Summerveld-based Sarel von Willingh Smit became the latest Kimberley expat to win in a major centre when Countess Helen delivered a knockout blow at Sunday’s Hollywoodbets Scottsville meeting.
The daughter of Count Dubois, a Klawervlei Farm Sale graduate racing in the silks of longstanding owner Paul Barrett and the trainer, was having just her third start when winning the third race at 45-1 under Luke Ferraris.
Speaking to the Sporting Post on Sunday evening the 76 year old conditioner, a former apprentice to Stanley Gorton and Syd Laird, said that he was thrilled with the win but under no illusions about the uphill task that Northern Cape trainers faced in the big regions.
Former Flamingo Parkers Cliffie Miller, Tienie Prinsloo and Zietsman Oosthuizen are already off the mark, after the much loved centre closed down in Kimberley at the end of last term.
“I have eleven horses. Sadly most are KZN ‘rejects’. So they didn’t make it here in the first place, but I have to win races with them now that we are back here,” he said soberly.
He tells that his winning co-owner Paul Barrett is also ‘not getting any younger’ and cutting down.
“He is not expanding his racing interests. His grandson is with Mike Stewart in the Cape. I’m sure Paul will support him. I would do the same.”
Sarel says that he himself is not a trainer – he is ‘a conditioner’.
“I don’t train my horses – I look after them and prepare them with care to try and win races.”
He says he operates by a simple principle that Stanley Gorton preached – “you don’t win your races on the training track.”
Sarel mentions names like the late Peter Miller and Johan Myburgh when he reflects back on a 64 year career amongst horses punctuated by great memories.
“In 1984 I trained for six months. Two of my horses won five in a row. I can do it with the right horses. Snaith, Tarry, De Kock and the rest of the big guys – give me their horses and they can train mine. Let’s see who is in the winner’s box then,” he laughs.
Sarel says he feels there is ‘too much blowing smoke’ in racing.
There are also double standards that get his goat.
“I’m not a snake. I don’t speak with two tongues. If I think you’re an idiot, I will tell you. We need to be more real. I appreciate the call. I sincerely hope that racing prospers going ahead,” he concludes.