Thoroughbred Breeders in South Africa

48% Winners to Runners!

48% Winners to Runners!

With the 2015 racing season now well under way, the latest Sporting Post Breeders’ Statistics reflect Backworth Stud’s percentage of ‘Winners to Runners’ surpassing an impressive 48%.

Champions Honoured at 2013 KZN Breeders Awards

KZN Breeders Awards 2013 - Backworth StudKeith Russon and Ian Todd receive the Outstanding Two-Year-Old Colt award for Colour Of Courage on behalf of the Backworth Stud team
(Photo : KZN Breeders)

16 November 2013

“Backworth Stud is proud to have received the award for Outstanding Two-Year-Old Colt,
for the Backworth-bred Colour Of Courage (Judpot - Exclusive Honour),
winner of the Grade 2 Umkhomazi Stakes.”

The KZN Breeders Awards took place for the third year at the beautiful and scenic Bellwood Stud owned by Willie and Jeanine Messenger - made even more special for the Messengers with their Grade 3 winning filly, Enchanted Kingdom, being a nominee this year.

(Click here to check out the gallery from the evening)

With a full house attended by Breeders, Owners and Trainers alike, the Chairman of the KZN Breeders Association - Koos De Klerk, opened the prestigious evening by saying that he was very excited about the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the KZN Breeders Association. “I would like to think that we could build on what we started - expanding and building even further on the success we have had in the sales ring by promoting KwaZulu-Natal-bred horses as a brand that we can all be proud of. We enjoyed the most brilliant KZN Breeders day this year - racing for R2.5million for KZN-bred horses only. We seem to have been so successful that we have become the victims of our own success!”

Champion sire for 2013 was once again the great son of Machiavellian standing at Bush Hill Stud - the magnificent Kahal owned by Shadwell Stud. Represented at the awards by six nominees, a number in repeat categories, Kahal is consistently in the top four of the National Sires log and responsible for the outstanding filly voted as KZN Breeders Horse Of The Year - Festival Of Fire, bred by Mr Chris Saunders and Lady O’Reilly. A six-time winner including a Grade 2 and two Grade 3 races, Festival Of Fire descends from the immediate dam-line of another KZN-bred champion in Jet Master.

The KZN Breeders honoured Chris Saunders this year with an Award for Special Lifetime Achievement, which manager Fili Bowles accepted on his behalf: “I am sure that I speak for all the people that have served him in this industry from the early days. We have all been privilege to his loyalty, generosity of spirit and kind and his great wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Words cannot express the time, effort and financial commitment he has devoted to this industry, and so on behalf of Chris Saunders from the bottom of my heart I am so grateful to all present here tonight for honouring this great man.”

Festival Of Fire took home three awards, including Outstanding 3-Year-Old-Filly, Outstanding Sprinter Female and Outstanding Middle Distance Female. Kahal didn’t stop there however - his Grade 1 winning son Love Struck took home the Outstanding 3-Year-Old Colt award, as well as Outstanding Middle Distance Male, with another plain bay daughter in Checcetti being awarded Outstanding Older Female - both of the latter horses bred by KZN’s (and South Africa’s) Leading breeders’ Summerhill Stud. Glynis Van Der Merwe had the rare honour of having two horses nominated for the evening - an extremely impressive achievement for a smaller breeder. She had previous winner Las Ramblas nominated for Outstanding Middle Distance Female, and Approachable in the Outstanding Sprinter Male.

Seal, bred by Dr Heyns and born and raised at Bush Hill Stud, has had an outstanding year - and fittingly took home two awards - Outstanding Male Stayer and Outstanding Older Male.

Summerhill Stud’s Japanese import, the striking chestnut stallion Admire Main took home the Award for Stallion Prospect of the Year. His daughter Admiral’s Eye, Grade 1 placed on Vodacom Durban July day, won Outstanding 2-Year-Old Filly, while Joyce and Robin Scott took home the International Achievement Award for the highly successful overseas campaign of The Apache (by Mogok) and Broodmare Of The Year to Apache Rose, the dam of Mogok, who sadly passed away earlier this year in foal once again to Mogok.

Their other Mogok success of the evening was Meadow Magic, the Grade 2 Emerald Cup winner. The Breeders Achievement Award sponsored by Summerhill Stud went to an ecstatic Pierre Du Toit, breeder of Kinematic Countess – for boasting the best average stakes earned per runner for the previous season.

Mick Goss received the Anita Akal Award on behalf of Toni Dolstra, a lady who dedicated 25 years to the administration of the KZN Breeders Premium Scheme - the only one of its kind in South Africa.

The KZN Breeders thanked all its supporters and sponsors for the evening, and especially to Gold Circle for their ongoing support. Koos De klerk ended his speech fittingly: “I congratulate Robert Mauvis and his Board - their vision to continually improve the profile of KZN racing and more particularly in their move to ensure Greyville becomes the Capital of South African Racing with improvements to the tracks, the centre and the introduction of Friday night racing every Friday night. Please be assured the KZN Breeders Club is right behind you!”

