Captain America’s French connection

by | Jun 16, 2017

flash-onFlash On pictured as a broodmare


THAT the fostering of equine dynasties has served Varsfontein Stud well over the years was underlined at Greyville when Captain America stunned his rivals in the Gr.1 Gold Challenge, his second success at the top level.

Captain America’s female family originates from the French-bred yearling Flash On, bought by Varsfontein founder Anthony Kalmanson at the Newmarket Houghton Sale in 1974. He wanted a top filly to race and breed with in Europe and as a member of Jim Joel’s splendid Queen Of Light family, the daughter of Sea Hawk II perfectly fit the bill.

Put into training with Chantilly-based Hubert d’Aillieres in Chantilly, she won once and earned valuable black type when third in the Gr.3 Prix Cleopatre, good enough for a place at stud.

Kalmanson’s daughter Susan Rowett, who together with brother John now owns Varsfontein, takes up the story: “My mother took over Flash On when my father died in 1979 and bred Captain America’s grandam Riding Light in 1985.  By Top Ville, she was trained by David Smaga in Chantilly (who is currently training three fillies for my brother John today thirty years later!).

“Riding Light was a brilliant filly but David Smaga was thoroughly frustrated because she never quite got it right on the track when it really mattered. We decided that Riding Light should join her half-sister Enchufar in South Africa, as we wanted to see what this family could do in this country. Trained by Terrance Millard, she won once over 1400m and even ran in the Gr.1 Garden Province.”

Stable companion Epoque defeated a vintage field in the prestigious mile race, which included such notable Gr.1 winners as Parisian Affair, Wainui, Fanciful, Mill Hill, Fanciful, Saintly Lady and Love Of London.

Retired to Varsfontein, Riding Light failed to conceive the first year at stud and next visited Russian Fox. Thought to be not in foal, she was put out with the barren mares and when the new breeding season arrived, she patently failed to cycle, much to the frustration of stud manager Carl de Vos. To everyone’s surprise, she was in fact in foal and in 1992, produced a small filly. Named Dacha, this six-time winner made up for in heart what she lacked in inches, landing the Prix du Cap and reaching the frame in both the Gr.3 Diana Stakes (2nd) and Gr.2 Western Cape Fillies Championship (3rd). She became a valued member of the Oldlands broodmare band and counts amongst her nine winners Gr.2 Hawaii Stakes runner-up Jarowslaw (Jallad), Gardenia second Adorable (Captain Al) and Swallow Stakes third Katinka (Dominion Royale).

Riding Light’s Cordoba filly Shiver My Timbers won four times for trainer Alistair Gordon and she too became a stakes producer, her Rich Man’s Gold son Pirate’s King claiming the Gr.3 King’s Cup and running third in the Gr.2 Derby at Clairwood.

Riding Light produced her second stakes winner when Model Man daughter Cruise Collection captured the valuable Gr.2 Gold Bracelet at Greyville. Although she has yet to feature as a stakes producer, two other Riding Light daughters have contributed to their dam’s growing dynasty.

Sintra by National Assembly, never raced but came good at stud as the dam of stakes-placed five-time winner King Fernando (Parade Leader), while Ondina, by Varsfontein’s late stalwart Caesour, won twice and has bred eight winners from nine runners for the farm. To Jallad she produced Gr.2 Hawaii Stakes third Ozymandias and a mating to Captain Al resulted in the talented, if luckless filly Captainofmysoul, a bridesmaid in no less than four stakes races (including the Gr.3 Diana Stakes).

Riding Light’s liaison with Fort Wood yielded the filly Requista, the dam of Captain America.

Luck smiled on Varsfontein, as she was sent to the sales and when the buyer reneged, the sale was cancelled. Trained by Eric Sands and Geoff Woodruff, she eventually returned to Varsfontein a stakes-placed five-time winner. A classy performer over ground, she picked up black type when second to Cape Badger in the Spook Express Handicap.

Requista soon showed her mettle as a broodmare. Her second foal, the Al Mufti filly Aquitaine, became her dam’s first stakes winner with a career-defining victory in the Gr.3 Jacaranda Handicap. Ironically, Requista had finished fourth in a three-way finish for second in that same race as a four-year-old!

The mare became a Gr.1 producer for Varsfontein when Captain America travelled to Turffontein and made light work of the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes, defeating talented Tellina by more than four lengths. The strapping bay’s equally dominant victory in the Gold Challenge underlined his prowess as a top class miler and once again proved that he is truly his father’s son, for Captain Al likewise showed top class form over a mile.

Sadly, Requista died at the end of last year, but she has left Varsfontein with a Judpot filly.