de Kabat Racing Research

Specialist in statistical research for the Thoroughbred industry

de Kabat – Origins of the name


In March 2017, it will be 100 years since my father’s family was forced to leave Russia. One of the properties they left behind was Dacha Kabat, named after my family. Many times, the name is written in English: de Kabath; while the house they owned is written in English without the ‘h’. Years ago, I decided to use the version without the ‘h’ for reasons now lost to my younger self. Probably because it seems less Anglicized.

de Kabat (pronounced d’ KAA bit), is derived from Hungarian and means the cloak or mantle. The crest (pictured) belonged to Ivan de Kabath who was an eye specialist during the reign of Tsar Alexander II.

Ivan cured the Tsar’s sister-in-law of an eye disease and was given a title (an inheritable knighthood). This title was the highest honour given to non-aristocracy and allowed him entry, at the lowest level, to the aristocratic class. Ivan’s oldest son died of an injury sustained in the last week of the battle for Shipka Pass (in Turkey) and the title passed to Ivan’s other son, also called Ivan. Ivan de Kabat was fairly wealthy (a banker) and he owned several properties around Russia, perhaps the most famous is the de Kabat villa in Kisdlovodsk. This villa still stands and is currently owned by the Ukranian Government and is used as a holiday house for parliamentary officials.

The title eventually passed down the generations until the Russian Revolution of March, October and November 1917 when it was held by Jean-Jacques de Kabath (nee Geelen). His father was the Dutch artist Eugene Geelen, and he had earlier been adopted by his childless uncle so the title could remain in the family. After the Revolution, it was dangerous to be a Russian aristocrat, so Jean-Jacques renounced his adoption and citizenship and reverted to his Dutch citizenship and name. Many others didn’t have that luxury, and didn’t survive the Revolution.

The piece of paper that is the defunct title is held by my father, who in different times would be the current Baron. Janic Geelen, a retired schoolteacher, enjoys a place in the New Zealand Who’s Who as an author and aircraft historian. He is also a keen family historian and this story is thanks to his efforts in researching the family’s interesting history.


Renée Geelen has worked in the racing industry for over fifteen years and brings a unique perspective to her work. Renee blends high calibre data analysis with an eloquent technical writing style to enable her clients to both understand and articulate various aspects of the racing industry.  She has a degree in physics and maths, utilising this core capability to distil useful information from the diverse swathes of data available in racing.   It is this skill, to take rows of data and transform it into a compelling story that makes Renee a valuable contributor for her clients.



The age of misinformation

Misinformation about racing flows freely on the internet, and many people in racing dismiss it as being “only a few people” or “everyone knows that it’s not true”.  Racing is a high profile sport that needs to make sure its public profile is maintained, and not sullied by wild misinformation spread on the net.  We should all take this misinformation seriously because the people reading it are our future customers.  Racing will always need people who want to come to the races for a day out, who will punt on the outcome and who will buy shares in a horse hoping to own a piece of the next champion.  These people need to know the reality of how much care and attention are given to racehorses, from the moment they are conceived, during their racing careers and after.

Published by Breeding & Racing in 2014. Read it here.


Female Jockeys: History of inequality

True equality is hard to find.  It is an elusive ideal that exists in theory, but one that real life seems to continually find hurdles to prevent.  However, horses give us the only sport where men and women compete on a truly equal basis.  In both racing and equestrian, riders are deemed competitive equals.  There is no ‘weight allowance’ for being a female jockey.   And the numbers are now well on their way to being equal too.  This season, the number of female apprentice jockeys has tipped over the 50% mark.  According to RISA, there are 289 apprentice jockeys in Australia, of which 150 (52%) are female.

Published in Breeding & Racing in 2014. Read it here.


Only the good die young?

American songwriter Irving Berlin once said “the toughest thing about being a success is that you have got to keep on being a success” and this neatly sums up a commercial stallion.  To be one of those household names, a stallion has to leave good racehorses every season, and continue to garner support in the sales ring.  Perhaps it is this need to keep the public’s attention is why many people believe that creating a successful stallion is more of an art than a science.

We can make a start by quantifying the oft-heard statement “only one in ten stallions will make it.”

