Hamba Kahle, Hodgsy – Remembering A Top Trainer And Great Friend

Darryl Hodgson was different - a good man!

Described as a top-class horseman, a great human being, and a man who would give his last cent to help others, tributes have continued to pour in for multiple Grade 1 winning trainer Darryl Hodgson who passed away at the age of 74 on Wednesday 14 February.

A low-key gentleman and a personality who shunned the camera and the spotlight, Darryl Hodgson’s passing came as a shock to many of us.

He had faded from the racing scene about five years ago, and had spent the last stages of his life with his good friend Savas Pastellides in Betty’s Bay.

While 2011 Met winner Past Master was regarded as the best he trained, he also won the Queen’s Plate in 1991 with I’m Taking It and the great Reinels Hass-owned filly Vesta, who won three Gr1’s, including the Cape Fillies Guineas, the SA Fillies Guineas and the Champion Stakes, was always very close to his heart.

Born and schooled in the Turffontein area, where he spent more time studying the gee-gees than geometry or geography, Darryl was fascinated by horses and started training in the Eastern Cape, after his banking career lasted exactly a month.

“Counting paper clips just wasn’t for me,” he once reflected of his short-lived time as a clerk at Standard Bank.

Masters of their art! Darryl with Gerrit Schlechter and Dr Adams

Leading breeder and a champion owner, Dr Hassen Adams spoke fondly about a trainer who gave him 35 wonderful years of ‘victorious moments’ in the racing industry.

Dr Adams owned top horses like Gimmethegreenlight and Past Master, who won the Met in 2011.

He told the Sporting Post that even in his days of health challenges and semi retirement from active business, he treasured and reminisced about those golden racing moments all the time.

Darryl, with Dr Hassen Adams and Dan Katz

“Darryl was just a wonderfully patient and tolerant person who, as a trainer, always put the horse first. His knowledge of the thoroughbred was impeccable, especially when it came to judging conformation. Darryl was truly a great personal trainer, and even a legend like Terence Millard praised him as a formidable conditioner. When I fell ill with cancer in 2018, I never saw Darryl again. Then about two weeks ago Chris Snaith phoned to inform me that Darryl wanted to come and see me. I welcomed the idea. Chris, Darryl and myself had a magical relationship, winning the J&B Met, Queens Plate and many Group races,” he recalled.

Sadly Darryl passed away days before the reunion could happen.

“I want to respectfully pass my condolences and sympathies to his family. Hamba Kahle my dear Hodgsy, may you find peace in the heavens that await you.”

Past Masters! Gerrit Schlechter and Darryl celebrate a plan come together in the 2011 Met

Former leading owner Bernie Langton, who is now based in Michigan in the USA, recalled that her most precious memories were of Darryl Hodgson and his much-loved horses, and of him pacing up and down before a race.

“Shouting our horses home, the suspense of objections, the wins, the losses and post-mortems. What memories we have to cherish! The most precious are of Darryl and his horses,” she added as she reflected how they were enjoying a successful run in the Cape with the Trudi Houareau/Garth Puller team when tragic circumstances prompted the relocation of their horses.

“After many discussions with Garth and our partners, including Nando Braz, Gerald Kalil, Mike Mort, John Meyer and others, we decided to support the Darryl Hodgson/ Andrew Fortune team with their move to KZN. Through all the years of highs, lows and the in -betweens of racing, I got to know Darryl and we grew very close. When we were not together for gallops, visits or racing, we spoke on the phone regularly. Although he did not relish the paperwork side of training, Darryl loved the horses in his care and treated them like his babies.”

The old firm! Owner Bernie Langton leads in a winner with Andrew Fortune up at Clairwood – Darryl is in the background

Bernie remembered Abbeys Lad, Monastery, Wise King, Flaming Thunder, Troubled Nation, Western Night, Delaware Park, Mission Control, National Native, Quarry, Gentle Princess and Madison Square, and many others.

