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Dom’s Still Got Plenty To Give

Out in the cold and dumped by the game he loves

While he saddled close on 1000 winners during his twenty years as a trainer, it has been fourteen years since Dominic Zaki launched a rare raid from Gauteng on the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate with the accomplished National Spirit.

While that was the first year of the Pocket Power sensational royal four-timer and the Zaki galloper didn’t produce his best, Dom remembers it as a great race to go for with the right horse.

Dominic Zaki – hoping to get back into racing

“The Queen’s Plate is the benchmark of excellence at a mile in South Africa. National Spirit was a great horse but there are always risks in travelling and he wasn’t himself that day. He won the Gold Challenge the previous season at Clairwood Park, so it wasn’t the left-handed track. We travelled with a companion to Kenilworth – a filly called Ghost Writer – and she ran second under Piere Strydom. So It wasn’t a wasted trip and in racing you never know, unless you try!” adds the experienced horseman.

Dom suggests that on Saturday it is difficult to look past Belgarion – a ‘proper horse’ as he calls him – but feels that Rainbow Bridge may have more to come after the Green Point Stakes, when things didn’t quite go his way.

The handsome National Spirit

“I can’t see a runaway winner. Only eight runners, but a humdinger is guaranteed,” he muses as he reflects on a lifechanger year for many in the industry.

Despite achieving his second highest career mark in the previous season, Dom threw in the towel with training in December 2015.

“It was a time of economic doom and gloom, the paucity of new owners and the exorbitant, sky-rocketing costs not matched by stakes in a battling local industry. I could no longer financially justify carrying on with my career,” he recalls.

But one door closed and another opened. He landed up being head hunted by Tellytrack, and found himself revelling in an environment where his passion and knowledge blossomed.

“I loved the opportunity to add value at Tellytrack. I probably extended my job parameters, but was obsessed with getting all the races aired and the right information to the punting public. I worked long hours but loved it and felt much satisfaction in trying circumstances at times as we focussed on pushing betting turnovers.”

He is reluctant to elaborate on the ‘trying circumstances’ reference – but concedes that there were people in the system that neither shared his passion nor love of the game.

“I think racing is an industry that requires folk with specific knowledge and a bent for going the extra mile – it’s not a job, it’s a vocation. If you don’t know the difference between a Pick 6 and a Jackpot, and are a clockwatcher, then you won’t make it in the drive and thrust of the racing broadcasting industry. It’s not fair for me to go into detail as there were many good folk in the system.”


He concedes that he feels ‘heartbroken’ when he looks at what Tellytrack churns out today.

“Times are tough. There is no money. But that’s more reason to have the right people in the driving seats, surely? It just feels that everything has been destroyed. I get calls and know that many punters are disillusioned. Tellytrack is racing’s shop window and is vitally important. I hope we can drive a rethink on it,” he adds.

Dom is currently unemployed, after having been culled with the majority of the racing broadcaster’s personnel late last year.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a man who has so much to contribute and who hails from a racing family. He grew up eating, drinking and sleeping horses.

“My father Teddy was a passionate and very successful individual colour holder with the Jockey Club Of South Africa. He owned thoroughbreds for many decades and enjoyed lots of success with dozens of Graded winners including Champion Stayer King’s Choir (Gr1 OK Gold Bowl) and Grand National (winner of Gr1 SA Oaks and Gr1 SA Invitation Stakes), Champion Older Filly of her year.”

In 1985, at 15 years of age he started riding work for various trainers at the Turffontein Training Centre.

“My father’s horses were trained by George Tambourlas, who’d trained most of his winners, so I had an opportunity to work in a professional and successful stable and gain first-hand and hands-on experience. I soon set my sights on becoming a trainer myself but that wouldn’t happen until later as I wanted to complete my school career first.”

After matriculating in 1987 Dom became a stable employee to George Tambourlas until his father decided to place his horses with his cousin, Martin Zaki.

“I worked for him as assistant trainer until I took out my own licence in 1993 – at the time, aged 22, I became the youngest licensed trainer in South Africa.  I trained privately for my father, starting with a small string of 15 horses at a private facility near Walkerville, Johannesburg at which over time I’d built a sand track and a grass track to train on. My small team and I maintained the tracks and steadily improved the other facilities.”

