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Multiple Champion Trainer Says ‘That’s It’

Grooms factions blamed for protest

The 87-year old former dual SA Champion Trainer Ormond Ferraris, upset and severely stressed by the grooms’ actions at Turffontein on Saturday, had to be taken to hospital for a check-up and observation when his staff decided to desert the yard around 4am in the morning.

Ormond Ferraris (photo: JC Photographics)

Ormond Ferraris (photo: JC Photographics)

Turf Talk reports that a legend of the training ranks, Ferraris, who has served the horseracing industry with great distinction for 70 years, said that trainers at Turffontein were aware of the pending strike on Friday. “I arranged with my 20 grooms to come to work Saturday at 3am, an hour earlier, so they could attend their meeting which was scheduled for 5am.

“All I wanted them to do was the bedding, and to feed and water the horses. Just a few came along at three but soon disappeared leaving me and my Head Lad of 40 years, John Sibeko, to get by on our own. I was distressed, they had to take me to the Union Clinic but I am feeling better now. This is it, this is the third protest action of this nature we’ve had to endure recently and I am not prepared to put up with this any longer. I am out.”

Ferraris said that there were “troublemakers” in the grooms’ ranks who have stirred up the rest with a variety of demands, including higher wages and for an office to be allocated to one of their faction officials at Turffontein.

“I would love to pay the grooms what they want, big salaries, but it is simply not possible. The sport of racing cannot contain this. The costs of feeding and training horses today are astronomical and stakes haven’t increased in proportion to the high expenses. The few millionaires in racing can afford it, but I fear for the middle man, the smaller owner. This kind of pressure is going to hit them and the smaller stables the hardest. They are battling to feed themselves, let alone their horses. There is just no way they can survive!” he told Turf Talk.

Veteran. Trainer Ormonde Ferraris

His son David Ferraris, a trainer in Hong Kong added: “I am horrified by what is going on. I spent R25-million at the SA Sales the last two years and to see how people are trying to bring the industry to its knees is disturbing. I hope these matters are addressed fast.”

Mike De Kock agreed, saying: “There are agitators among the grooms who do not realise the damage they are doing. Soon, 20 of their colleagues will be unemployed and then unemployable in current circumstances. They’ll be a burden to society.

“There are transformation issues to be addressed, but we’ve already dug deep and made significant progress. The agitators don’t realise that racehorse owners lose R600-million per year in racing. They race for pleasure, achievements and the dream of owning a champion horse. They accept their losses while the industry employs tens of thousands of people on the back of their investments.

“If this type of unrest continues, we are going to have serious problems in SA racing. Owners are going to stop and say, ‘We don’t need this, we want to race and watch our horses in peace and we want our investments protected.’ If the big owners call it a day, we’ll see a major collapse.”

De Kock feels that security is a “soft spot” for agitators and that the matter should be given urgent attention.

“Whenever a situation like this arises, the security officers are the first to run away. They are not sighted. There is expensive horseflesh stabled at the training centres and courses and we need to take preventative measures before the horses are hurt. There were several intoxicated and unruly elements among the strikers on Saturday, there always are. They should be stopped before they can cause injury to others or hurt horses.”

Phumelela’s Racing Executive, Patrick Davis, said that Saturday’s strike had nothing to do with the racing operator. “We are not going to comment on the matter at this stage, it happened as a result of friction between grooms’ factions. We will, however, be issuing a statement in the course of next week.”

Vee Moodley, CEO of the National Horseracing Authority, said that he, too, preferred not to comment at this point.

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25 comments on “Multiple Champion Trainer Says ‘That’s It’

  1. Naughtynads says:

    Wow Marlon,why you been so rude.Really not necessary to be so cold hearted.

  2. Steve says:

    Have some respect Marlon. Every year you see Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and before he passed, Arnold Palmer teeing off first at the Masters. Not because they have any chance of winning the tournament, but out of respect for what they have contributed to the sport and as past Champions of the Masters they are forever honored. Half the problem with the industry nowadays is the constant negativity of individuals such as yourself. Individuals who don’t have anything good to say but also have nothing constructive to add in order improve the situation. I would rather have Mr Ferraris still involved in the industry, even at 87 years old with a limited string of horses, than someone like yourself who will never be able to add anywhere near the value that Mr Ferraris has added over the past 70 years!! Respect is earned and Mr Ferraris has certainly earned it!

  3. Warren says:

    Come on, that was not called for.. Mr Ferraris is a genuine man.

  4. Brian says:

    Marlon you are someone who should leave the industry. You and your brainless thoughts are not welcome. It is obvious the loud wind I hear rushing from my home in Colesberg is the whistle of wind blowing through your ears. Normally there’d be a brain in between.

    Please Ed his comments go beyond free speech.

    1. Editor says:

      Agree – deleted

  5. Robert says:

    This note should be deleted totally unacceptable Marlon you are a disgrace

    1. Editor says:


  6. Ds says:

    Racing executive Patrick Davis says it had nothing to do with the racing operator but it happened in the operators property where were the security that I’m sure phumelela has on the property

  7. Brian says:

    Thanks for the deletion Ed.

    DS, I agree. PG are a role player in the industry and for them to say it has nothing to do with us is not going to hepl the situation at all.

    They’e in ti. Simple!

