Les Carlyon once wrote that like most things, racing is increasingly being run by corporate people who don’t talk about the sport anymore, but about ‘the industry’. They are not wrong of course – anything that turns over tens of billions of dollars a year IS an industry. However, the fact that it is a big industry is not why racing grips people the way it does. Packaging is a big industry, but you don’t see people writing books about that.
However, you do see people writing books about people and about horses and about racing people and race horses in particular, because when horses do wonderful things, they inspire feelings like nothing else on earth.
Richard and Carol Taylor are an English couple who got into horses in South Africa. Richard’s uncle owned a betting shop in Worthing and he grew up adoring horses and wanting to be a jockey. Unfortunately physiology wasn’t on his side and he ended up following his father into the aviation industry instead. However, it wasn’t all bad as he met his wife Carol while they both worked for British Airways.
Carol says that although she had no interest in racing as a girl, she was at Kempton for one of Desert Orchid’s wins in the King George and marvelled at the roar of the crowd as he turned for home and recalls, “It was amazing that one horse could create such an atmosphere.”
The couple are in the habit of attending the big English race meetings and Royal Ascot in particular and Richard explains that thanks to knowing some of the riders, he liked to go down to the winner’s enclosure and give the winning horse a stroke on the neck. When they started holidaying in South Africa, they naturally attended local racing. Neil Smith spotted them at Kenilworth one afternoon with the salutation ‘Long way from Ascot, aren’t you?’ They got chatting, one thing led to another and the Taylor’s eventually ended up with a share in a racehorse of their very own.
“Your first one is always a bit special. Carol loves bays and it was a bay gelding called A Simple Wish that we had with Glen Kotzen. He debuted at Durbanville and I’m standing there in the parade ring, mouth dry as a bone, stomach churning. I said to Glen, I don’t mind where he finishes as long as it isn’t last. Well, he came in 10 lengths last. He’s now called Sir Gallahad and is a lovely show-jumper. It was a gentle introduction,” Richard chuckles.
With the bug having well and truly bitten, the couple were about to make another trip to South Africa when Richard told friend Malcolm Caine that he was off to Cape Town ‘for a holiday and to buy a racehorse’. Malcolm replied, “Tell you what, I’ll go halves. You pick the horse and I’ll pick the trainer.” As Richard says he knew virtually nothing about horses, he thought Malcolm was mad.
How to buy a horse
Malcolm picked Joey Ramsden and arranged for Richard and Carol to meet Joey at the Durbanville yearling sale. “Carol doesn’t like chestnuts, so it’s just as well she was in bed with a hangover the day of the sale,” says Richard mischievously. “Joey gave me a list of 10, I went to talk to three other trainers and got their lists which I cross checked against each other and then Teresa Esplin and a friend from Ireland gave me their top three. Top of the list was what I call a circus horse – four white legs and lots of white on the face. Second was a little chestnut colt by Dominion Royale from Shirluck Stud. I told Joey that’s the one we wanted and Joey said ‘R150k – that’s his price’. We bid up to R150k and it went to R155k. Joey said ‘Do you want one more bid?” So I went one more and bought him for R160k. He was the second top lot of the sale. How times have changed!”
What’s In A Name
“The colt was called Double Click which we didn’t particularly like. Carol is brilliant with computers, I’m rubbish so he was never going to have a computer name. We exchanged lists of possible names with Malcolm and at the bottom of the list we wrote ‘or something else.’ Malcolm emailed back and said he liked ‘Something Else’ after the old Eddy Cochrane song because it was the first record he ever bought.”
Something Else spelled at Arc-en-Ciel with Craig and Amanda Carey and eventually made his way to Joey’s yard in Milnerton, where he was given the stable name of Eric. He debuted at Kenilworth on 2 March 2004. “There were meant to be 14 or 15 runners and Joey said we were aiming to give him a nice quiet intro and might expect him to finish 5th or 6th. Then Equine Flu broke out and a lot of horses were withdrawn, leaving an 8-horse field. Three hundred metres out I could see Karl Neisius still had a double handful and they won by 0.25 lengths. I was so excited I picked Joey up clean off his feet in the winner’s enclosure. When I told Joey we wanted to aim for the Juvenile race on Met day, he said ‘Richard, keep your feet on the ground.”
