The Varsfontein Story
Founder of Varsfontein Stud, Anthony Kalmanson, won South Africa’s first Steeplechase on Thunder Peal in 1969. An enthusiastic owner and amateur rider, Tony rode in races in England, South Africa and Rhodesia.
Varsfontein Stud was started by Anthony Kalmanson in 1974. 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- photograph above) 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.
Mexico II arrived on Varsfontein as our first stallion to stand at stud. 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.
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 Plate.
The first prestigious race won by a Varsfontein bred was the Smirnoff Plate over 1200m for 2yos at Scottsville which is equivalent to today’s Gr 1 Gold Medalion.
Tony Kalmanson sadly passed away leaving Varsfontein Stud in the ownership of his wife Mette, and children Susan, Monique and John Kalmanson. Tony established Varsfontein during these first 5 years with the help of Hennie De Jager. Pictured below: Mrs Kalmanson in the centre with John and Monique to her right; and Hennie with his son Rae to her left.
Fair Season (GB), imported by Sir Mordaunt Milner in 1982, arrived to stand at Varsfontein Stud. A very well-supported stallion, he sired Jungle Warrior, Tickets and Tax, La Mancha, Turbo Star, London Season, etc.
Hennie De Jager retired and Carl & Amanda De Vos took over the management of Varsfontein Stud. Carl still manages Varsfontein today and celebrated his 30th year at the helm in 2018.
Tony’s wife, Mette Kalmanson along with Carl’s guidance really got going with building and renovation projects on the farm. Mrs Kalmanson loved following her dream of making Varsfontein beautiful. Some of the first projects included staff housing, improving the stable yard, paddock fencing, the tractor shed and the office. Siblings Susan and John Kalmanson took over the focus of developing the farms broodmare band.
Marie Galante was born in 1988, a pivotal time for the farm. A new generation was getting involved as Susan and John started taking the reins at Varsfontein. Marie Galante turned out to be the kick start this new generation needed, bringing everyone together and rousing a new excitement around the farm’s breeding operation.
She was by Mexico II and out of foundation mare, Indira. Marie Galante raced for Varsfontein in Susan’s colours for 3 seasons and ended up with a race record of 8 wins and 6 places from 16 starts (all but 2 of which were stakes races). She achieved the Gr 2 Poinsettia Stakes and Gr 1 SA Fillies Sprint double twice – in 1992 and 1993.
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. He can be considered the most internationally succesful SA based sire producing Grade 1 winners in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Caesour has also made his mark as a broodmare sire.
Perhaps one of the biggest contributions to Varsfontein’s success was the great mare, Secret Pact (a full sister to London News), who was purchased as a young mare for then the record price for a broodmare on auction. Secret Pact is the dam of Promisefrommyheart, Covenant and Secret Heart. From her daughters have come the likes of Pluck, Three Hearts, Master Of My Fate, Captain Splendid, Justthewayyouare, Hack Green, Hashtagyolo, Ghaalla, Erik The Red, Favorita, Malmoos, Due Diligence etc.
in 2022 Secret Pact had three grandsons/ greatgrandsons at stud in SA with a total of 364 mares covered between the three of them.
The manor house was slowly redone over the years. The difficulty with the main house is that it is very old and made with mud bricks, so renovations were always quite challenging. The final main renovation was done in 1999.
The 2003/2004 season was a very memorable one for Varsfontein Stud with a string of very successful fillies making their mark on the racetrack. This included the likes of Promisefrommyheart (who won the Triple Tiara and was crowned Equus champion 3yo filly) and Duchess Daba who earned both Cape and Highveld champion status after winning two grade 1 races. Others from this top notch season were Sabina Park, Cruise Collection, Dash For Gretna, Zolaroyale, Perfect Promise etc.
The farm’s trophy cabinet became well stocked after Varsfontein Stud won the 2002 Cape Breeder Of The Year as well as both Breeder Of The Season and Owners Of The Season at the Highveld feature season awards.