  8. Colin says:

    We have lost a stalwart of a trainer. He epitomised everything a trainer should be. He would not bow to pressure from power or money. His horses always came first. Unlike some of his Turffontein neighbours, in his entire career not one of his horses was found to be positive for a prohibited substance. If a horse had no ability, he would let the owner know. He did not want owners to waste their money on monthly training fees and he did not want to train horses who had no real career in horse racing. A more straightforward trainer you could not get. It is a real pity that there is not a single trainer that can emulate Mr Ferraris and continue his legacy as a trainer. To better understand him as a person, look back at his career and take note of the big names in horse racing whose horses he never trained. His departure as a trainer is a sad loss to the industry.

  9. Louis Goosen says:

    Security are hard pressed to control these protests. Rather ask where were the SAP, who are based on the course at Turffontein.

    We are all exasperated by the fact that protests turn violent whilst SAP stand by on the fringes and watch. From Municipal and other strikes where public property is trashed and vehicles are burned, to the almost ritual burning of trucks at Mooi River and on the R59 to Vaal where the result is the diversion of traffic for days, rather than the protesters being arrested.

    So, this protest was resolved far quicker than the norm, imho.

    Mr Ferraris is a legend in my books and remains a master Trainer to this day. This is very sad news for Racing.

  10. Glendyr Garrett Pirija says:

    Absolutely agree Colin. Well said.

  11. Steve Reid says:

    The solution to this mess is simple. Licence the grooms. It can be done, the question must be asked why it has not been? Jockeys agents and Racing Managers require licemcing but grooms don’t? Go figure. Rocket man stop passing that hot potato and accept that the grooms form a vital role in this industry.

  12. Izak Berg says:

    SA Racing is loosing a giant. Mr Ferraris trained for me and I enjoyed every minute in his stable. One of the best horseman if not the best I ever met. You may take a bow sir. Racing in SA and the grooms are the loosers after you decided in handing in your licence.

  13. Donald says:

    How the racing operator can say this has nothing to do with them is beyond unbelievable ! This incident happened on their property with no security in sight ? This matter should have been contained outside the property and the SAPS called to uphold the law of the land at that location despite the fact that policing in S.A. does not inspire much confidence !

    1. Editor says:

      The SAPS were there

  14. SFJ says:

    That’s it for me too.
    I am very upset with the NHRA and PGL.
    They had advance warning of the protest and never had the decency to notify the public.
    I should be allowed to judge for myself whether I should go racing.
    In my books, the NHRA and PGL had a moral obligation to inform us of the planned protest and the potential risk to people and property.
    If I had known about the protest I would have stayed home or gone to the movies.
    I had no enjoyment on the day.
    My decision is not only based on what happened, Turffontein race course has become decrepid and full of desperados.
    I will not be missed. If more people felt like I do and pack it in, our collective Rand will be missed it will be too late then.

  15. Ian Jayes says:

    That employees of long standing could could walk out and leave a string of horses to be cared for by a man in his eighties and an elderly head lad, shows just how lacking in responsibility and compassion they are. That Phumelela should say that it does not concern them, shows how lacking in commitment they are. That irresponsible politicians and/or trade unionists should have raised expectations beyond realistic attainable levels, shows how lacking in acumen and responsibility they are. All in all, horseracing has come to a sorry pass and its future looks very bleak. The time has surely come, before it is too late, for all the role-players to get together and plot a way forward for the industry.

  16. Rian says:

    I Just hope to God he wasnt hurt physically or shoved around !!!!
    Must agree with Steve and glad about the Rocket Man part

  17. B Steele says:

    Ed its a pity that SP does not have a “mampara”of the week award similar to the S T . Beside the comment now deleted I’ve another that would run a short second.While the ugly incident was taking place ,South African racing received a sterling price of advice from the U K based administrator of a local racing forum.His advice “Don’t defend shite wages. Pay more charge more!!!!!!
    Please Ed make this a joint award,these half wits deserve nothing less

    In light and love
    With balls of steel

  18. Harold says:

    The idea of a Grooms license is a good one. The trainers can pay an annual fee to a Grooms Associations to retain them. If grooms participate in a strike or illegal act, they would lose their license and not be employed as a groom in SA again


    Harold, I agree with Steve Reid’s and your idea about the grooms having some form of a licensing structure.

    Trainers have to hold a license issued by the NHA, let the NHA play agent for the grooms and contract them out to the trainers. Later down the line, a groom can apply to the trainer for permanent employment, while still “under the eye” of the NHA.

    Just like SAFFA’S have to sign up and align themselves in the UK labour market when seeking contract work.

  20. Pops says:

    Does Mr Larry Wainstein and the Racing Association. not have a big part to play in all of this?Are they not the ones who should be listening to the grooms problems and sorting them out?

  21. The Dark Duke says:

    What time have SANGATA played to resolve the issues? Anyone remember this RA funded organisation?

  22. Steve Reid says:

    Um no Duke…..

    The RA have never admitted to funding SANGATA. It is alleged that money came from the personal funding of Peter Naidoo, a RA director at the time. If you believe that you will believe anything. I am led to believe that one of the demands from Simoto and his lads is office space at the bigT. SANGATA has, or did have, I’m sure Naidoo paid for that too.

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