In his first season, just a part of the 1993/4 term, he trained 11 winners and 102 placed runners from 254 runners for a W/P percentage of 45%. This was improved upon year-on-year, with 36 winners and 312 places from 883 runners in 1996/7, still from a limited private string.

“After the death of my father I took out an open trainer’s licence in 2001 and with significant support from a broad base of owners I built the string from around 20 horses in training to much higher averages in the following years and near 100.”

With the additional support the young Zaki made rapid progress between 2001 and 2011, finishing in the Top 6 on the National Log in 2005/6 and 2006/7, in the Top 10 in 2007/8 and 2008/9 and in the Top 20 in the rest of the time.

2005 Gomma Gomma Challenge winner Eddington

“I also won my first Gr1 contest with R100K purchase Talahatchee in the Premier’s Champion Stakes for Three-Year-Olds in 2004. This was followed with Gr1 wins by our R80k stable star National Spirit (Golden Horseshoe 2005, Gold Challenge 2006) while 150k purchase Eddington who won the 2008 Gr1 GommaGomma Challenge, then Africa’s richest race worth R3,5-million. Among many other races, National Spirit also won the Gr2 Emerald Cup in 2006, at the time Africa’s richest race on sand, giving us a major stake feature race double on both track surfaces.”

He also won the Gr1 SA Nursery at Turffontein in 2015 with two-year-old colt Arabian Beat, giving the stable Gr1 wins on turf over 1200m, 1400, 1600m and 2000m, and the highest Graded sand race in Africa over 1450m.

Gr1 winner Arabian Beat

He moved his operation from his private tracks to the Vaal Training Centre in 2011 and in four successive seasons was leading trainer based at the complex.

This reflects in the stable’s number of winners –  71/54/71/64 – an average of 65 winners per season until the end of the 2014/15 term.

“I trained 978 winners and 7420 places between 1994 and 2015, in fact saddled a treble at my last meeting. The statistics include 5 Gr1 wins, 9 Gr2 wins, 5 Gr3 and 17 Listed wins for gross stake earnings of ZAR 69,59-milion.”

Dom is happy to consider various options – he can be contacted at [email protected]

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22 comments on “Dom’s Still Got Plenty To Give

  1. Cliffie says:

    Love to see you back Dom maybe i need you as my PA. HEHEHE

  2. JOHN says:

    Gentlemen of note, massive loss to horse racing industry! Racing needs people like Dom Zaki.

  3. Russell Parkinson says:

    What happened to Rod McCurdy ? ….. was he also culled at Tellytrack ?

  4. Steven Govender says:

    You are a True Legend when it comes to studying form I miss those days when I should wait for your tipping at Tellytrack on a Saturday, racing is not the same without you guys.

    I wish you are back in SA Racing with your Tipping.

    Take Care my Friend

  5. Johnny Peter (HyperPaint syndicate $ says:

    We need you back at Teletrack, I miss the early morning show your tips and your exotic perms, it definitely encouraged me to add a few more horses into my play which enhanced the tote pools. The morning show must return please with more jockey and trainer information, Dominic did that well. Please bring him back 🙏

  6. Gavin L says:

    I don’t understand this industry…..

    Mr Zaki has given his life to the sport! When I rode for him, he was passionate about the horse. Every horse i sat on was in perfect equine condition.

    When He threw in the towel we lost a horseman!

    I was so glad to see him working at Teletrack.Then again I saw his work ethic giving it all he had, and turned our racing channel into a watchable program. I would turn the volume up on a Saturday morning to hear Mr Zaki’s input. Analyzing every race in his view of how it would unfold.

    With his horseracing knowledge, love for the sport and unbelievable dedication to the industry…..

    I ask myself ‘HOW’ is this man not in the driving seat!

    1. Editor says:

      Well said, Gavin

  7. ShellyM says:

    Can he replace Oom Stan who never asks the winning jockey abt their other mounts. The public wants to know. Julie does it so well…..

