Tara-Jane Laing is a blonde bubbly personality, with a lovely Scottish accent, and a great love for the horses she trains. In her own words she has just landed the dream job of privately training for prominent owner Markus Jooste in Port Elizabeth. Tara has a wealth of experience and previously was very successful for Snaith Racing in Port Elizabeth. She has been around for quite some time and has worked with some top horses of yester year in the form of Bond and Sloop. She has already handled the new job with aplomb having had six winners during the month of July. Tara is ably assisted by former PE top jockey and now full-time TellyTrack presenter Gavin Venter who is also her fiance’. Tara is a top horsewoman and racegoers may rest assured that a lot more will be seen and heard from her in the future. WINNING FORM wishes Tara Laing well in her new appointment and may it rain many winners for this free-spirited and exciting young lady.
What is your name and age? Tara-Jane Laing aged 39.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Capricorn, born 2 January 1973.
Where were you born? In the Highlands of Scotland, in a place called Inverness, which is also home to the Loch Ness monster.
Where do you live? Port Elizabeth.
Tell us about your family? I have a 10 year old son, Ewan. My mum, Janette, and my stepfather, David, live in St. Francis. My dad, Ray, lives near the Randjesfontein training establishment.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? TJ.
Favourite food? Fish and chicken.
Favourite drink? Whiskey of course….no ice.
Favourite music? Eric Clapton, JJ Cale and BB King.
Favourite sport? All equine sport, rugby and football.
Are you interested in soccer and, if so, which is your favourite soccer team? Manchester United.
Where is your favourite holiday destination? Fancourt, I get pampered at the spa, whilst Gavin and Ewan play golf.
To get the full picture let’s start at the beginning. Does anyone in your family have a racing background? Nope. I’m an ex-national and international show jumper and dressage rider.
What did you do straight after school? I went to work for the late Maureen and her husband, Cecil Baitz at their Summercliff pre-training centre.
How did you initially break into the business of training racehorses? I was competing in the Natal showjumping championships and a couple of apprentices were there watching, namely, Anthony Delpech, Stuart Randolph, Sean Cormack and Justin Henson. They convinced me to try my hand at riding a “thoroughbred”. After 3 mornings riding on the track I was hooked.
How long did it take before you became involved in a racing stable? I worked for the Baitz’s for 1 year, and then I moved to a racing yard.
Who was the first trainer you worked for? Johnny and Tessa Dawson.
When you first started working in a stable, what were your duties? Mucking out, grooming, riding work, and plaiting all the runners for races.
Which were some of the top horses you were involved with early on in your career? Bond, Girl On A Swing, Uncle Percy, Sloop, Cowabunga and Dance On Wood.
Who were the trainers who had the most influence on you as a young woman, going into a mainly male dominated environment? Brian de Villiers and James Goodman.
Was there any particular trainer, who you feel, taught you a great deal of what you know and do now? Snaith Racing – without a shadow of doubt.
You were involved with the Snaith’s for about 10 years and you had a great deal of success with them. How difficult a decision was it to leave them? Yes, it was initially, I was part of the Snaith family for so many years. I wanted a new challenge in life. However, training for Mr. Jooste is like a dream come true for me, what an honour and what a privilege. I have to thank Mr Jooste and Derek Brugman for this opportunity of a lifetime. The Snaith’s will always be part of my life, and we still chat on a regular basis. They understood my decision and were behind me 100%.
You are engaged to ex top jockey and current TellyTrack presenter, Gavin Venter. He is known to be a very good judge of a horse. He is also part of the stable set-up. How much of your success do you attribute to your partnership with him? Gavin does as he is told. Ha! Ha! Seriously, Gavin is a huge asset to the yard. The input he gives me after riding certain horses in the morning is a huge plus. Gavin also has the thankless task of dealing with the handicapper. I reckon he should be on their payroll as he is very good with merit ratings. I oversee the running of the yard and the training and schooling of the horses. We are a good team. Ewan can also be seen mucking out or grooming a horse. I make all the final decisions though.
