Bloodstock agent Justin Vermaak has his sights set on better things. He tells of his passion for bloodstock, his plans for the future and all about his new initiative, The Gulf Racing Club.
“Dr Andreas Jacobs plucked me out of the handicappers office at the NHA and invited me into the world of breeding and bloodstock. I haven’t looked back since then. I think having the handicapping and racing form background gives a nice edge when buying and sourcing horses but they are very different disciplines,” Justin tells the Sporting Post in a catch up earlier this week.
It was tough starting out as a bloodstock agent, and finding clients was a challenge. So Justin launched Green Street Bloodstock, a pooling together of smaller owners to get the funds to buy horses. Green Street continues to be something he looks back on with immense pride.
“We started buying R20 000 horses and in five years had put together over 100 winners, multiple stakes winners and Gr1 placed horses. Anyone who has dabbled in syndication knows how hard it is to rack up those numbers, especially at the top end. It’s another thing entirely operating at a low budget,” enthuses Justin.
Green Street’s performance as a commercial syndicator encouraged many new entities to do the same, which Justin feels is fantastic. Luckily for him , the ability to buy at the bottom and perform reasonably well put him on the map with larger clients.
“Nobody has been of bigger assistance than Laurence Wernars. I joined his team through Johan Janse Van Vuuren just over two years ago and we could not be any better.”
“Laurence currently has eight horses rated over 110, which is more than any other owner and double the amount of some really big racing operations, which is a feather in his cap,” informs Justin.
The first buying crop of horses bought by Justin for Laurence are now four-year-olds. They include Celestial Love, Copper Mountain and Puerto Manzano.
The next crop, which are now three already, look very exciting according Justin, with the likes of Mufasa, Val D’orcia, Prince Of Fire and Moonshiningthrough starting their careers off well.
When Dr Jacobs once again offered Justin an opportunity to expand his horizons, he jumped at the chance to set up a permanent international headquarters.
“I’ve been flirting with changing base for a few years now since opening up a racing operation in Singapore and becoming more involved in international trade,” says the enthusiastic horseman.
While his volume of work has always been about 50/50 in terms of South African revenue vs international revenue, three-years ago that began to change. With up to 75% of Justin’s work international now, the timing was right for a permanent move.
“I have a good set of buyers in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East all looking for horses in training. I managed to sell South African horses to all the above mentioned jurisdictions last year, but not one horse had a smooth transit and the travel is always a disaster.
“Until that changes, South Africa is not on the radar for them anymore,” says Justin.
Over the past few years Justin managed to sustain the international work by regular travel with either one or two international trips per month. But with the difficulty in travel over the past year, it makes sense for him to have a more user-friendly base to work from.
He will be based in Europe during the flat racing period and auction sales season, while being based in the UAE for the winter months, when Dubai has its Carnival. The time in Dubai will also suit his schedule around the new initiative that has been formed. It has recently been seen on social media – The Gulf Racing Club.
“A local partner and friend of mine is involved with the set up and I will be doing stock sourcing for the team plus a liaison.
“We already have our first horse, Listed Stakes winner Celtic Voyager. He was originally destined for Singapore but during the 12-month travel period, Singapore Racing took a big covid hit and we decided to set the horse up for the Dubai Carnival instead. Considering he would be there early and can target the earlier Carnival racing, it was a perfect fit,” enthuses Justin.
According to Justin The Gulf Racing Club bought the remaining shares and will race him with Mike De Kock this winter. Celtic Voyager should have his first run at Chantilly at the end of September, to add a bit of race fitness after his long rest. He’ll then travel to Dubai to be ready for November’s racing.
“We are busy adding to the string. There is a sale in Dubai on Saturday and we have short listed a few horses which we will try purchase to add to our team.
“We are primarily looking at horses with a bit of stamina that may be on the low side and that have the ability to win at Meydan. Then after the Carnival, they can go to Mathew De Kock in Australia to continue racing for high stakes in a distance category which is a bit weaker over there.”
Justin will continue to return to South Africa for the CTS Premier Yearling sales and the BSA National Yearling sales and continue his work for Laurence Wernars at the auctions, as well as his association with Maine Chance Farms.
“Most things are pretty manageable remotely these days. The only major priority for being here is the main auction sales and that’s just a quick flight away.
“My first stop will be Germany in November with the intention of starting 2022 already set up in Dubai for the Carnival. It is quite daunting in a way, but my wife and I are very excited about it. Plus after welcoming our son into the world last year October, we owe him the best opportunity to succeed in life.”
“When I look back at everything, having started with buying R20 000 horses for Green Street, to buying for Laurence Wernars and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It has been quite a journey over the last few years and shows what this amazing sport can do!” concludes Justin with a smile.
Contact Justin Vermaak to find out more about The Gulf Racing Club now – [email protected]
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