Profile – John Buckler

John Buckler

John Buckler served his early time as a trainer with Ormond Ferraris and gives generous praise to the man he says gave him a splendid grounding in training horses. He trained on his own for a year and then joined Mike de Kock in Gauteng. Since then his life has developed into something of a fairy tale as the de Kock yard has had spectacular success. When asked which horses to follow in the yard John is clearly stumped for an answer as there are just too many promising horses to bereally specific about any particular one of them. For all those avid about horse racing it will pay to follow the de Kock yard with John Buckler at the helm!

What is your name and age?  John Buckler  –  36yrs old

Where do you live?  I Commute between JHB and DBN due to the racing seasons.

Tell us about your family?  My family all live in JHB. I have 2 sisters and a brother.

How did you become interested in horse racing?  My sister was married to Rhys Van Wyk and I have always been interested in horses.

Who were the people in racing who had the biggest influence on you in your decision to make racing your career?  There wasn’t any specific trainer or person.

Before making your career in racing were you ever involved in any other businesses?  No I started working in racing yards when I left school.

When did you first become an assistant trainer?  Aug 1992.

Who did you first work for?  For Mr Ormond Ferraris.

Which was the best horse you worked with in the early part of your career? Tracey’s Element was a very good filly.

For a time you trained on your own. Where were you based and for how long did you train on your own?  I trained from Turffontein for a year from 2002 – 2003.

When and where did you train your first winner?  It was at Newmarket a week after I had taken out my trainers licence.

How many winners did you train?  14.

Which do you consider to be the best horse you have trained to date?  There have been so many good horses it is hard to single out any. Bold Silvano, Kavanagh, Link Man, Equal Image and Flirtation are all really good horses.

How did it come about that you joined the Mike de Kock yard?  I started working for Mike when I gave up my licence in 2003.

With Mike travelling all over the world, and around SA, do you have daily contact with him?  We do communicate with Mike over the phone and plan the programmes for feature race runners.

Who is the team which assist you in keeping the yard going at such a phenomenal rate?  Debbie Le Roux who has been with us the last 8 months based in JHB, Nathan Kotzen and Tammy Dawson who are based in Durban. There are also verygood staff who work at the stables who have been with us for a very long time.

How many horses do you have in your yard right now? 65 horses, who are in training at Randtjies.

What would you consider to be an ideal number of horses in your yard?  65 horses at the moment is manageable to train. The more horses that you have the more help you need.

Which do you consider to be the best horse you have in your stable right now?  At the moment we have a really good string of horses Mother Russia, Flirtation, Link Man, Igugu and others.

Which of your horses do you feel would be worth following over the next couple of months?  Welswitschia is a very nice3yr filly and has a lot of improvement to come.

Who are the jockey’s which ride work on a regular basis for the stable?  Johnny Geroudis, Anthony Delpech, T Appie, JP Van Der Merwe, R Simons. We try to gives the jocks who ride work as many rides as possible.

Do you feel a stable jockey, or jockeys, are essential to building a top yard?  You definitely need the jocks to ride work in the mornings for you; it is essential for them to give you feed back on the horses and for them to get to know their rides.

What does your working day consist of?  We are at the yard at 6am, the yard is checked before leaving for track at 7am then we work flat out till 11 – 11:30 then we start work again at 4 pm check over all the horses and feed up at 5 – 5:30

Do you find yourself being pestered in any way by punters wanting inside stable information?  I do get lots of phone calls especially when there are good runners on the day.

What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game?  Quality horses that perform well, and winning the feature races. Constant challenge to keep them at their best.

How keen are you on the breeding side of horse racing? I don’t really have time at the moment. The racing side keeps me more than busy.

Which are your favourite stallions?  Silvano and Tiger Ridge.

Do you have a favourite racehorse in SA?  Mother Russia.

Which is your favourite racecourse?  Turffontein.

Do you ever advise friends or family to have a punt on a horse you really like?  My family is not into racing or punting.

Which personalities in racing have had a big influence on your career and on your life?  Working for Mr. Ferraris gave me a good start and I learnt a great deal from him.

What is your preferred way to celebrate a big win?  Like to have a few drinks upstairs

If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is?  Never get too excited about a horse until it has proven itself on the track as anything can happen.

How do you like to spend your free time?   We don’t have much free time at the moment as we are very busy with our racing season.

How keen are the rest of your family on racing? Not very interested in racing.

Apart from racing what else are you passionate about?  Nothing really – I am constantly busy with racing.

How much time do you spend studying form in order to give you an edge on your rival trainers?  I generally look at the form of our opposition but do not take much time studying form.

What short term ambitions do have for yourself in the racing game?  To train as many winners as possible.

What are the characteristics you look for in the horse? Horses with good personality and always willing to work .

Generally speaking how much time will you give a horse before deciding if it is worthwhile keeping?  After 3 – 4 runs if a horse has not shown too much we advise to move it to a weaker centre.

You have been involved in the game for a long time. In all honesty how straight do you think racing is?  With all the controls there now are I think racing must be pretty straight.

You were a top trainer before joining Mike de Kock. How much have you learned from him?  You are always learning with horses. Mike definitely get his horses a lot fitter and doesn’t stick to the same program for each horse.

If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be?  Keep on trying and don’t give up, persevere.

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