A big thank you to all those who attended and supported our special evening - in particular to our sponsors who helped to make it possible: Odds On Colours, Equine (two awards), Suthile Feeds, Choice Carriers, Epol Feeds, Racing Association, Equifeeds, Kuda, Spurwing, Thoroughbred Breeders Association (two awards), Gold Circle (three awards), Almiray Vet Practice and Balmoral Stud.

Congratulations to all the winners!


Horse Sire Dam Breeder
Outstanding Two-Year-Old Colt
COLOUR OF COURAGE Judpot Exclusive Honour Backworth Stud
Outstanding Two-Year-Old Filly
ADMIRAL’S EYE Admire Main Surfer’s Eye Alan Magid & Summerhill Stud
Outstanding Three-Year-Old Colt
LOVE STRUCK Kahal Particular Passion Summerhill Stud
Outstanding Three-Year-Old Filly
FESTIVAL OF FIRE Kahal Fuel Of Fire CJ Saunders & Lady C O’Reilly
Outstanding Older Male
SEAL Silvano Prestine Performer IR Heyns
Outstanding Older Female
CHECCETTI Kahal Dancer’s Choice Summerhill Stud
Outstanding Sprinter Female 1000m - 1450m
FESTIVAL OF FIRE Kahal Fuel Of Fire CJ Saunders & Lady C O’Reilly
Outstanding Sprinter Male 1000m - 1450m
MEADOW MAGIC Mogok Shoe Danzig Scott Bros
Outstanding Middle Distance Male 1600m - 2200m
LOVE STRUCK Kahal Particular Passion Summerhill Stud
Outstanding Middle Distance Female 1600m - 2200m
FESTIVAL OF FIRE Kahal Fuel Of Fire CJ Saunders & Lady C O’Reilly
Outstanding Male Stayer 2400m +
SEAL Silvano Prestine Performer IR Heyns
Outstanding Female Stayer 2400m +
SALUTATION Requiem Tribute Summerhill Stud
Broodmare of the Year
Stallion Prospect of the Year
ADMIRE MAIN Summerhill Stud
Stallion of the Year
KAHAL Bush Hill Stud
Leading Breeder of the Year
Breeders’ Achievement Award
Special Lifetime Achievement Award
International Achievement Award
Anita Akal Industry Award
Horse of the Year
FESTIVAL OF FIRE Mr CJ Saunders & Lady C O’Reilly

And so the breeding season begins!

Thoroughbred Breeding SeasonBreeding Season Begins
(Photo : Ian Todd)

“Backworth has 46 mares being covered this season”

Backworth Stud got off to a good start to the season yesterday with 2 mares being covered in KwaZulu-Natal and 3 in the Cape, and more bookings for today.

It’s an exciting year for Backworth ahead, and with a confident belief that the Thoroughbred and Racing industry is moving forward, we have taken a calculated and strategic approach to an upgrade in the Broodmare band over the past year. With an aggressive investment in stallion shares, and bookings to a profiled selection of proven and exciting new Stallion prospects, Backworth has 46 mares being covered this season.

From the KwaZulu-Natal selection we are obviously supporting champion sire Kahal, stalwart Mogok, A.P. Answer and Torreador… and then new to the barn, Irish Flame, Byword, Crusade and Await The Dawn. We’re also supporting promising sire King’s Chapel, where his yearlings on the ground look very racy.

We have sent 14 mares down to the Western Cape, to board at Winterbach Stud, and they’ll be visiting super-sire Var, Champion Freshman sire Judpot, Gimmethegreenlight, new boy What A Winter, and exciting new prospect in South Africa, Oratorio!

‘Best Wishes’ to all fellow breeders for a magnificent season ahead!

Keith and Ian

Backworth scoops KZN Breeding Achievement Award

KZN Breeders Awards - KZN Breeding Achievement - Backworth StudTeam Backworth Salute You
(Photos : Tarryn Crawford / Ian Todd / JC Photos)

17 November 2012

Backworth Stud are extremely proud and excited to have received the KZN Breeders’ Achievement Award at the 2012 KZN Breeders Awards Dinner.

With 3 nominations for the evening, and winning this ultimate in awards, it was a humbling tribute to the commitment of all our team on the farm, and we acknowledge their valuable input and collective efforts.

We thank our fellow breeders for the recognition of the success of Backworth’s sales, and Backworth-bred’s achievements on the tracks with a 54% Winners to Runners and 38% Places to Runners statistics, and an Average Earnings of R61,416. We are worth backing!

Now our benchmark is set, we aim higher again!

Keith and Ian


Ian Todd and Keith RussonIan Todd (left) and Keith Russon (right)

“Are they worth backing?”

As published in the Sporting Post April 2012

SPORTING POST - Breeding is not for the faint hearted, and with the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales coming up, amongst the usual fanfare and hype in the build-up, Breeders have the opportunity to take to the stage. This is definitely a platform that suits the stayer rather than the sprinter! One can’t help but notice the smaller player creeping in and being represented in the statistics of the Top Breeders.

