In 1981 at the age of 22 the Milnerton based Piet Steyn was the youngest licenced trainer in the country.
Thirty eight years and dozens of stakes winners later he is considered by many to be something of a miracle worker as he produces regular cheques from a limited team of horses.
Speaking after the 7yo Waiting For Rain had registered his seventh career win at Kenilworth on Saturday, an emotional Steyn issued a plea for something to be done in support of the smaller trainer.
“In a year or two we are going to end up with only four or five trainers in Cape Town, and racing can’t survive on that. Owners have to support the smaller trainers. I know you can’t tell people where to put their horses but come and look at Milnerton and see how many empty stables there are.”
He pointed a finger for the disaster in the ‘clicky Cape’ at ‘agents, breeders and the whole clique’.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are – if you are not in that flow you can forget about it.”
The man who spends most of every day at his yard pointed out that he always put his money where his mouth was.
“I go quarter and half shares in many of my horses.”
A horseman to the very tips of his toes, Piet Steyn came through the ranks of the Cape Hunt & Polo Club amateur racing.
Years ago he fondly recalled the days he rode winners in front of packed grandstands.
After doing his ‘stable articles’ with the late legend Peter Kannemeyer, Piet trained top horses like Queen’s Elect, Justerini and Double Vodka and also produced a second in the Durban July with Gitano.
But the landscape has changed dramatically in the past twenty years.
Gone are many of the smaller salaried or hobby owners who could still afford and chose to race with friends and partners.
Gone are the days of affordable keep.
Gone is the spirit, the atmosphere and the ‘gees’ when wild horses wouldn’t keep us away from even an ordinary racemeeting on a wet Wednesday at Milnerton.