    Ask…Ask Ask…. keep the punter interested.

    1. Editor says:

      Oom Stan’s a local legend, ShellyM

  8. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…Mr Ed are you Joking,,pls brother let’s compare apples with apples now..Stan a Legend Legends are remembered not forgotten,,He’s almost as bad as Warren Lanferno and Hawkins…You Capetonians haven’t got the slightest idea along with Gold Cirlce what the punters are looking for…90% of our presenters go on hearsay,, hearsay has killed the industry…I could not help but laugh when I read a part when one said we’ll have (expert form studier) Stan The Man Elly along with AAA Duracell batteries Justin Snaith and (copy cat) Mark Bass’s sister Candice in studio for the LQP…Anyway I commend Stan for trying,, Stan’s good man…As for the KZN click i give up gee are are they bad…Koos and Piet from Bloemfontein can do a better job…

  9. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Tellycrap, Pls bring Dom Zaki back 🤔

  10. Selwyn Elk says:

    Dominic grew up in front of me, I was with his late dad when Grand National beat Have a Ball in the mud at Scottsville to win the S.A. Oaks. A finer unassuming man you will go a long way to find and a wealth of all round knowledge in the racing game. What Dom has long forgotten most of the Teletrack presenters still have to learn , a disgrace that he is no longer on channel 249. The powers that be are obviously not sufficiently schooled to recognise a gem when they have one .In my opinion it is for reasons like this that racing finds itself where it is today. Unless the right people are placed in strategic positions I am afraid the current situation can only go from bad to worse.

  11. Russell Parkinson says:

    Ed …. still enquiring about Rod McCurdy.

    1. Editor says:

      We have asked Russell

    2. Editor says:

      Hi Russell
      Unofficial confirmation suggests that McCurdy has gone

  12. Anesh Billat says:

    Dom Zaki, we need you back bro. It’s time telly track get rid of the not so dead wood. Racing needs insightful people like Dom, Shaheen and so forth

  13. Donald Bradshaw says:

    Ahh ! Selwyn ” in the mud at Scottsville to win the S.A. Oaks ” . Those days will never be seen again as if there is a whiff of a rain drop in the air these days , its off to the poly and the many scratchings that go with that decision by Gold Circle as they fear the inevitable jockey protest if the going is not pristine !

    I often wonder what the likes of Charlie Barends / Johnny McCreedy would have made of these jockey protests so common these days especially in Gold Circle country ?

    Tellytrack can only be improved by removing the current board and executives and thereafter establishing a new board with a complete overall of the senior management !

    Painful , yes , but a must if Tellytrack is to become ” fit for purpose ” and provide the service and entertainment that is currently absent !

  14. Selwyn Elk says:

    Hi Donald, talking of appalling conditions can you recall the Dunlop Gold Cup won on an objection by the Herman Brown(snr) trained Rainstorm ridden by a young Muis Roberts who finished a long way behind the Transvaal raider Rack n Ruin trained by Eddie Agopian. After a lengthy hearing the controversial objection was upheld, which left the locals all smiles at a rain drenched Greyville?

  15. Michael Jacobs says:

    I have to agree that Mr Stan Elley is past his sell-by date. Sirely there are younger, more vibrant presenters in Cape Town? If racing is trying to attract new customers, then it starts with the “face” of the sport and that is the oncourse presenters, studio presenters and the marketing folk. Shaheen Shaw is now based in Cape Town, surely he can be encouraged to return for oncourse prrsentation in Cape Town instead of Stan Elley. Mr Elley can go and enjoy his retirement.

  16. Jonathan Shaw says:

    Fully agree Michael !!!!

  17. Geoff Logan says:

    Frankie a bit personal I would say. Opinions differ. I wouldn’t be too quick to knock the rest of the country outside of Gauteng. I would like to think your comments were more tongue in cheek than anything else.

  18. Paul Karam says:

    The nominations for 2021 Dubai Gold Cup have been accepted and South Africa is well represented by Mike De Kock with 7 horses.

    No mention of Zimbabwe Champion.

    Hello cousin Frankie …..


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