One of South Africa’s most successful stud farms, Highlands Farm has been in operation since the 1970’s. Based in Robertson, the farm formerly owned by the late Graham Beck, currently managed by Mike Sharkey, has been home to some exceptional over the years, with its earlier stars including the great Persian Wonder.
The latter, a son of Coronation Cup winner Persian Gulf, was one of the finest stallions to ever to stand at stud in South Africa, and was Champion Sire in this country on no fewer than six occasions! An outstanding sire of both sexes, Persian Wonder’s offspring numbered no fewer than 18 G1 winners amongst them! He also went on to become champion broodmare sire.
Other top sires to have stood at Highlands were the likes of Elevation and Jallad (Champion Sires in 1984 and 2001 respectively), and the hugely successful sire National Assembly, whose Highlands Farms’ bred champion son Soft Falling Rain stands his first season at Wilgerbosdrift later this year.
Another champion sire to have been based at Highlands was the hugely successful Badger Land, whose numerous top class performers included champions Badger’s Drift and Blossoming Fields, and former J&B Met winner Badger’s Coast. His daughters have since become very successful broodmares and include former Equus Broodmare Of The Year Sunshine Lover.
Current sires based at Highlands include the sensational Dynasty, sire of this year’s R5.2 million record priced yearling colt, proven sires Antonius Pius and Windrush, and the very exciting pair of Great Britain and Pathfork. The latter’s first yearlings have proved hugely successful in the sales ring during 2015 thus far, making up to R700 000. The farm is also home to promising young Highlands bred stallions Jackson (by Dynasty) and Potala Palace (by Singspiel), both of whom recently completed a successful first season at stud.
Highlands regularly ranks amongst the top breeders in South Africa, and finished third on the log in 2013-2014.
CBC recently took time to speak to Highlands’ Kim Riddle to find out a little bit more about Highlands and both its past and future stars.
How long has Highlands been in operation?
Since the mid 70’s
When did Graham Beck purchase the farm?
How long has Mike been manager at Highlands?
Has the farm seen significant changes over the years, and, if so, how?
The quality of the stallion and broodmare band has improved drastically. We have always made use of overseas imports and it has helped the farm to improve the breed.
What are some of the best horses bred by Highlands over the years?
National Currency, Franny, Soft Falling Rain, Russian Sage, Jackson, Sweet Sanette, Trust Antonia, Potala Palace, Harry’s Charm, Ravishing, Grand Emporium, Warm White Night, On Her Toes, Agra, Divine Jury, Sage Throne, Highland Nights, Night Watch, Dancer’s Daughter, Bush Telegraph to name a few!
How many mares are on the farm?
Highlands has stood some great stallions over the years from Persian Wonder to Dynasty. How many stallions does the farm prefer to stand?
We currently stand DYNASTY, JACKSON, PATHFORK, POTALA PALACE, GREAT BRITAIN, ANTONIUS PIUS and WINDRUSH. You have got to keep introducing new sires, because you don’t know where your next champion is coming from and you need to be continuously on the look out !
What are some of the plans for your top mares this season, ie Overarching, Dancer’s Daughter, Our Table Mountain?
OVERARCHING will go back to DYNASTY
DANCER’S DAUGHTER will go to VARIETY CLUB
OUR TABLE MOUNTAIN still deciding
You must be thrilled by Dynasty’s ongoing success –what makes him such a great stallion and what is he like to work with?
He has a laid back temperament, nothing bothers him. He is a true gentleman and goes about his duties in a very professional manner. Since the beginning of his breeding career he has passed on his temperament and his racing ability to 90% of his offspring !
How has Jackson and Potala Palace settled down? It sounds like they have made pleasing starts to their respective stud careers?
JACKSON is a chip off the old block, settled down well into his breeding duties and is a pleasure to work with.
POTALA PALACE is also a very workman like horse and gets on with his job, he covers well, but unlike JACKSON, he prefers to be out in his paddock than in his stable.
Does Highlands still have the dams of Jackson and Potala, and if so, who are they in foal to?
Moonlit Prairie is in foal to DYNASTY
Alignment is in foal to DYNASTY
Is Jallad still alive and, if so, how is he enjoying his retirement?
Yes he is, and he loves living life and looks a million dollars and is enjoying his retirement.
Highlands has benefitted from a number of North American mares raced by the Beck family.
Do you still have many of these earlier families and how many US mares are currently on the farm?
The American fillies have really complemented Highlands’ broodmare band and have produced not only good results on the track, but are themselves now producing Group and multiple winners. We currently have 36 US mares on the farm
What are some of the Highlands bred youngsters coming through the ranks which are particularly exciting?
Amsterdam, Pine Princess, Doing it for Dan, Trip to Heaven, Speedy Suzy, Heldeberg Blue, Altogether Now, Dynamic, Heartland, Tiger Territory
You have a really nice string going to the Select Yearling Sale in Jo’burg. Any standouts and why?
Lot 13 – Dynasty x Scent of Pine – ½ sister to Pine Princess
Lot 28 – Pathfork x Super Singer – lovely mover, well-made colt
Lot 47 – Great Britain x Brilliant Beryl – a really beautiful colt
Lot 57 – New Approach x Come Sunday – exceptional colt
Lot 62 – Dynasty x Dancer’s Daughter – a real breeder’s filly
Lot 74 – Dynasty x Even Money – lovely tall, classic, scopy colt
Lot 82 – Var x For Rosalind – real, racy, early type filly
Lot 83 – Pathfork x Fragrant Filly – ½ brother to Tiger Territory
What are the advantages that the Robertson/Bar Valley offers in the production of thoroughbreds?
Suitable climate, very good lime in the soil and exactly the same as the Hunter Valley in Australia, where roses and vines do well, horses do well!