Bizarre bad news has become second nature for most of us in 2020.
But the year’s trials and tribulations, and the sometimes awkward inhibitions of the new normal, have spurred a Fairview trainer on to a determination to end the year on a high – or certainly go out in a blaze of proud glory while trying!
When Zietsman Oosthuizen hits the Joburg road headed for Turffontein and WSB Gauteng Summer Cup glory next week with a Mike de Kock discard called Atyaab, aka ‘Attie’, he is riding on the back of a dream with his loyal owners, Suzette and Basie Viljoen.
Originally an A$260 000 Inglis Easter purchase for Shadwell from the Arrowfield Stud draft, the now 5yo gelding and WSB Gauteng Summer Cup hopeful was acquired by the Viljoens off one of the monthly BSA Digital Online Auctions for a substantially lesser rand price.
Originally trained by Mike de Kock, he formerly raced in the famous blue and white silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum.
‘Attie’, as Basie Viljoen has affectionately coined him since arriving at the Oosthuizen Fairview yard, is probably best remembered as the winner of the 2019 Gr1 Cape Derby and then the Java Handicap over 2400m at Turffontein over a year ago.
His outspoken multiple champion trainer was amazed that his charge hadn’t started more fancied on that sunny day at Kenilworth in January 2019.
His interview raised a few smiles.
“They didn’t mention him on Under Starters Orders. Firstly we don’t come to Cape Town with our buckets and spades to lie on the beach in our mankinis. And this was little better than a B Division field to me. It made sense to give it a try as we felt that the first two legs of the Triple Crown would be too strong for him,” he said at the time.
The newest Oosthuizen flagbearer, Atyaab is from the first crop of High Chaparral’s champion son Dundeel, who has been in the Australian racing news this week with his latest trio of stakes-winners, headed by Gr1 winners Castelvecchio, Super Seth, Yourdeel, and of course our very own, ‘Attie’.
And on Saturday at Ascot (Australia), Truly Great will attempt to become the young stallion’s fifth Gr1 winner when he lines up in the A$1 million Gr1 Railway Stakes.
But that’s by the by– and Ziets clearly believes his trip North is not a ‘jolly patrollie’ or humdrum holiday in Joburg.
He drove Bill Human’s charges over 1000’s of kilometers for six years, so knows how to travel light – and right.
“This is my first Gr1 runner. So it’s a dream come true. I’m not wasting my time or my loyal customers Suzette and Basie’s emotions and money by making the trip. I genuinely believe we have a shout,” he told the Sporting Post.
But Attie hasn’t run since February!
Ziets is clearly not fazed.
He tells that in September his charge was looking great in his box, but his physical movement was not in a good space and he couldn’t do more than just a short half-pace canter at best at that stage.
“First entries for the Summer Cup was on 23 September and it was a free entry. I halfheartedly entered him – much to the Viljoen’s surprise and then the intensive serious work started on him. One thing I learned quickly is that here at the coast horses tend to come on much quicker than at higher altitudes.”
Ziets concedes that at that stage they had ‘0%’ chance to even think of the Summer Cup.
But slowly but surely Attie responded and his first 1400m prep ‘race’ against 2 stable companions less than 3 weeks ago was not good at all.
“I decided to change his training routine from that day – no more ‘bobbejaan canters’! It was either trot or three quarter striding canter, or faster work for him on a daily basis. He responded brilliantly and we set Saturday as his make or break workout to decide whether to chase our one-time pipedream of winning the Summer Cup!”
The trainer becomes very serious as he explains his training regime.
“I realise it may appear unorthodox. With no prep races available in the Eastern Cape I gave him a proper 2000m ‘race’ on his own on Saturday. I trotted him 3500m and then went straight into racing pace from the 2100m mark. He surprised everyone. What a phenomenal workout and his recovery was instant – he is very fit! His 2000m on his own was quicker than any of the three 2000m races at Fairview on Friday with sectionals that made me very happy!”
Ziets proudly discloses his hand-timed sectionals:
- (2000-1600m) in 25,5 sec
- (1200-800m) in 24,4 sec
- (800-400m) in 24,7 sec
- (400m-finish) in 23,8 sec
His plan is to give Attie a 1400m sprint-up on the turf, subject to Phumelela’s approval, to work on his speed endurance and that will be his last big workout before the trip to Johannesburg.
His big-race rider Louis Mxothwa will fly in from Cape Town for the gallop.
“You will see above that we filmed the gallop. I still get goosebumps every time I watch the video with the wind blowing. It sounds like a roaring lion.”
From training 17 horses on a farm near Bloemhof, about 180km from Kimberley and 300km from Johannesburg, to 44 horses at Fairview, it’s been a whirlwind of a year for the 41 year old Ellisras born ‘farmboy’, as he labels himself.
