When Rondeberg trainer Andre Nel won a Mickey Mouse MR 72 Handicap with 20-1 shot Skip A Beat on J&B Met Saturday, his post-race quip summed up the unspoken sentiment felt by surely the majority of his battle scarred colleagues. ”It is so nice to win a race on Snaith Day!” he said with a broad smile.
The irony for Nel is that his boss Sabine Plattner is a Snaith Racing patron, and one can only wonder which Cape owner isn’t going to desire (secretly or otherwise) at least a leg of a horse with the Phillipi-based family operation, after their eight win rout in 12 races – including the first six in a row – on what we believe has got to be a world record shattering orgy of triumph.
This was simply embarrassing butt-kicking dominance on a scale few of us have witnessed in any sporting arena.
Sure, the blonde wannabee handicapper in the mod tight fitting suit threw the kitchen sink at the Met card – as he generally loves to do on the Cape’s two big days.
34 runners is double the permanent equine population of many of his colleagues.
But it is the Snaith’s larger opposition who must be wondering what makes the J&B Team (that’s Justin and brother, by the way) so damn effective.
Met Day 2016 really started on 4 July 1972, the day Justin’s current senior assistant, and chief float driver Dad, Chris, became the youngest racehorse trainer in South Africa at the age of 22.
In the spring of that same year, with the Moody Blues topping the charts with the anthemic Nights In White Satin, Chris and wife Sue, with a string of five horses, saddled the first Snaith runner.
In those days, when we could still buy a genuine proper bloomin’ racecard from the Kimberley Café and jackpot dividends were published in the Argus around midnight, websites were things found in dark and dusty corners of the stable – and social media was little more than a bottle of Lieberstein and a packet of Lexington 20’s on Clifton Beach.
How times have changed into the 21st century!
Chris eventually dropped the reins and took a back seat.
His two sons – the good looks were a bonus – were foist into the limelight. The one was the marketer, the other a horseman like Dad. The trick is they can both do both jobs.
They talked the talk – but it helped that they have also walked the walk.
Besides the late Theo de Klerk’s innovative flower in the lapel and dignified dapper look from the sixties, that so appealed to the original swallows, trainers didn’t always seem too preoccupied with public image. Winners were always more important.
But the Snaiths have long clicked that this is a numbers game and they needed the horses. And if you don’t ask, you just don’t get.
It’s a ‘lose if you snooze’ mentality of marketing aggression. Sort of, look after your owners – or we will.
And they just seem to have it all – they saddled the big race winners – most days they said the right things – they got the right guys behind them – and they have always appealed to a diverse spectrum from youth to seasoned racing folk- the type trainers battle to bluff.
They led the pack with the first trainer website in South Africa over a decade ago.
They have just marketed themselves cleverly – no trainer can do it without the owners and the horse – and the Snaith results have followed.
And in a cut-throat competitive dog-eat-dog game, they have grown. Not everybody loves them – do they care? Hardly- they’re too busy with post-race speeches!
It is the small soft touches too – the public and their owners love the morning fashion shoot of the champions on the beach that have become a regular feature on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
It was no harm that Justin became SA champion trainer at age 39 in the 2013/14 season and he is set to break all records again this term as he leads the national log – with 128 winners and an 18% win strike rate at precisely the halfway mark this week.
Some wag suggested that ‘Snaith’s elation at his phenomenal achievement was tempered just a little by not winning either of the two big Grade 1 races on the day’.
After the last race, Snaith said he’d swap the eight wins for a victory in the Met.
“I’ve got to get it right and win the Met!” he exclaimed. “But I’ll take this as a good second prize.”
Sure, they need to learn to train a Met winner – they have had enough opportunities and they don’t want to get to Karl Neisius’ advanced years and have to rue the lost opportunities and what could have been.
On the day, four of the eight Snaith winners were ridden by multiple South African champion jockey Piere Strydom and two by Bernard Fayd’Herbe – with one apiece by S’manga Khumalo and Heavelon Van der Hoven.
And Strydom, particularly, needs an accolade for his outstanding contribution.
How the Gauteng trainers fail to give this magician a regular flow of top-class rides is beyond logic. The thought of him teaming up with Snaith on a permanent basis must be a scary poser for the beleaguered opposition ranks.
And, as if scripted to add to the drama, the day saw a fairytale ending- almost as if the Snaith team were borrowing a trick devised by Milnerton trainer Glen Puller with his Million Dollar magic of a week earlier.
Substituting originally engaged S’manga Khumalo with ‘super sub’ Heavelon Van der Hoven to win the last race on Baritone to round off a dream day just proved the level of confidence.
Hell, this is a bloody easy game when you’re on top!
Well done Snaiths.
Pics- Snaith Racing Facebook