One of the players that comes to mind in particular is Backworth Stud, who seem to be punching well above their weight. With just 30 runners in the current year, Backworth takes 30th position in the Top Breeder’s by Stakes and from here, are in 8th position with an Average Earnings per Runner of R48,091, and in first position with a Winners to Runners ratio of 53%.

This is no mean feat - they seem to have slipped in by the back door!

Despite branding themselves as a boutique Stud, Backworth seems to have achieved this remarkable result from a middle of the range band of broodmares, mated to a moderate range of Stallions, and sold at very affordable prices. Their progeny is performing for a range of trainers, locally across the country, internationally in Dubai and Mauritius, running on all tracks, and showing resilience while still running and winning as 7 and 8 year olds.

Herman Brown-trained Chocolicious put Backworth Stud on the international stage in Dubai, whilst locally there have been Stakes winners with First Again for Neil Bruss, Variometer for Louis Goosen, Raise The Bar for Paul Matchett, and numerous other stakes places. With more than half their progeny winning, they certainly seem “worth backing”.

On closer inspection, we realise this is no coincidence.

Breeding began in 1999 and with just 12 of their own broodmares; this small Stud has metamorphosed into a very professional operation.

As a private establishment, they rely on Keith Russon’s veterinary knowledge gained from his Onderstepoort studies, and his experience from running successful Clouds End Stud in Zimbabwe. His actions are fuelled by a blinded addiction to all things Equine! Partner Ian Todd brings a commercial and marketing background to the business, and together they have found a successful balance.

Backworth is run on passion - where knowledge, expertise, attention to detail and a fine aesthetic sense blend together.

Geographically, it is arguably one of South Africa’s most beautiful studs, standing / nestling in the Southern Berg area of Richmond Eston, slightly out of the popular KZN breeding ground. Towering avenues of trees, structured gardens, breathtaking views, and near century old rambling thatch buildings, Backworth reeks of establishment. Though historically not run as a horse property, the previous ownership of Lorraine and Peter Leftwich, brought an element of equine provenance, through the connection to her father Raymond Ellis, of the Hartford Stud reputation.

Equinely, the horses look relaxed and satisfied, grazing in lush paddocks shaded under massive plane trees, contentedly gazing out over incredible vistas. Groomed and attended by a committed team of staff, fed to a controlled and monitored programme, and supported by loyal, reputable external veterinary and farrier expertise, these horses get a good start in life.

Commercially, Backworth Stud’s website is most professional. Having a current, entertaining Blog, and with transparent attention to detail, one can see the focus is on a calculated and serious investment in upgrading the Broodmares. Their band of about 30 mares, have foals at foot and current stallion matings, which cover the spectrum, including the potency from some of the top performers.

Aesthetically - don’t turn down an invitation for a visit. The luncheons and dinners are sublime, entertaining memorable, and the whole experience a treat for the senses. And if you leave at the end of an elegant day with a share or two in some Backworth progeny, the Backworth elixir will have worked its magic - but with their results, it could show some wisdom.

Backworth Stud offers the visitor and investor an opportunity to embrace the romance of a thoroughbred, packaged with solid sound scientific upbringing, with a proven reputation of an above average chance of beating the market odds!



 Backworth Stud March Horse Racing Results


Backworth Stud celebrates a magnificently successful March, and recognises the passion of trainers and commitment of owners whose support has taken Backworth to an enviable position on the Breeders Log.

Taking Sporting Post’s Top 50 Breeders as of 1st of April, with just 30 runners Backworth are now in 30th position, and command 1st position Winners to Runners with 53%, and 1st position Places to Runners with 34%.

Achieving 8th position on Average Earnings per runner (R48 091), we have shown we can compete with the big boys with a small but notable band of horses.

Size doesn’t count. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Winning Wishes go to:



It is most gratifying to meet racing expectations of respected industry role players.

See you at the National Yearling Sale, where we invite you to be part of our success.

Thank you.

Keith Russon and Ian Todd


Keith Knowler, Peter Bretherton, Faith Knowler, Wendy Knowler, Alan Cooper, Amy and John Knowler Cooper

L to R : Keith Russon, Ian Todd, Keith Knowler, Peter Bretherton, Faith Knowler, Wendy Knowler, Alan Cooper,
Amy and John Knowler Cooper, and Scottie Dogs

“Balmy Backworth - cherishing the breeding ground of Champions!”



Ian Todd, Mike Meehan, Dr John McVeigh, Vibeke Meehan, Dr Carla Langley, Keith Russon, Stephan Colle, Amanda McVeigh, Dr Jack Krystofiak, Anne Colle, Sandra Krystofiak

L to R : Ian Todd, Mike Meehan, Dr John McVeigh, Vibeke Meehan, Dr Carla Langley, Keith Russon, Stephan Colle,
Amanda McVeigh, Dr Jack Krystofiak, Anne Colle, Sandra Krystofiak

“A fun afternoon was shared with interesting company, stimulating conversation,
and a menu that did extend well beyond the oat cakes!”