If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad…we know what has to happen. The remarkable success achieved by veteran Turffontein-based trainer Brian Wiid with Greyville raids is a life lesson in improvisation and adaptation. And he is also over the moon that his ten year long prayer that the Vaal sand course be closed, has been answered.
“Look, there are guys that will be sorry to see the Vaal sand go. But I am not one of them. I just could never get that track right. On the flipside of the coin, Greyville and the polytrack suit the way I train my horses,” he says, adding that the short straight, much on the lines of the Germiston of old, demands speed and fitness.
And the proof of the pudding is certainly in the eating.
On Sunday, Steve Reid and Rod Matthyse’s Dutch Harbour became the eighth Brian Wiid winner. That with the new season just three weeks old – and seven of those have been saddled at Greyville!
And it was a peach of a top drawer ride by the inimitable Andrew Fortune, who somehow kept Dutch Harbour’s nose in front from the top of the straight – part owner Steve Reid summing it up rather nonchalantly as a ‘bit of a sweat’.
Fortune was at his best in the post-race interview, suggesting modestly that the others had little chance on the days he brought his ‘A game’ to the races.
Brian Wiid has found the winning recipe with his new strategy.
“The Greyville raids have really worked well.I drive them myself and Choice Carriers have also been a great help. I try and find two meetings close together – that works. I don’t leave the horses there longer than a week, as I find the surplus of oxygen makes them go a bit flat. I may give it a bit of a break now in September as I have been backwards and forwards a bit. And then towards December, it also gets very hot down there,” he warns.
Is the KZN racing weak, we asked?
“Thirty years ago Natal racing was a serious power. Naturally the off season is always quite moderate. I see the Cape as the bastion of our racing strength now, followed by Gauteng. The thing is the serious buying power is in the Cape – yet they can’t fill their fields and their stakes aren’t exactly wonderful either. It is quite a mix – the punting power and gambling culture lies in Gauteng and KZN too, I reckon.”
The newest hardest working jockey in town, Andrew Fortune, who has ridden four of the winners, has been key to the Wiid-KZN success story.
“Andrew just has the most amazing hands and is a great judge of pace. And when a jockey gets off a horse, whether it be in work or after a race, and can provide intelligent feedback – well that is just one of the handiest tools for any trainer,” he said.
The 66 year old Brian Wiid, who jokes that he was always too heavy to be a jockey, has been training horses since 1974 and has conditioned some top horses, including champion sprinter Knife Edge and Summer Handicap winner , the Jean Heming ‘chuck out’, Cardinal Fury.
“It is not easy with limited buying power and numbers to find the champions, but I have been blessed with some really smart horses. Interestingly, Cardinal Fury won the Summer Handicap the only year it was run at Germiston. Empress Club was 1 to 3 favourite but she was never in the race,” he recalls.
Brian currently has a string of 56 horses at his Turffontein home base, where he says that his wife Ronelle is the ‘best horse in the yard.’
“My wife is the pillar in the business and I have a core of excellent loyal staff. Then my son Grant is very up to speed on the technological side. I would have liked him to get more involved, but he has too much of a bloody good job to get too serious about gravitating into this business,” he laughs.
“We will keep going and working hard. We will never get Germiston back – but the Turffontein polytrack plans are exciting news. Let’s just hope that happens soon!”