VERCINGETORIX – the legacy – 2014

A 22 minute documentary on the Riverside Grooms’ Coop & how they bought, reared & sold for 1.4 Million Rand the South African bred champion racehorse Vercingetorix.

On 8th March this year the unbeaten South African bred racehorse Vercingetorix flew the South African flag high when he stamped his authority on the world racing stage at Meydan, Dubai recording his sixth consecutive win.
Three weeks later, on 29th March Dubai World Cup Night Vercingetorix boosted his career earnings by a further US$ 1 Million when he ran second in the Dubai Duty Free feature event.

These were great moments for South Africa and truly great moments for the South African thoroughbred breeding and horse racing industry.

Named after the gallant King Vercingetorix who led the Gauls to victory against Julius Caesar at the battle of Gergovia in 52BC, and translating from the Latin as “the king of great warriors” South Africa’s Vercingetorix is also the “cause celebre” of an empowerment initiative designed to turn grooms into owners & sellers of highly-bred thoroughbreds in South Africa.

The initiative supported by the Department of Trade & Industry [DTI] enables grooms from Stud Farms to participate in the annual Yearling sales across the country as buyers and sellers of valuable thoroughbreds.

Initiating the project, two years ago the DTI funded the establishment of ten groom’s collectives spread across the country. There are five in the Western Cape (where 80% of SA’s racehorses are bred); three in KwaZulu-Natal and two in the Eastern Cape.

Each collective, comprised of seven members, was granted R350 000 to invest in the purchase of ‘weanlings’ – four month-old thoroughbred horses that have been weaned from their mothers. These babies are then raised on the farms that the grooms work on, and are either sold at the yearling sales or as two year olds. The profits are returned to the co-ops and are used to buy more weanlings.

For Abraham Carelse (59) and Floors Adams (62), having worked on stud farms in the Western Cape for almost 80 years between them, the opportunity to actually own the horses they cared for has always been elusive if not an impossible dream.

As members of The Riverside Grooms Collective on the celebrated Riverton Stud where they work – investing their DTI grant – Floors & Carelse bought Vercingetorix as a weanling from the farm for R 200 000-00.
A year later, they realized they had hit the jackpot when they sold Vercingetorix on BSA’s Premier Yearling Sale for R 1.4 million. Through the DTI programme Carelse & Adams & the members of their Grooms Collective – in a year – had made a 700 % profit.
As a result the members purchased a brood mare in addition to their weanlings. She has already had one foal and is in foal again.

“We would like to see grooms becoming owners,” says Gabriel Makhonxa, chief director at the DTI responsible for the co-operative and black business supplier development programme. “In the long term we would like to see grooms becoming breeders, but one has to start small.”

The programme is being run for the DTI by Adrian Todd, COO of Cape Thoroughbred Sales, a commercial company which is run for the benefit of the thoroughbred horse breeding industry in SA.

The Grooms Collective is an extension of a training programme initiated by Todd and supported by the Western Cape department of Agriculture which aims to provide grooms on stud farms with additional horsemanship and life skills. To join a co-operative, members must have completed this course.

Todd provides the co-ops with bloodstock and business management skills through regular stakeholder meetings. Though he helps to source potential weanlings, the purchase decision is left up to the members themselves. And after years of working on stud farms, listening and watching, many grooms have built up considerable skills.

Government, buoyed by these early successes, are keen to extend the programme, adding more co-operatives in the future.

And, as he continues to represent the South African thoroughbred breeding industry on the world stage, from humble beginnings, Vercingetorix has shown that he is truly “the king of great warriors” and – as man’s best friend – has become the trail-blazing example of what is possible through the Grooms Cooperative programme in South Africa.