Ziets was only licenced in March, Flamingo Park closed shortly thereafter, and he arrived in the deceptively ‘minor’ centre of Port Elizabeth in June with 14 ‘Kimberley’ horses.
Now he is taking on Sean Tarry and Mike de Kock in the major leagues.
He beams with pride when explaining his start.
“I almost had a winner at my first meeting. But I had to go through the growing and acclimatizing pains and had my first winner in PE in August. This season I am on 9 winners, with 50 places. For someone who arrived with only a handful of Kimberley standard horses to start with I feel proud of what we have achieved. The stable has already grown to 44 horses after we broke the ice in August!”
Life is good. He is engaged to Corne Fourie and they have been together almost 3 years.
“I have a daughter of 18 years old and two sons aged 17 and 11 . We are a big family – at our smallholding close to Fairview all our animals are with us, including our geese, dogs, rabbits , chickens – and even our bushbaby,” he explains proudly.
He enjoys Fairview’s facilities.
“I was very amused to see how the other guys train and the different training tracks. I quickly adjusted my way and am still finetuning it. I like to get a horse sound first, and then fit, and then race them often and basically play with them between races.”
He is at pains to explain that he is not a ‘worsstopper’ trainer who prepares all horses the same.
“Every horse gets trained differently 6 days a week. We normally start between 05h00 and 06H00 and I don’t have strings. Every horse gets his special attention and sometimes we are working horses until midday. I don’t have time restrictions!”
He says the newer stables that he occupies may need ventilation during the summer.
We asked about his recent three-timer.
“That was just brilliant! I planned on a big day but man it felt good! Ndikalele in the first race even surprised me flying up to win and pay R121 a win. Cana was favourite and duly obliged, and in the last race we had a hot-pot favourite in Duchess Of State – and she just blew them away. It was a great feeling of satisfaction. And the stipes came to inspect everything in the stable that next Monday morning and they were impressed – luckily,” he laughs.
Ziets says his plan is to travel Attie up as late as possible to try to counter the altitude adjustments.
“Boti Fiks is Attie’s Groom and Workrider. He has been with me since day 1 – a brilliant man and a rock in my team. We want to arrive 24 hours before the race and get back within 24 hours after the race. We will go straight to Turffontein and will probably set up camp in front of his stable.”
We asked if he was tipping Atyaab to win?
“Wouldn’t that be the cherry on the top? But it’s a handicap and according to the handicappers every horse has a winning chance, if not under sufferance. Nobody gives Atyaab a chance so we are not under pressure. We hope and dream that we can surprise a few. This is a great game – win or lose!”
1st R625000, 2nd R200000, 3rd R100000, 4th R50000, 5th R25000
WORLD SPORTS BETTING GAUTENG SUMMER CUP (Grade 1)
WFA: 3yrs-8kgs 4yrs-0.5kgs
No Apprentice Allowance
|1||14||Tierra Del Fuego||60||120||A||……………||Sean Tarry|
|2||15||Zillzaal||60||120||T A||……………||Sean Tarry|
|3||18||Summer Pudding||59||119||A||W Kennedy||Paul Peter|
|4||8||Divine Odyssey||58.5||117||A||R Danielson||J A Janse van Vuuren|
|5||19||Riverstown||58||117||A||D Dillon||Paul Peter|
|6||17||Atyaab (AUS)||57.5||115||A||L Mxothwa||Zietsman Oosthuizen|
|7||9||Crown Towers (AUS)||57.5||115||AM||R Fourie||Justin Snaith|
|8||10||Running Brave||57||114||A||M Yeni||Paul Matchett|
|9||1||Tristful||56||112||A||D De Gouveia||Tony Rivalland|
|10||5||Youcanthurrylove||55.5||112||BA||C Maujean||Fabian Habib|
|11||11||Charles||55||110||A||C Murray||Mike de Kock|
|12||16||Hero’s Honour||55||110||A||C Zackey||Gary Alexander|
|13||3||Astrix||54.5||110||A||P Strydom||Paul Peter|
|14||4||Pack Leader||54.5||109||A||S Khumalo||Alec Laird|
|15||2||Christopher Robin||54||109||T A||……………||St John Gray|
|16||7||Tree Tumbo||54||109||A||……………||Sean Tarry|
|17||20||Victoria Paige||52||105||AM||……………||Sean Tarry|
|18||6||Seven Patriots||52||104||A||*J Gates||M G Azzie/A A Azzie|
|19||12||Cornish Pomodoro||52||102||T A||……………||Sean Tarry|
|20||13||Dance Class||52||98||A||……………||St John Gray|
|Same Trainer – Not Coupled on Tote|
|(1,2,16,17,19) (3,5,13) (15,20)|