Trainer Paul Peter took his season tally to 21 winners when Date Palm won the first race under Warren Kennedy at his home base track, Turffontein, on Tuesday. Both Peter and Kennedy top their respective national logs at this stage.
In an interview with David Thiselton, he puts his climb to the top of the national trainers log chiefly down to a new member of his team, the legendary Ormond Ferraris, whom he hero worshipped as a racing-mad youngster.
He also heaped praise on his first call rider Warren Kennedy.
On his chances of staying at the top he reckoned he would be able to match the “big guns” in the three-year-old division.
He also has high hopes for his four-year-old filly Vistula.
“Moving to Turffontein put me closer to home and I have also been given a lot of input from Mr Ormonde Ferraris. He has become part of the team and his knowledge is priceless. He has taught me how to get horses supremely fit. His horses were always known for their fitness and I can now see why. I have latched on to his work patterns and his work ethic. He used to run his yard like a military base. I got all of his grooms too. We also have a treadmill and a walker and everyone’s happy. It’s a very happy team and we have a lovely bunch of owners.”
Peter scored a five-timer at Turffontein Standside on Saturday, three of them ridden by Kennedy and two by 4kg claimer Cole Dicken.
“I have a top jockey in Warren Kennedy. He has such good hands and settles a horse so well and is a good judge of pace. I don’t give him instructions. He analyses the horses and studies the form and a horse he has ridden just once he will know backwards. He is a major, major asset,”
“Cole Dicken has a future, he has a good head, has good balance and punches them out nicely. He is definitely worth his 4kg claim.”
“Matthew Thackeray rides a lot of work for me and is my second choice rider most of the time. He is a good, underrated jockey with a lovely attitude and deserves more chances so I am going to give him more rides.”
Peter finished sixth on the national log last season on earnings in unrestricted races of R11,227,938.
This season he tops the log on earnings of close on R2 million, well clear of second-placed Alan Greeff.
Justin Snaith is in third place and the reigning national champion trainer Sean Tarry is next best.
“The big guns have powerful strings but I have a very good crop of three-year-olds.”
Peter was most impressed with his older filly Vistula’s seasonal reappearance in which she easily won a Pinnacle Stakes event over 1400m on the Turffontein Standside course by 2,25 lengths.
“She was only about 70% fit. I threw her out for a whole month after the Garden Province. They don’t like to give us grass at Turffontein, I don’t blame them because there’s so much racing, so she had just done a little bit of half pace work after her rest.”
The four-year-old Ideal World filly is being targeted at the Gr2 Jo’Burg Spring Fillies and Mares Challenge over 1450m on October 5 on the Turffontein Inside track. Peter said if she landed a good draw she would be a ‘massive’ runner.
Peter has 160 horses at present and among them are many promising unraced three-year-olds.
Of those three-year-olds to have raced he named Summer Pudding, Pax Romana (‘a good stayer’), Astrix, Arapaho, Atomic Blonde, Riverstown, Sarah, Lighthearted and Heartstwings as his best.
He has lost a few of his older horses to Mauritius but mentioned Rebel’s Champ, Winter Storm and Operetta as among those he had high hopes for. He said Winter Storm had run a bit below par in his last two races last season as he had needed a bit of a break and he regarded Operetta as unlucky on Saturday as she had been badly interfered with.
Peter grew up three kilometres from Turffontein racetrack and was from a family who were crazy about the game through all generations.
He loved the horses more than the punting side. He was regularly kicked off the course as a youngster in an era when under eighteens weren’t allowed, but would always be back for the next meeting. Fortunately, he looked eighteen as a fifteen-year-old. He recalls, ironically, being a particular fan of the Ormond Ferraris yard horses.
Peter learned the training ropes from James Maree, whom he was with for many years.
“He is a proper horseman and many of my workriders today come from his school.”
Peter recently admitted he did not run a punting stable. He is consequently one of the most transparent trainers in the country and this is much appreciated by the racing public.
His twenty one winners this season have come at a strike rate of over16% and his place strike rate of 55% is the highest among the top twenty on the log.