YOU have to hand it to Nigel and wife Kat Riley of Gauteng’s Heversham Park Farm: They are
investing everything they have in racing and breeding at a time when others are bailing out, and
they’re doing it with remarkable passion.
Riley, the former trainer, showjumper and now an Advocate by profession, has pumped millions into the Daleside Valley Farm formerly owned by Fred Crabbia, and alongside Kat and business partner Fred Brons have developed it into a truly stunning 350-acre breeding operation presently housing two stallions and near 160 others comprising mares, weanlings and yearlings.
The invincible Warren Buffett once said that as an investor, it is wise to be “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”- and perhaps the Rileys were conscious of this when they started developing Heversham Park a few years ago with the purpose of re-establishing Gauteng as a thoroughbred breeding region.
They’re the biggest stud in Gauteng now, have had a Gr1- placed runner from a small first crop of runners (Herodotus) and in Wings Of Desire (GB) and Moofeed (AUS) have a pair of stallions with the blood to make an impression.
In Pivotal’s Investec Derby-placed Wings Of Desire, Heversham Park have a stallion that compares well in pedigree and performance to the top echelon of South Africa’s stallions and while he won’t have immediate access to their quality of mares, the Rileys are hoping that a few of his early progeny can perform at high level so he can attract some of the better mares around.
Moofeed (AUS), a Gr3 winning sprinter, is by far the speediest son of Duke Of Marmalade. He’s a strong, wellconformed bull of a horse and presents an interesting mix of his dad’s stamina and his own speed which could surprise the pessimistic breeding fraternity.
While the first few Moofeeds are on the ground and Wings Of Desire has covered a small first band of mares, Heversham Park continue to improve and promote their facilities on the farm and are looking for a speed stallion to replace the prolific Great Britain, who died unexpectedly late last year.
Nigel and Kat are as laid-back as you’ll find and they’ve created an atmosphere on the farm most welcoming to humans and importantly to the horses raised in their spacious paddocks.
“In typical Heversham fashion we are again ignoring the conventional and are doing things a little differently albeit retrospectively by going back to the time-honoured tradition of associating horse racing with a good time!” read the intro to the brochure supplied to guests at “Heversham By Night” on Saturday night, 23 March.
There were a few notable no-shows, but the 80-plus guests included jockeys Lyle Hewitson and Ryan Munger and media personalities Nico Kritsiotis, Dave Mollett and Andrew Bon, all treated to a magnificent early evening in Heversham’s showing of stallions and others, and a wonderful line-up of food, drinks entertainment on what turned out to be a balmy autumn occasion.
We live and work in an industry where traditional nasty rivalry, a desire for exclusivity and promotion of self interest have worked for some, for a long time. But things like these will have to be set aside for the greater sake of the game, in which operations like big-thinking Heversham Park deserve all the support they can get.