Published in Breeding & Racing in 2014. Read it here.


Heat Stress in Thoroughbreds

Let’s be clear – no horse has ever died of heat stress on race-day in Australia.  The hot weather has made a few people hot under the collar about heat stress in our equine athletes.

What exactly is heat stress?  When a horse gets hot, they cool themselves down by sweating.  This moves the heat out of the muscles and into sweat droplets which are secreted out the skin cells.  When the sweat reaches the skin, it evaporates taking the heat away from the body.  All horses after exercise will sweat to cool their body down, and in the vast majority of cases this works well and the horse’s breathing and heart rate return to their resting rate quickly.

Published in Breeding & Racing in 2014. Read it here.


Colour Dominance: A Myth?

Zabeel’s recent retirement brings the Danehill/Zabeel era to an end.  The progeny of two great sires battled it out for supremacy on Australia’s racetracks, and the results are spectacular.  Aside from both being Gr1 winners, they had at least one other thing in common.  Both were bay dominant for colour, ie all their progeny were bay (except grey foals from grey mares). For a stallion to be bay dominant is an idea that garners plenty of comment, as if being genetically homozygous for colour also means he is dominate in all other areas of genetics and therefore will produce better quality runners.  But does this idea play out in reality?

Published in Breeding & Racing in 2014.


Golden Slipper Runners at Stud

A stallion making race is, logically, defined by the winning colts translating their racing success into successful careers at stud.  The Golden Slipper is one of those races that seems to provide more successes than failures, and winning colts are hugely sought after by stud farms.  With names like Flying Spur (90 stakes winners), Rory’s Jester (75), Marscay (67), Canny Lad (54) and Vain (46) among the 23 winning colts, it comes as no surprise that this race attracts more than its fair share of ‘stallion-making’ excitement.  But what about the placegetters?  How do the other runners stack up at stud?

Published in Breeding & Racing in 2014.


Magic Millions 2017

The vast number of Golden Slippers winners to come out of the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale is verging on being ridiculous, writes Renée Geelen, but it’s a tag that the Queensland-headquartered sales company will happily accept.


When Phelan Ready won in 2009, Magic Millions took their tally of Golden Slipper winners to five in seven years. And that’s not counting the winners they sold prior to 2003. Just take a moment to reflect on that. There are 15,000 foals born every year in Australia. This sale catalogues around 6% of them. And from that small pool have emerged a continual flow of winners of Australia’s most lucrative and respected juvenile event.

Since then, Magic Millions have sold three more; including the last two years – Capitalist and Vancouver – and both for under $200,000.

But this sale is about more than just one race. Magic Millions have made it easy to talk about the Golden Slipper; the results speak for themselves. In the time the Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale has produced Pierro, Vancouver and Capitalist; their vendors have offered a total of 16 Gr1 winners and 129 stakes winners. Gold Coast graduates include horses like Horse of the Year Winx, Global Glamour, Awesome Rock, Lasqueti Spirit, and Stratum Star. That’s just for the 2016/17 season so far – we still have the Magic Millions carnival, Sydney Autumn and many more big races to come.

And is it any wonder that this sale provides racehorses of such depth and class? A simple look at the catalogue highlights how much vendors believe in this Summer auction as a source of top horses. The 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling sale includes 210 yearlings out of Group or Listed-winning mares, and for those buyers who like to see a proven broodmare, to dip in the pool of success, so to speak, there are 194 siblings to Group and stakes-winners, including  Stay with Me, Sebring, Capitalist, Buffering, Japonisme, and Awesome Rock.

In this year’s Gold Coast Sale there is just so much choice, with options galore for buyers trying to pick the eyes out of the catalogue. Without a doubt, many of these horses will write their way into racing’s history books. The question, as always, is which ones?

The full feature is here.

Melbourne Cup 2012

The first seven horses home in the Melbourne Cup were bred in Ireland.  Last year’s winner was born in France.  Where is the logic in trying to have the world’s best staying race in a nation that doesn’t value stayers enough to produce one of world class quality?  And does the Cup represent our staying stock or is it a race in isolation?

This article was published in Breeding & Racing in 2012.


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