Game Of Thrones – Long Live Louis The King

Geoff Woodruff talks about Louis, life after the Triple Crown, July hopes and export protocols.

It’s all gone a bit quiet since 26 April at Turffontein, so I thought I’d catch up with Louis The King and his entourage to see what life’s been like since the coronation and what they’re plotting for their onslaught on the Zulu Kingdom.

Geoff Woodruff

Geoff Woodruff

Geoff, now that the dust has settled, the big day is behind you and the crown is firmly in the trophy cabinet, what was it all like? “It’s a much nicer feeling afterwards, put it that way! There was hardly a word spoken at the yard that morning. During the whole thing it was all quite stressful. You try for it not to be, but it is and to be honest, it was more of a relief than anything once it was all over.”

What did Robbie have to say about the ride? “Robbie said basically that he always knew Louis would get the trip, but they sure tested him out. It was a good strong pace and the fact that he showed such a turn of foot off that kind of pace I think bodes well for a tight track.”

How was Louis afterwards – some horses seem to know when they’ve won, but as the worst Louis has ever finished is second, did he know he’d done something extra special or is winning fairly routine for him? “He pulled up fine and he is his absolute normal self. He had a bit of a look around the following day, and gave a bit of a nip in the afternoon, but then he was back to the same old Louis.”

Where to now? “He’s actually on the road right now and due in Durban this afternoon (Monday, 26 May). His groom Marcus is traveling down with him. Carole and I are already here and will go down to the yard this afternoon to settle him in.”

Plans for the future? “We’re in a similar position we were in with Elusive Fort back in 2006 – do you go for the money when it’s there, or gamble on going straight for the July? It’s not a question worrying about the Merit Rating. There’s R2 million and Gr1 at stake – there’s no holding back! So it’s pretty simple really. There’s the Daily News on Saturday and then on to the July. The Daily News will not be easy, we’re under no illusions. Legislate was very impressive in the Guineas, I thought. He’s obviously very well suited to Greyville and knows the track. I would make him the one to beat and if we can, we will do so. If he can beat Legislate, I shouldn’t think it will move him up too far, but it will all depend on the protocols. If all the horses higher up in the weights stay, then Louis will be fine. But if they do have to go into quarantine before the July, it will throw it all wide open.”

Hold on a minute, which horses are going abroad?  “Of my lot: Yorker and possibly Tellina. Tellina is still being discussed and they haven’t reached agreement yet. There are two partners in Tellina – Terry Young, who I think is sceptical and Andreas Jacobs, who I think is pretty keen. But I leave that part of things to the owners – I can’t interfere. Their aspirations are for them alone, we’ll back them whatever call they make. We’re not happy for the horses to go the Mauritius route, so both would aim for USA, which means doing quarantine here and then 60 days in the US, after which they can go where they like. Both horses would go to Mike de Kock.”

Will they transfer to the De Kock string, or will they still run under your name? “Mike would be doing the work – that would be glaringly obvious when I’m still seen back here – and I wouldn’t be that selfish to try and keep them in my name. They’d be trained by Mike straightaway and good luck. He’s the expert over there and has all the infrastructure in place. Only one man can train a horse at a time and Mike is astute enough – I’ll just tell him the horses’ quirks and idiosyncrasies and he’ll see to it that things are taken care of from there.”

Will Yorker line up for the July? “At this stage it’s 50/50 and we want to be perfectly honest about that – we don’t want people doing their money in cold blood. It all depends on the export requirements and when they’ll need to go into quarantine. If the quarantine starts after the July, he’ll run, but if not, he won’t. We’re hoping to know one way or another by the end of this week or early next week. It’s just terrible that our racing has to be governed by quarantine protocols that should have been dealt with long ago. We’re very unhappy about the export situation at the moment. They’ve had plenty of time to get things sorted by now. I believe that they might be trying, but I believe they’ve wasted money. This stuff about the Aussies and so on not wanting our horses is rubbish. The Australians welcome our horses with open arms. As high up as Government level, the protocol simply hasn’t been addressed properly. We should have been able to prove by now that we can export a horse and not export AHS with it. When export protocols have ramifications on races as big as the July, I think it’s unfair on everyone – owners, trainers, jockeys and Joe Public. The powers that be have sat on their hands for long enough and they need to get galvanised into some sort of action – concrete action – so that we all know where we stand.”