Hot on the heels of a phenomenal season, Varsfontein Stud enjoyed their first international group 1 success. Irridescence, born and bred on Varsfontein by Hendrik Winterbach, was crowned champion 3yo filly in South Africa in 2005 before heading abroad and winning the 2006 running of the QE II Cup in Hong Kong.
Varsfontein aquired Judpot (USA) in partnership with Jagessar Ltd. His pedigree was out of the top shelf being by A.P. Indy (USA) and out of the great race mare Miesque (USA), which made him a half brother to the world class sires Kingmambo and Miesque’s Son. Judpot was awarded the Equus Outstanding Stallion Achievement Award in 2013. His top progeny included the Gr 1 winners Along Came Polly (champion 2yo filly), Forest Indigo, Juxtapose and Coral Fever. He retired from stud duties in 2019.
One of Mrs Kalmanson’s favorite projects was the farm’s main entrance. She visited various properties inspecting their gates and drawing inspiration. In 2010 the entrance walls and gate were built under her instruction giving visitors a more welcoming and quality feel on arrival. The entrance gate certainly compliments the beautiful lane of cotton wood trees and lush paddocks on either side.
After being the first 3yo to win the Grade 1 Queen’s Plate in 42 years, Gimmethegreenlight retired to stud duties at Varsfontein under the ownership of a syndicate. He was leading First Season Sire in South Africa in 2015/16. At the end of the 2020/21 season he was crowned champion sire in South Africa, but also topped the 3yo sires log and was responsible for the highest number of winners that season. His Grade 1 winners alone include Got The Greenlight, Gunner, Surcharge/Yulong Prince, She’s A Keeper, Gimme A Prince and Bless My Stars.
Mrs Kalmanson (affectionately known on the farm as “Groot Madam”) passed away. She is pictured below with John Kalmanson, leading in Covenant after winning the 2012 Gr 2 Sceptre stakes.
It was a bitter sweet moment when our new stallion complex was completed that year as it was an exciting addition to the farm but also sad knowing how much Mrs Kalmanson would have enjoyed seeing the new building.
Master Of My Fate returned home to his place of birth to retire to stud after his racing career was cut short due to injury. He was so sought after that his syndication was complete within 24 hours. Hardly surprising as both sire (Jet Master) and dam (Promisefrommyheart) were champions. Master Of My Fate won 6 races, including two Grade 2 races. In the 2020/21 season he was 2nd leading sire on the log after Gimmethegreenlight. He has produced the likes of Tempting Fate, Sentbydestiny, Zarina, Twist Of Fate, Basadi Faith, Zapatillas, African Adventure etc. He is pictured here with trainer Dennis Drier.
A very special filly entered the scene at Varsfontein Stud after being purchased from Cheveley Stud at the 2014 National Two Year Old Sale. Susan named the beautiful pink-grey filly, Bela-Bela. By Dynasty and out of the exceptional broodmare, Mystic Spring, Bela-Bela went on to win 7 races in the Varsfontein Stud silks. These included 3 Grade 1 races and the Equus 3yo champion filly title for the 2015/16 season. She hails from the family of Rabiya, Secret Captain, Secret Of Victoria, Spring Lilac, Snowdance etc
The 2020/2021 season was one for the record books and certainly a season that won’t be forgotten for the farm. Varsfontein Stud enjoyed the following successes:
Our first ever champion Sire title as Gimmethegreenlight topped the log with stable mate, Master Of My Fate, in 2nd position.
Varsfontein breds, Malmoos (Captain Al x Justthewayyouare), won the South African Triple Crown and Yulong Prince (Gimmethegreenlight x Congestion Charge) won the G1 Kennedy Cantala Stakes in Australia.
Varsfontein graduates won 23 stakes races during the course of the season (5 Gr 1 races, 6 Gr 2 races, 7 Gr 3 races and 5 Listed races)
The main stable yard on the farm underwent renovations and a new hospital/crush area was added.