“In his second start he finished 2nd by a length and then he was entered in the Juvenile race on Met Day. The Met was run in April that year and we all flew over from the UK to watch him run. He started favourite and I paid for a helicopter to fly us all from Hout Bay to Kenilworth. Strydom rode and he romped in! Carol wouldn’t let go of the trophy. I was so excited, I could only nod my head in the post race interview!” says Richard. “We had an absolutely brilliant day and Malcolm paid for a helicopter trip back. I think it was still the most satisfying of his wins.”
“We then won the Somerset, the Cape Nursery and the Langerman – in soft ground, giving away 5kgs. That year Betting World put up a R25k bonus for the top points scorer over the three races and a R150k bonus for a horse that won all three and we won that too. Joey went on his summer holidays convinced this was his Guineas horse.”
Shortly afterwards, Something Else contracted a bad case of urticaria. It was the worst case the vets had ever seen and at one stage his racing career hung in the balance. He spent 2 months quarantined at Kenilworth with his own personal groom to feed and walk him every day. They eventually found he was allergic to 55 things including Kentucky Blue Grass. “He took a long time to recover,” continues Richard. “He didn’t win as a 3 or 4yo and Joey always maintained that he never got his action back – he always went down scratchy. But it’s how they come back that matters,” he says philosophically.
He turned a corner as a 5yo, winning at Durbanville in October and finishing a short head second to Floatyourboat in the Cape Merchants in November 2006. At 6, he won the Umgeni Handicap and beat Pocket Power home by 2.5 lengths in the Bettingworld Merchants. The following season he travelled to Joburg for the 2008 Merchants at Turffontein on International day. “Darryl Holland rode him and it was the first time he’d been ridden with a left hand whip. Andrew Fortune sat just behind him on Rebel King waiting to pounce, but they never caught him. He won at odds of 30-1. Malcolm got 20’s and I got 50’s,” Richard says with satisfaction.
“He was always Joey’s favourite and had the box right outside the office. Joey said he was such a good-natured horse it was nice to come in and see one of your friends every morning. From the start of his career to the end, we cannot praise Joey too highly. He was brilliant.”
“We told Joey only to race him while he was still happy doing it and he retired as a 7yo with 10 wins and 19 places for R1,2 million in earnings. Of his wins, two were Gr2, two were Gr3 and two were listed. He raced at nearly every track in the country, winning at Kenilworth, Durbanville, Greyville and Turffontein. The Vaal was the only track that he didn’t earn a cheque.”
Working for BA, Richard and Carol got preferential rates on their flights, but Richard adds, “Malcolm flew over 5 times paying full fare to watch him win and numerous other times when he didn’t. Carol was there for 8 of his 10 wins and I never missed one of his wins. In his 2yo career I flew approximately 10 hours for every minute he ran – now that’s dedication!”
Something Else originally retired to Arc-en-Ciel, but concerned that he might be bored after such an exciting racing career, they found a rider in Wellington to take him eventing. Unfortunately he went lame and the vet diagnosed a bad back and recommended putting him down. “Amanda sent a box to pick him up straightaway. Craig and Amanda were always superb with him.”
“Arc-En-Ciel was never to be a permanent retirement place – Craig and Amanda had their hands full with the stud farm – they did not need retired horses to keep an eye on too. We moved him to Rondeberg on recommendation from a friend. He was now much closer to us and it was here that we met Kaye Parnham and Hilary Smuts.”
Kaye asked the Taylors whether she could ride him and under Hilary’s guidance, Kaye has schooled him up and now takes him to local dressage and showing shows and puts him over the odd small jump. There is one important change though – Double Click aka Something Else aka Eric has been renamed again and now goes by the name of Troy. Kaye relates, “It’s amazing that he was such a phenomenal racehorse and yet is such a gentleman off the track. Whenever anyone has a young or nervous horse, he’s the one that goes out with them on outrides because he’s so calm. You can put a complete novice on his back and he will look after them. We clicked from day one and have really formed a strong bond. I am really proud of him and just love him to bits.”
When the Rondeberg farm was sold, Troy moved to the Morning Star area where Carol was taking riding lessons and she has started having lessons on Troy as well. “I’m having a second childhood – rather late in life I started taking dance lessons and now I have a pony!” she laughs. “The first time I rode him, I went home on a high. It really was a big buzz.”
Richard, Carol and Malcolm pay his keep faithfully every month and visit regularly with bags of carrots and pats. Richard says, “He’s the best we’ll ever have – even if we had lots of money to spend. When he retired we said we have to look after him. He’s been so good to us. The people we’ve met and the fun he’s given us – it’s the least we can do. We just want him to be happy.”