A large contingent of friends, family, former clients, jockeys and a range of racing personalities congregated at the Milnerton Golf Club on Thursday to bid a final farewell to Cape Racing Hall Of Fame trainer Peter Kannemeyer, who passed away on Monday 3 December at the age of 85.
The wake for the late Peekay, that included his colleagues Ralph Rixon, Mike Bass, Trevor Taylor, Bill Prestage, Reggie Knight, Paddy Kruyer, Greg Ennion, Stephen Page, Dennis Drier, Peter Wrensch and Diane de Kock (representing her husband Mike) reflected the very high esteem and affection for a much-loved man who made his mark as a jockey and a trainer.
His son Dean spoke fondly about his late Dad and recounted memories of bygone days.
“He always told me to be a better listener than a talker – maybe I took that advice to the next level,” reminisced Dean, before handing the mic to leading bloodstock man and stallion manager John Freeman, who enjoyed a long friendship and business relationship with the top trainer.
John paid tribute to Peekay (see the full text below) and also read a note from Television Producer Andrew Bon:
It was always a privilege to be invited to the Friday afternoon sessions at PK’s stables. The warmth of the people, the crack of the good old days. I don’t think that those days are completely gone but I have no doubt that Dean will be extremely proud of what Peter Kannemeyer was and what he left Dean to continue with. May his memory live on forever and may his great soul soar off into the blue yonder with Foreign Ambassador, Sunshine Man, Man O’Property, Over The Air and all his other greats. Thank You PK
Garth Puller flew in from Durban and the champion jockey, who enjoyed a record association of some 24 years with Peekay, recalled some of the lessons he had learnt from the man who had had the greatest influence on his career.
John Freeman’s tribute:
Hello everyone – I thank Dean for asking me to do this eulogy to PK because he was a significant part of my life for so many years.
When I think of PK I smile remembering lots of laughs, lots of friends (all over the world), many big wins and the best of times.
PK wasn’t just a friend he was a larger than life part of my family.
For many years we’d speak on the phone every morning and at least once more during the day, not necessarily about business but just as friends and he always finished off by saying “don’t forget that I love you my friend”.
He was the best communicator in the game and enjoyed his telephone calls.
Sadly like PK many of our best friends are no longer with us and so it’s really good to see so many of his best people here today – thanks for coming to share this time remembering our pal. I know that you all join me in special sympathies to his sons Dean and Mark and lovely daughter Lisa and to their families and of course to Irene who took such good care of him.
That must have been really tough in the end. The last time I saw PK was in hospital and he wasn’t a happy chap so it’s a relief that he is now at peace. He wanted to go.
Age has crept up on all of us – many of the folk that were so significant to PK’s life and his success, not only as a horseman but as a human being, have long beat PK to the members lounge at the big racecourse in the sky; Katok Kasimov, Wilfred Koster, Ingrid Pfaff, Alec Tross, Paddy Wilson, Gerald Rosenberg, Basil Hersov, Graham Beck, Laurie and Jean Jaffee, Sydney Trimmer, John Newsome, Clive Burzelman, Geoff Bub all the way back to Ronnie and his aunt Edey Ovenstone, Abe Bloomberg and Stanley Gorton whose stable PK took over, and so many more – forgive me if I have not mentioned everyone, each of them a storybook in PK’s life that he loved to share.
Dean reminded me that PK’s first two winners were for Stanley Gorton – Night Haven and Pagan Chief
PK gathered friends, not just as clients or acquaintances but in very personal terms.
He always said that despite coming from the wrong side of the tracks he was proud that he’d gained the care and trust of a lot of important people, captains of industry, bankers, leaders in many fields of commerce.
PK could call them at will and he did, often – he’d say to me I don’t want people to appreciate me when I am dead, I want them to enjoy me now.
PK’s philosophy was “show them love, after all they are just human like us, they may be rich and powerful but we all share a common bond, passion for our horses and that was the secret.
He used to say “keep yourself in the best company you can find and race your horses in the worst”.
PK wore his emotion on the cuff of his sleeve and wasn’t shy to shed a tear of joy when enjoying a big win – what frustrated some of his clients was that as an ex-jock himself he never criticised a jockey’s bad ride publicly but then PK almost never had anything bad to say about anyone. Rodney reminded me that PK never put a jockey under pressure “just do your best, and don’t run wide”.
