A Fish Finds Water

Forest Wildcat Sprinter Var, was certainly a horse that found success where it could be least expected. A $120,000 yearling purchase by Richard O’Gorman at the Keeneland September Sales, Var initially raced in North America but was later moved from there to compete in France, where he was a top class sprinter in 2004 with a win in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (gr. I) for trainer Clive Brittain the highlight of his career.

However, as good as he was as a racehorse, he looked like a fish out of water as far as a stallion prospect is concerned. A grass sprinter by an American bred son of Storm Cat wasn’t exactly what they generally look for in stallion prospects in Europe and while he was out of a mare by Zilzal, his pedigree was really better placed in North America where ironically, his turf performance (or moderate performance on dirt) precluded commercial respect in that market.

It took some vision to work out where to stand Var as a stallion prospect. He was a superior racehorse with an interesting pedigree and deserved his chance but he suited no market particularly well. In stepped Robin Bruss of Northfields Bloodstock who purchased Var to stand at Avontuur Stud, Cape Town, South Africa. Robin has always placed race performance high on his criteria on indicators of potential stallion success and with a Timeform rating of 124, Var was certainly that. It also helped that he was a smashing individual to look at.

With his first two-year-olds on the track in South Africa this season, Var is now proving himself a revelation at stud in South Africa!

Speaking to Robin, he relayed “He is a very good stallion Byron, and has been sensationally received. I have a lifetime service right for buying the horse for Avontuur and have a 2yo colt of my own which I bred and which is with Michael Azzie, who thinks he may be as good if not better than Vacherin. He is differently bred as his dam is a daughter of Horse of the Year, July & Gold Cup (3200m) winner Devon Air and he looks like he will be a router – big, scopy horse with great action. I’m hoping he is right! The horse is named August Rush.”

Avontuur Stud was owned by the late Tony Taberer, a very wealthy man, and thankfully for all concerned his children are carrying on his stud and wine estate. Robin relayed that Var was by far his favorite horse to the extent that the horse was even brought to the church for his funeral last year. All of this sadly before the merit of Var was known.

Var has sired two stakes winners to date in the shape of Vacherin and Villandry. Vacherin is out of the Golden Thatch mare Golden Treat (an inbreeding to the Thong family) and is starting to make good on his promise of being one of the top speedsters of his generation.  Bred by Avontuur’s Pippa Mickleburgh and trained by Mike Azzie he won his first race by 10 lengths in 56 sec (New Course Record) and then won South African Nursery Plate (gr. II) in a canter. Villandry, out of a mare by Complete Warrior, is also a very speedy customer who won the Kenilworth Summer Juvenile Stakes (L) and then the Clairwood Godolphin Barb S (gr. III) both over short distances.

Avontuur General Manager Pippa Mickleburgh has a lot to look forward to with Var, who has a lock on the first season sires Championship for South Africa and looks to challenge for the two-year-old title also. Var is leading the freshman sires table with 13 individual winners and is chasing the current champion sire of two year olds, Captain Al for this year’s championship

A fish out of water has certainly found a worthy home.


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