Koster breed­ing leg­end lives on

ROSEDENE WILL SEND 10 LOTS, CHEVELEY FOUR TO THE NA­TIONAL TWO-YEAR-OLD SALE Fam­ily con­tin­ues a tra­di­tion started 65 years ago.

The Citizen (KZN) - - RACING EXPRESS - Robert Garner

Breed­ing thor­ough­bred race­horses is no busi­ness for the faint­hearted. In fact, with­out loads of luck, cap­i­tal, rev­enue from other sources and sound judg­ment it will al­most cer­tainly land you in the poor­house.

So many breed­ers, who were once house­hold names in South African rac­ing cir­cles, have dis­ap­peared down the years, but Koster is one name that has sur­vived since Ralph Koster first de­cided to breed race­horses in Beau­fort West in 1943 at Klavervlei Stud.

Ralph, who bred mules for the army dur­ing World War II, started with six mares bought from fa­mous breeder Al­lan Robert­son and a year later ac­quired six more from the es­tate of Henry Nourse, South Africa’s top owner and breeder for the first four decades of the last cen­tury.

Klavervlei was on its way. Suc­cess­ful stal­lions like Dra­matic II and Pream­ble II soon ar­rived while foun­da­tion mares turned out to in­clude stud book greats like Jezebel and Sis­ter Sub­lime.

Ralph went on to breed many top horses in the heart of the Great Ka­roo – the likes of cham­pion filly Ma­jorca, 1971 Dur­ban July vic­tor Mazarin and Met win­ners Po­lar Bear and Jerez be­ing four who spring to mind.

Ralph’s three sons – Werner, Peter and Wil­fred – all shared their fa­ther’s pas­sion for breed­ing, but as the years rolled by and the third gen­er­a­tion was born, the fam­ily busi­ness evolved in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

Wil­fred, Ralph’s youngest son, moved to Ceres in 1980 to es­tab­lish Cheveley Stud, where cham­pi­ons like Lon­don News, Na­tional Em­blem and Gold­mark were bred. Wil­fred died in 2008 and the farm is now run by his son Vaughan.

Peter set his son John up on a farm in Bon­nievale, the current Klaw­ervlei Stud and de­lib­er­ately spelt with a “w” to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the orig­i­nal Klavervlei.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, his younger son Char­lie took over the Beau­fort West farm, which to­day is a spell­ing farm.

But the Koster rac­ing ban­ner lives on in Beau­fort West at Rosedene Stud, which is run by Werner’s son Graeme and is home to cham­pion Greys Inn, sire of twice Horse of the Year, Le­gal Ea­gle.

This is the farm where God­frey Gird stood twice South African cham­pion sire New South Wales be­fore mov­ing to Maine Chance Farms in Robert­son.

Graeme took over the farm in 1994.There were only three horses there when he ar­rived and he started his ven­ture into race­horse breed­ing with only five mares.

“I added slowly to that num­ber but only re­ally got in­volved be­cause of Mike de Kock. He was in­stru­men­tal in the late Mrs Op­pen­heimer send­ing me Greys Inn to stand as a stal­lion and that’s when I ex­panded the breed­ing op­er­a­tion,” says Graeme.

We stopped by there on a visit to the Ka­roo ear­lier this year and Greys Inn looked a pic­ture of health and vi­tal­ity – so good in fact that you would be hard pressed to guess from a ca­sual glance that he is now 18 years old.

Win­ner of the 2004 Dur­ban July and un­luck­ily beaten in the QEII Cup in Hong Kong the fol­low­ing year, Greys Inn has sired a con­sis­tent stream of win­ners with one of the high­est av­er­age earn­ings per run­ner.

“This has to be one of the best places in the world to breed race­horses,” says Graeme, adding that his year­lings live out­side un­til two months be­fore they go to sale.

“You want them to be ath­letes and the longer you leave them out­side the bet­ter. The only draw­back here is the lo­ca­tion and we are a long way away from the cen­tre of the breed­ing ac­tion. That’s why we sent Greys Inn to stand at High­lands Stud for the first six weeks of the breed­ing sea­son last year. It made it so much eas­ier for many of the top studs to send mares to him.”

Koster is keenly aware of the fi­nan­cial haz­ards of breed­ing race­horses and is thor­oughly diver­si­fied.

Among him, his brother Ralph and his fa­ther Werner they have more than 100,000 hectares of land, nearly 14,000 sheep and two highly rated game lodges in Le­moen­fontein and Ko-Ka Tsara Bush Camp.

Graeme and Werner also have some 800 hectares of land un­der lucerne and Ralph has three be­dand-break­fast es­tab­lish­ments in the Wagon Wheel, the Beau­fort Manor Coun­try Lodge and the Matoppo Inn, which dates back to 1835.

A three-year drought has taken its toll on their sheep and game en­ter­prises, but re­cent snow pro­vided some re­lief and Graeme re­mains op­ti­mistic that March next year, the area’s wettest month, will bring rain.

Rosedene has 10 lots on the Blood­stock South Africa Na­tional Two-Year-Old Sale at the TBA sales com­plex at Ger­mis­ton on Thurs­day and Fri­day this week, while Cheveley will of­fer four for sale.

There are 447 lots cat­a­logued and the sale will be­gin at 11am on both days.

WHAT A WIN­NER. Dur­ban July win­ner Greys Inn has proved to be as suc­cess­ful as a stal­lion, pro­duc­ing a num­ber of cham­pi­ons in­clud­ing Le­gal Ea­gle.

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