“Darryl always tried to do the best for them and was an exceptionally talented trainer. I will always remember how we both bawled our eyes out when we lost Abbey’s Lad at just 3 years old. And Darryl pulling off the rare feat of winning three Michael Roberts features in three years with Flaming Thunder. Then early morning gallops and breakfast at Summerveld, stable visits, Darryl and Andy preparing for the races, get togethers after good wins with our friends and connections. Nando Braz, Garth Puller, Andrew Fortune, Trudi Low-Shang and Andre Nel, John Meyer, Malcolm Vercuiel, Hassen Adams, the late Ivan Pickering, Les Hodnett, Poof Yengwa, Eric Frisch – what days! And how after some of the losses, Manny would say to Darryl: ‘I’m just going home to have a good cry’. What a special time of our lives!”

Darryl leads in Flaming Thunder and Andrew Fortune

Former SA Champion jockey Andrew Fortune rode his first Gr1 winner for Darryl Hodgson at the age of 20.

“We won a good few more. Darryl was always the same and would give his last dime to help somebody else, that’s why he was always broke, when I think about him. I’m sad, but can laugh. They were good days. He was a hard person to be upset with because he was really a special person.  I’m really going to miss you Hodge. I’m sure we will meet again brother,” added the Candyman.

Familiar faces from the golden days of Cape racing

Gerald and Karen Kalil, who are still involved as owners and breeders and had a winner for Barend Botes at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday, labelled Darryl a good friend and a humble , reserved and generous man. And, to top it all,an outstanding trainer.

“He gave us so much joy as owners and friends. The thing we remember most is how,when he went to the stables, every horse would ‘call’ and stick their heads out for a wrestle, hug or a kiss. He would do favours for people without thinking twice. When we were in Cape Town he took time out of his busy schedule to drive us around sightseeing. We are sure he’s very happy in heaven ,where his old friends come galloping, happy to see him,and he is smoking 200 fags a day! Darryl, till we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hands.”

Garth Puller told the Sporting Post that Darryl was a fine horseman and a top judge of a thoroughbred.

‘I think one can see the man’s standing in the manner that all of us who knew and respected Darryl stepped up to assist readily when Trudi-lee Low-Shan was arranging a dignified funeral. It’s very sad to see that he passed in these circumstances, but he lived his dream, won his Grade 1 races, and he left knowing that many held a special place in their hearts for him,” added Garth.

Trudi-Lee and Darryl

Longstanding owners Andre Nel and Trudi-lee Low-Shan, who run a school near Hollywoodbets Greyville, recalled that it had been a long journey with Darryl, ‘some good some bad’, but that the memories would forever be etched in their hearts.

“The horses, the stables, the long talks, the music, the wine, the tears. The list is endless. We will smile with hope and gratitude when one day we meet again,” added the long-time friends.

Darryl with a very young David

Darryl’s son David Hodgson had the last word and thanked the racing community for their generosity and the spirit of camaraderie.

“It means so much to me to see how loved and appreciated Dad was. I’m obviously feeling devastated by the loss but seeing his community around him all pull together has really warmed my heart and made the sadness so much easier. I’m so sad that I can’t come over to pay my last respects in person. I am currently studying in the UK, living off rands and spending pounds, so I haven’t been able to contribute much either. I’m grateful for all the caring angels in his life helping to give him a heartfelt sendoff that I haven’t been able to provide myself at this time. So I just want you all to know it really means the world to me!” he added.

Darryl and his Mom

David’s final thought on his Dad probably best summed up the man.

“There is so much I didnt know about him as he tended to keep me at a distance. I’m still processing everything. But hearing some of the wonderful stories and information about him over the past few days has made me feel a lot closer to him.”

While a number of horseracing folk and friends stepped forward with financial aid, benefactor Sita Govender kindly covered the costs of the funeral.

Dr Hassen Adams will host a wake to celebrate Darryl Hodgson’s life at his Nadeson Park Stud in Hermanus at 14h00 on Wednesday 21 February. Drinks and lunch will be served.

RIP Hodgsy.

Ed – we thank Dr Hassen Adams and Trudi-lee Low-Shan for supplying the photographs. We regret that the quality in some cases is not 100%, but the memories certainly make up for that.

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