How long have you and Gavin been partners? 9 years.
Are any restrictions placed on Gavin as to what he says about your horses and your stable on Tellytrack? Nope.
Does Gavin ride work every day and is he still as fit as when he was race riding? Gavin rides out for me 5 mornings a week, and, yep he is still as fit as a fiddle.
In your yard in Port Elizabeth, do you have all the mod cons such as a treadmill and maybe a swimming pool? I have neither, but I do have a hot walker.
How important do you think it is to have things like that to be able to be competitive in the tough racing world? Any mod con is an asset, they all have their advantages, I love the hot walker, and I use it for so many different reasons.
How many horses do you have in Port Elizabeth? 36 at the moment.
Which of your horses would you advise the public to follow over the next couple of months? I think PARCEVAL and HOSTILE TAKEOVER shall have a rosy career in front of them in PE. The former runs in a minor feature at Arlington on Friday. He jumps in class but is a big runner. He is not well-weighted with some of the top weights but we are using this as a prep run for the Founders Trophy on 7 September.
Tells us about your other runners on this Friday’s Arlington card? Race 2: FLEURISTE – she is well drawn and will be competitive. I give her a definite place chance. PARIS SYMPHONY – she isn’t well drawn but normally finds a good finish and can also place.
Race 3: CONUNDRUM – he needs to improve and I do not have much confidence in his chance.
Race 4: KWELA-KWELA – she is not well drawn but she finished close-up last time and I make her a big runner.
Race 7: ADMIRAL JOHN PETER – he had a good last run over the mile and if he maintains that form, I give him a big chance. ADMIRALOFTHEFLEET – he has had two disappointing runs and I do not have any confidence in him.
Race 9: MAAK ‘N PLAN – he is our best runner for the day and is working very well. He is consistent and will be very hard to beat.
Do you have any new and exciting yearlings in your yard and which ones should we keep an eye on? No, not at the moment.
What do you remember as your biggest success, and exciting moment, since you have become a trainer? Nothing is more exciting than to be training for Mr. Jooste.
Has the way you feed your horses changed much, if at all, with the advent of all the new power feeds that has come on the market? I have fed the same way for over 20 years, although I must admit I have sampled a lot of the new brands on the market, but at the end of the day I have always reverted back to what works for my horses.
Has your training methods changed much since you first came into the game? My training methods change every day, each horse has its own training programme and I alter it accordingly.
The Cape summer season will soon commence. Do you have any horses which you think are good enough to take to the Cape to contest any of the big feature events? I have a lot of 3 year olds, so here’s hoping.
Who is your stable jockey and how important do you think it is to have a stable jockey? S’manga Khumalo is stable jock, and yes to me it is very important. The more one rides a horse the more one will be acquainted to the horse – very important.
How much interest do you take in the breeding side of the game? It’s fascinating. I am still fairly new to the breeding side of things, but I am learning every day.
When looking at ‘babies’, what are the characteristics you are most particular about? Balance (conformation, quality and presence), temperament and good bone.
Do you have any firm do’s and don’ts when buying horses? I don’t buy with my heart and I do buy with my head.
Do you have any favourite stallions and if so, who are they? Captain Al and National Emblem.
What is your routine after you have bought horses straight off the stud farms. Do you like to send them to a spelling farm or do you prefer bringing them straight into the main yard? Straight to a spelling farm.
If they go to a spelling farm how long do you leave them there? It depends, as each and every horse is completely different. Normally as soon as they are well grown and have filled out I will bring them into the yard.
What are your immediate ambitions for yourself in racing? To be the best that I can be and to always be on top of my game.
Apart from racing what other passions do you have? Watching Ewan excel at rugby and cricket.
How do you and Gavin, spend any free time you may have? Well you will find Gavin on the golf course every Wednesday, and sometimes on a Saturday, and when possible I watch Ewan at Woodridge in a rugby or cricket game. There is not much free time I’m afraid.
From your own observations do you think enough is being done to ensure that racing is ‘straight’? Yes, without a doubt.