PK had a really good eye for a horse and was associated with a number of equine stars over the years.
His first stakes winner was Prairie Prince, but even better came from the likes of Sunshine Man, Over The Air, Foreign Ambassador, Bold Chieftain, Young England, Young Captain, Eli’s Truth, Cool Star, Man Of Property, Termoli, Priceless Asset, Divine Master, Pas de Quoi and more recently with Dean before he gave over the license stars like Dynasty and Free My Heart. Wonderful memories in the fabric of each of these horses which PK was always happy to share.
He was a master of diffusing tensions when things didn’t go according to plan.
Typically he would come up with a calming “oh well we got beat but no-one died so let’s go and have a whiskey”.
Dean reminded me about an occasion when Katok and Harold Bowman had a big bet, the horse got stuck on the rails and they lost. Katok was pacing up and down with his face on the floor, I am sure that you can imagine the scene, Katok fuming about what had gone wrong, PK famously told them “listen boys you only do a post mortem when someone dies, why all these sad faces, let’s go and have a drink”.
Jack Mitchell who sends regrets reminded me this morning that PK was so funny that he even made Katok laugh, once!
Socialising was a very big part of PK’s routine – Friday nights at the stable, large Xmas parties at his house (and many at mine) and many memorable meals in restaurants – he loved his food.
He could turn an ordinary dinner party into a dinner dance in a flash.
In his inimitable style he would take centre stage always the joker and always with a good story to tell – he would say something self-effacing about himself and then glow in the praise he knew would follow from his audience.
I think he took lessons from Carlos de Nobrega at Chapman’s Peak hotel in table entertainment but at least PK didn’t break plates.
Friday nights at the stable were the best. PK loved to show people their horses and would then show them horses that he was particularly proud of; going into each box to adjust the night sheet, check each horse’s joints and knees, put his fingers in their mouths to see if their teeth needed attention and even playing dentist right on the spot. It wasn’t good enough to just look at the horse over the door. It was a labour of love.
I first met Peter at the National Sales in the mind 80’s – the same year that I met Ingrid Pfaff – who eventually became a very close friend – we travelled to France to stay with her in Chantilly a few times – in fact PK and I travelled overseas many times to see horses, friends and clients.
Our first trip to Dubai was to the inaugural World Cup when Cigar won for Allen Paulsen – we were treated like stars – what a series of events, they had the entire party in a stand over the sea.
Sheikh Mohammed co-erced Laurie and Graham to ride a camel at his big desert party the night before the big race – as the camel got up it knocked Graham backwards into Laurie, his glasses flew off which found us all on our hands and knees laughing like crazy while we searched for Lauries specs in the sand.
In the 80’s I’d just bought a horse called Leopard Strike from Ingrid – PK came over to tell me how much he’d liked the horse and how he had tried to get Ben Braam to bid – “who did you buy it for” he asked – I told him that I had bought it on spec – he was impressed that I would take the risk and said to me “we will do business” and we did.
We really enjoyed our work around the sales – it wasn’t just work – I did the dangerous work; Jack and PK asked me to measure this colt called Show Me The Money, as I bent to the side of the colt he kicked me dead centre between the legs, PK and Jack laughed so much they fell off the bale of hay that they were sitting on while I was writhing in agony – mmmm not such good friends.
In the early days PK and I would drive to Johannesburg and shared really cheap digs to save money. Initially PK did the driving and drove like he rode, slipstreaming and overtaking very close – we had a few close shaves so I was very happy when we graduated to flying.
PK was a notorious snorer and since we had to share digs, I used to put my shoes on the floor next to my bed so that I had a missile to lob across the room at him.
Being an ex-boxer he had this bent bone in his nose, so he said, he would lie on his back, holding his nose open so that he could breathe – we used to laugh like crazy about these silly little things.
I am sure that you all remember PK’s enduring philosophy as a master of his craft – race them 100% sound and 80% fit and let their class show if they are any good – for me PK was always the brightest, happiest friend – irreplaceable – we will miss him forever.