Gavin Van Zyl Calls Time On His Training Career

Set to assist his son, Gareth

Following on the heels of Dennis Drier and Hekkie Strydom, Gavin van Zyl will be handing in his licence at the end of this month and will be playing a more background role as assistant to his son Gareth, who is the reigning KZN Champion trainer.

Gavin van Zyl (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Gavin van Zyl (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Gavin, speaking about his training career to Gold Circle’s David Thiselton earlier this week, said:

“It has been a wonderful journey. I would like to give a special thanks to Opensea Mhlamvu who has been my right hand man from day one and has been a very valuable asset to my business. He will be retiring with me. A special thanks to all of the grooms too and to all of my loyal owners. I must make special mention of Errol Budlender, who has been with me from day one, and also his good friend Paul Rencken. Errol owned my first winner and is  one of the owners of our winner on Tuesday at Turffontein (Go Flichity). I also had a very good spell with Brian Burnard. would also like to thank all of the operators, and in particular Gold Circle, who have always accommodated my needs and given excellent service.”

Gavin has been around horses his whole life having grown up in Turffontein where he spent most of his school days helping out at racing yards.

Gavin and Gareth van Zyl

Gavin and Gareth van Zyl

He joined the Academy and after his first winner over the Greyville 1900m on the Terry Ryan-trained Flight Savon he never looked back. He was associated with such horses as Smackeroo, Serena, Poetic, Rain Forest, Moccasin, Extra Cover, Eliza, Shu Shine Boy, Mill Hill, Roland’s Song, Special Preview, Novgorod and Lemon And Lime.

On one memorable occasion he rode two Grade 1 winners in a day at Scottsville, winning the SA Fillies Guineas on the St. John Gray-trained Finest View and winning the SA Fillies Sprint on the Mike Azzie-trained Harry’s Charm.

He had two stints in the USA and ended his career as champion jockey in Macau from where he bought four horses online and began training as soon as he returned home.

His first winner was with his second runner, Laser Fan (Fanatic Dane), who was one of the four he had bought online. The filly was owned by Errol Budlender and Alan Mellor.

Laser Fan also won Gavin his first stakes race, winning the Grade 3 Flamboyant Stakes.

Gavin went on to have about 800 wins as a trainer. He won 45 stakes races including eight Grade 1 wins courtesy of The Apache (X2), Slumdogmillionaire (X2), Along Came Polly (X2), Seal and Gabor.


Slumdogmillionaire wins Gr1 SA Classic in 2012

Besides Gavin’s Grade 1 wins, he regards his best achievement as sending out four winners on a day twice in the month of February in just his second season as a trainer. Both quadruples were at Scottsville.

Another memorable day was sending out the one-two in the Grade 1 Champions Cup, The Apache and Bulsara.

Bulsara, a twice Grade 3 winner, was owned by Bridget Oppenheimer, who Gavin said had been very very good to him. Other memorable Oppenheimer horses he trained were Franny, also a twice Grade 3 winner, and Prestic, who won a Grade 2 and a Grade 3.

Franny winning the Magnolia Hcap

Just! Anthony Delpech keeps Franny at it to beat a flying King’s Temptress in the Gr3 Magnolia Handicap

Gavin built quickly from his small beginning and had “lots of support from lots of different owners” and is grateful to all of them.

He concluded, “All of my owners were happy to move their horses to Gareth, so he will now have about 85 horses. I think he is ready to take control of a bigger string and to make a greater impact on South African racing.”

Gavin reserved the final thank you for his wife Shannon who has always been a stalwart supporter behind the scenes.

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