Stuart Pettigrew must rate as one of the most experienced trainers in the country. He quietly and efficiently goes about his business which for him is getting the most out of the horses placed in his care. By his own admittance he is in the game for the love of training a horse and the rewards which come are secondary. The best horse he has ever trained was Tyson and Stuart is ever hopeful that the next ‘Tyson’ is just around the corner. With his dedication and work ethic Stuart has every chance of finding another champion.
What is your name and age? Stuart Thomas Pettigrew, I’m 47 this year.
Where do you live? Centurion, Pretoria.
Tell us about your family? My wife, Lauren & I have been married for 25yrs & we have a son, Ryan, he’s 24 this year.
How did you become interested in horse racing? My older brother, Graham was a jockey so I decided to become an apprentice.
Who were the people in racing who had the biggest influence on you in your decision to make racing your career? My brother.
Before making your career in racing were you ever involved in any other businesses? No, I became an apprentice at the age of 14.
When did you first become an assistant trainer? It was in 1981.Who did you first work for? I worked for Mr. Keith Chant & Mr. Roy Magner.
Which trainers were you really friendly with when you got into the game? I have always got on with most of the trainers.
When did you get your open licence? It was in 1991.
Who were your first owners? Mr. Dave Lewis, Mrs. Bridget Parker, the late Paul Voyiatzakis & Mr. Alex Markou.
When and where did you train your first winner? It was at Newmarket on 30/10/1991.
Which do you consider to be the best horse you have trained to date? Definitely Tyson!
As a trainer who is not known for spending really big money at yearling sales do you feel this has put you at a disadvantage with trainers who have big spending power? I honestly think most of the top trainers are on top because they have the buying power to buy the top bred horses.
How do you go about buying horse, both yearlings and older horses, knowing that your owners are not going to spend top prices? Well, that’s simple, I have to cross off the ones I think will go for money & then look at the rest!
Who is your stable jockey and how important to your yard is a stable jockey? Marko van Rensburg is my jockey, I feel it’s very important to have a stable jockey.
Do you like to tell a jockey how to ride your horse in a race; and do you let him ‘ride him as he finds him’? I tell the jock how I would like him to ride my horses.
Are any other members of your family involved in racing? My older brother Graham works in the Mark Johnson yard in England.
What is the team which assist you in keeping the yard going at full speed? I don’t have an assistant, but all my grooms know that I expect hard work from them at all times.
How many horses do you have in your yard right now?I have 50 at the moment.
What would you consider to be an ideal number of horses in your yard? I think 75 would be ideal.
Which do you consider to be the best horse you have in your stable right now? Spiced Gold, who is a Gr.1 winner & Salutation who ran 2nd in the ‘Oaks’ (Gr.2), I think she’s a good ‘staying’ filly.
Which of your horses do you feel would be worth following over the next couple of months? I have 32 unraced horses, so we’ll just have to wait until they start racing.
As a keen follower of the game which horses, other than your own, would you advise racegoers and punters to follow over the next couple of months both on the rand and in KZN? Royal Zulu Warrior & Igugu.
In recent times your stable appears to have struck top form. Are you doing anything differently or is it just an accumulation of experience coming to the fore? No changes – just putting the right horses in the right races. If they are well in themselves they do the rest.
What does your working day consist of ? Just that….work, work, work!!
Has the success of Mike de Kock, in particular, and other SA trainers and jockeys overseas inspired you in any way and do you have any interest in taking a string to race in Dubai for instance? Mike has shown the rest of world that we can train winners anywhere, our jockeys can ride with the best of them & our horses can run with the best of them.
At this stage of your career what are your main ambitions? All I want is to do the best I can with the horses that I train.
What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game? My passion is to train a racehorse, to be honest I’m not passionate about the ‘game’ itself.
How keen are you on the breeding side of horse racing? I would not like to breed myself but I like looking up bloodlines etc.
Do you like to study pedigrees? Yes, I do.
Which are your favourite stallions? I don’t really have a favourite but think that SA has some very nice stallions.
Do you have a favourite racecourse in SA? Yes, Greyville.
Do you ever advise friends or family to have a punt on a horse you really like? Only if I’m asked.
What is your preferred way to celebrate a big win? I just enjoy the win & carry on trying to get more.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? A trainer is only as good as the horses he trains.
Is there anything about being a trainer that really gets you down? Let’s just say “there are more downs then ups”!
Racing in SA is going through troubled times. In your opinion do you think that some of those in authority are too involved in politics and not giving enough thought to the good of racing? Too much politics and not enough focus on the sport itself.
How do you like to spend your free time? I enjoy a round of golf or braaing with friends.
How keen are the rest of your family on racing? They will only watch racing if I have runners & also like to watch the big races here & overseas.
Apart from racing what else are you passionate about? I love all sports.
If you could not be a trainer what else would you like to do with your life? Being on a game reserve would be good, something to do with animals.
How much time do you spend studying form in order to give you an edge on your rival trainers? I study form a lot when I have a runner.
What are the physical characteristics you look for in horses you would like to buy? A horse just needs to ‘catch my eye’.
Generally speaking how much time will you give a horse before deciding if it is worthwhile keeping? I would probably give it 4 to 5 runs.
You have been involved in the game for a long time. In all honesty how straight do you think racing is? I think racing is a lot straighter than a lot of other sports in the world.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? Unfortunately it is not as professional as it used to be, which is sad.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? I would say just train & prepare your horse well & if he or she is good enough, it will do the rest.