrope, arrived in 1996 and his first crop made an exciting debut on the tracks in 1999/2000. His first crop included Classic winner Caughtintheslips and graded stakes placed runners Diplomat and Caesars Warrior plus Hail Caesour and Emperors Dance. Caesour went on the produce the likes of Kiss Me Quick, Tobe or Nottobe, The Eiger Sanction, Perfect Promise, O Caesour, Irridescence, Alexandra Rose, Dane Julia, Chant Du Nuit, Empress Crown, Regal Ransome, River Crossing, Arcola and Tevez. Caesour is currently making his mark as a broodmare sire. Currently Varsfontein stands three sires Judpot (USA), Gimmethegreenlight (AUS) and our home-bred Master Of My Fate. More on these stallions in our sires section.
The Second Generation
Tony Kalmanson died in 1979 and Hennie de Jager retired in 1988. Varsfontein Stud is now managed by Carl de Vos and his wife Amanda (who celebrated their 30th year at Varsfontein in 2018), and is owned by two of Tony’s children John Kalmanson and Susan Rowett. Their mother Mette Kalmanson was very much involved in the stud until her passing in 2014.
Daughters and grand-daughters of the two Foundation Mares Indira and Kendal Green still grace Varsfontein’s paddocks. Duel Gr 1 winner Marie Galante (Mexico II – Indira) lived many years on Varsfontein after her retirement and passed at the ripe old age of 29 in January 2018. Since the 1970’s, the stud has imported mares to upgrade local stock. These include Lyshaan (UK stakes placed by Ahonoora from the family of Jungle Cove and dam of Cowabunga and Thingumajig), Riding Light (by Topville from the Queen of Light family and dam of Dacha),Oak Fly (by Woodman), Alexandra Bi (IRE) (dam of Alexandra Rose, Pavlovich and Alexandra Palace) and Congestion Charge (GB) (dam of Surcharge). Varsfontein has added great value to the South African stud book by improving on local bloodlines as well. Perhaps the biggest contribution being the progeny of the great mare, Secret Pact (a full sister to London News), who is the dam of Promisefrommyheart, Covenant and Secret Heart. From Secret Pact’s daughters have come the likes of Pluck, Three Hearts, Master Of My Fate, Captain Splendid, Justthewayyouare, Hack Green etc.