Kevin Shea

Kevin Shea – big race temperament

Who will ride Louis?  “Louis will be ridden by Kevin Shea in the Daily News and in the July. He’s got a similar build to Robbie and is a similar type of rider, we like him and he’s got big race temperament. I spoke to Tiaan and he agreed. We both like Kevin and you know, happily Kevin agreed, so we’re very pleased to have him for both races. Louis will be at the track on Tuesday and I’ll get Kevin down this week to swing a leg over – he’s likely to be a bit disappointed – Louis is a bit of a lazy worker!”

What other horses do you have coming down? “Rake’s Chestnut is also traveling down with Louis. He has the dubious honour of having to perform against Louis and Legislate, but he is not to be ignored. If he takes to the track and runs his best race, he’s a good horse. I think he showed that against Lockheed Jetstar on Champions Day – I thought that was a very good performance. Glen hopped off him in the 2nd box and said ‘this is a good horse’. He lost his way because he needed gelding, but I think you’ll hear a lot of him in time to come if he lives up to what we think of him.”

What else can we look forward to on Saturday? “We’re running 3 fillies in the Woolavington. Zephira disappointed us in the Oaks – we don’t know why if I’m quite honest – she seemed well, but just didn’t show up for the race that day. A filly I do like a lot is Touch The Sky – I think she’s very useful. They’re both nice fillies and have still got improvement to come, but of the two I think Touch The Sky has the most still to come. Gavin Lerena is going to ride her for us. Arcetri Pink is out of a Galileo mare and last time he rode her, Robbie said he thinks she’ll go further, so we’re going to have a go over 2000m. We’ve got Anthony Delpech booked for the ride and I’m very pleased.”

Master Sabina won well on Sunday – how do you pronounce the name anyway – is it Sa-BEE-nah or Sa-BUY-nah? “He’s actually very cleverly named. He’s by Jet Master and his dam is a Sportsworld mare called Sabina Park, after the famous Jamaican cricket ground, so it should be pronounced Master Sa-BUY-nah. He’s a very, very good horse, you know. He’s just got a weak constitution and any little thing upsets him terribly. He’s been gelded – you’d have thought he’d gone to the gallows – but he’s got over that and he’s over his haemo-concentrating and all that, thank heavens. We thought we saw a gallop 2 weeks earlier that suggested he was on his way back and we were really hoping for it, so I was absolutely thrilled to see him come back on Sunday. He beat a good quality field too. We’re going to aim him for the Cup Trial and see if we can slide him into the July that way. He’s clearly good enough – his 2nd to Yorker in the Summer Cup I think proves that – and that’s his proper form.”

The July selection always seems to generate a lot of discussion. What do you make of this year’s system?  “I’m very glad they’ve identified some preferential races. I’ve always felt that the horse that wins the Derby or any Gr1 mile and above for that matter, should be treated as a preferential candidate. The Rising Sun and the Cup Trial are good examples. The Cup Trial is always a good race, particularly for handicappers who are coming into the July at lower weights – I think it’s a good indicator of a horse that’s a lively runner in the July. People will always disagree on whatever system is used, but there should be no glaring anomalies, should we say. I find it absurd that a 1–time winner in a work riders’ race got in ahead of Tellina last year. There was a lot of unhappiness about that call and in hind sight, anyone who made that call I think will realise it was a mistake. There were three marginal calls last year that finished in the 2nd half of the July field. There were a number of horses that were left sitting on the side line that would have finished in the first half. But let’s leave it at that. You have to have guideline races and you need to take cognisance of them. Also, when it comes to short heads and 3yo colts, you’ve got to be realistic.”

You have an exceptional string of horses at the moment, it must be a nice position to be in? “Really the nicest thing about it all is that these horses were all bought and raised with us. We’ve had them all the time and we know them very well and it’s tremendously satisfying to see them come through and win at Gr1 level.”

One last question for the Louis fans out there – how do you think he’ll shape up in the Durban season? “He’s in good shape and we’re very happy with him.”

I’d say that’s game on!

I’ve said it before, but I have to say again just how welcoming and accommodating Geoff Woodruff and his staff are. We sent a team to get some photos of their main guns for you all to enjoy.  All photographs by hamishNIVENPhotography


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