Eking out a living at the bottom end of the food chain when it comes to training thoroughbred race horses is no bed of roses. Even those at the top of the food chain don’t have it easy in this country’s shrinking economy with well-heeled owners who enjoy the sport increasingly hard to come by.
Gary Rich operates a small string out of Ashburton and is no mug when it comes to horses. Born into a racing family, his father Des, won the July with Lightning Shot ridden by Gary’s brother-in-law Leslie Mustard.
It has been a rewarding week for Rich who saddled Clouds Of Witness to win last Sunday and he followed up with Stormy Miss in the second at Hollywodbets Greyville yesterday.
Stormy Miss may not have been a hit with punters, given that she was friendless in the market at 45-1, but given her nature she is well named. A handful in the mornings, pacifiers will have given some indication of her nature but not her ability.
Going head-to-head with short-priced favourite Ode, Keagan de Melo with first to pull the stick. “When Keagan pulled his stick first, I knew a had him,” enthused Billy Jacobson, a journeyman rider who has stuck loyally with Rich.
“She’s a bit dippy,” Rich confided. “But she’s shown us that she can run.”
Owner Geoff Perkins has also been a staunch supporter of the yard and was on hand to lead the filly in. “We didn’t expect much although Billy and Gary said she had worked well at home. I wish that I had a little bit more on!”
Rumours of the Ashburton Training Centre closing have been doing the rounds for years and given the current financial state of affairs, there are a few that would like to see the centre mothballed.
However, there is no doubt that it is a prime facility, three of yesterday’s eight winners coming out of Ashburton, Kom Naidoo and Duncan Howells also on the bandwagon. Juniper Lane scored for Naidoo in the first and Coldhardcash staying on gamely to dead-heat with Kingsmead in the fourth for Howells.
Ashburton’s only fault is that it is situated a long drive from the Umhlanga playground.
Seasoned trainer Doug Campbell, privately based on his farm outside of Richmond, has never been tempted to move to one of the two training centres although he makes use of Ashburton to pass his runners through the pens and give them a good blow-out on the grass track.
It worked a treat in the Greyville Convention Centre Handicap with Kentucky Spur finishing too strongly for Merlin From Berlin, a recent addition to the Nathan Kotzen stable.
Kotzen makes a rare raid on Fairview this weekend where he has Tommy Grand in the Algoa Cup on Sunday and three other runners, all owned or in partnership by Alderman Rob Haswell, former mayor of Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg), and a staunch supporter of the sport.
In addition, there will be the full Kotzen family of trainers, Glen from Cape Town, Nathan, from Durban, and Sharon, who will be on home soil.
By Andrew Harrison