Profile – Claude Comaroff

Ricardo Sobotker

Claude Comaroff

CLAUDE COMAROFF is a man whose passion in life is truly horseracing. In Louis Goosen he has a trainer in whom he has complete faith. His faith in his trainer, and his love of racing, is paying dividends for him as he has a string of good racehorses. An up and coming horse who should carry his colours with distinction is NEGEV. She will be taking her place in the R2.5 million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup over the Turffontein 1400m this Saturday. She has been trained with this race as her specific mission and she will have a host of followers. Trainer Goosen has planned her preparation with meticulous care and has left nothing to chance. Claude deserves all the luck needed to win a race of this description if only for the example he is setting by being prepared to leave the training, planning  and racing of his horses to the man who is paid to do it-the trainer. We will follow the progress of Negev with great interest.   

What is your name and age? Claude Michael Comaroff (63).

What is your star sign and birthdate? Taurus. 12 May 1949.

Where were you born? Johannesburg.

Where do you live? Johannesburg.

Tell us about your family? I have a wonderful wife called Joy, and a daughter called Yael.

Do you have a ‘nickname’? No.

Favourite food?  Chocolate!

Favourite drink?  I don’t drink alcohol. I enjoy most cold drinks.

Favourite music?  Jazz.

Favourite sport?  Horseracing.

Are you interested in soccer and, if so, which is your favourite soccer team?  Yes. Wigan in the English Premier League.

Favourite book?  Don’t read (except Sporting Post!)

Do you have a role model? My wife, Joy.

Who is the person you would most like to meet?  Mr. Mandela.

What is the quality you like least about yourself?  I tend to be highly strung.

Favourite holiday destination?   Kruger National Park.

Your name is almost permanently linked to that of trainer Louis Goosen. How did you become involved with him?  I was a member of The Whisperer.  Matthew Stevens referred me to Louis.

Was trainer Goosen your first trainer?  No. Charles Laird, then Wendy Whitehead/Duncan Mackenzie.

When did you get your owners colours? Approximately 15 years ago.

How did you become interested in horse racing?  The late Collie Fram introduced me to horseracing.

As a man who is really passionate about his horses, and racing in general, has this interest rubbed off on any other members of your family?  Yes. My wife follows my horses and enjoys attending race meetings.

Which was the best horse you owned early on as an owner?  La Boutique – won 3 or 4 races, ran 3rd to Hoeberg.

Have you ever given any horse to be trained to any trainer, other than Louis Goosen?  Not since I joined Louis and whilst he has trained for me. The results the team have produced for me are outstanding.

You have expressed great admiration for Louis. What are the qualities about him that you most admire? Professionalism, caring, honesty and good judgement. He doesn’t need a huge cheque book to find a nice horse. And he refuses to keep any horse just to fill a stable. He has a very high strike rate of horses getting to the racecourse and in the yard, the horses get only the very best care, feed and supplements.

When looking to buy horses, do you normally tell Louis how much you would like to spend and what sort of share you hope to have. Why do you think this arrangement has worked so well? I rely entirely on Louis’ good judgment and advice.

You own most of your horses in partnership. Did you organize these partnerships or did you leave it to Louis to find partners for you? I don’t organize the partners, but Louis and I do discuss each individual horse or partnership, when it is put together.

Right now you own, the filly, NEGEV, in partnership with Steve Reid, Brett Parker and Mario Wilken, who, although only a one time winner appears to have a lot of potential. What plans have you made for her?  Louis is as good an accountant as I am a trainer. So, he must make the calls as the trainer. It’s about more than that. It’s about my trusting him entirely, safe in the knowledge that he plans meticulously, is as honest as the day is long and is an excellent trainer, who knows how to produce results. As for Negev, her goal is the Ready to Run Cup. She won over the course and distance of the Cup, just before the course closed for Spring/Summer treatment. (Again- meticulous planning). The run on Emerald Day (1000m Sand) was simply to expose her to a large crowd, noise etc. she will have to encounter this again on Ready To Run Cup day. Her 1400m run at Vaal on 9th October was to be her final prep run, then a light gallop on 23rd October before Ready To Run Cup on 3rd November. This gallop would show her the “now green” turf grass and would be late afternoon. This would be to show her the “shadows” which she will encounter, come race time. This is how Louis does things (also why I leave it to him). So, 9th October was lost and Louis looks to Plan B. She ran on the 16th October (night) at Turffontein over 1160m. That was her final prep where she stayed on nicely in a competitive field for fourth. The exciting thing about Negev is that she will want further and will improve with time.

You own the Sophomore Fillies 1000 winner, Rooi Nooi. What do you and Piere think of her? I feel she has a bright future on the sand. Piere and her get along very well, he loves gate speed on the 1000m sand races and even when handy, he gets her to kick. Piere is truly gifted and I believe that we are lucky to have him ride for us.

You bought her at the Ready To Run sale at Summerhill Stud for R60000. How did you and your partners come to buy her?  I went with Louis to the sale, along with Mario Wilken. Mario bought the filly on Louis’ recommendation and I expressed keen interest in becoming his partner. Shortly after buying the filly, Mario had second thoughts but I encouraged him to trust Louis’ judgement and as a result, we have both had a lot of fun with her.

Waywest Goddess was a top filly and she won about R1,2 million in prize money. She was only purchased for R60000 at the Ready To Run sale. How did you feel when she won the Grade 2 Fillies Nursery?  Over the moon! No words can actually describe the feeling! I was actually in a lot of pain as I had just had a neck op and the win was the best medicine!

Where is she now and do you still have an interest in her?  She has been sold and has gone to stud. I believe she is going to Var.

Tell us about the other horses you own and which of them you think could do really well? I am involved in 10 horses in partnership. Variometer is a 4 time winner. Her wins include the Ruffian Stakes and Bauhinia Hcp. Jolly Poppins is a 3 time winner. Negev and Rooi Nooi both have bright futures ahead. I also have shares in 6 unraced horses including a 3 year old Jet Master gelding. The rest are 2 year olds by Daylami, Black Minnaloushe, Albert Hall, Var and Eyeofthetiger. All in all, I have a lot to look forward to!

You have owned some very promising fillies. If these fillies do well enough to consider sending to stud would you want to keep shares in them?  No. Louis has advised me to be an owner and not a breeder.

If it comes to choosing stallions for your mares which stallion or stallions would you go for? Not really applicable but in Louis words, I would have to say “Var by far”.

You were an accountant in your business life. Did you not, perhaps, find accountancy, boring as compared to racing?  Accountancy was never as exciting as horseracing!

What did you like most about your job as an accountant?  The challenge.

Now that you have stopped working, for personal reasons, it seems that racing is the great passion in your life. How much time do you put into all aspects of racing?  Most of the day- I really love the game!

How many horses do you have running in your colours at the moment?  Amongst the horses currently racing, only Negev. The unraced 2 year old Eyeofthetiger filly, Miss Balboa, will also race in my colours. My partners and I haven’t decided yet regarding the other unraced horses.

How many Graded winners have you had in your career?  Grade 2 Fillies Nursery – Waywest Goddess. Waywest Goddess also won the Champion Gauteng 2 Year Old Filly Award.

Which major feature races have you won? The Ruffian Stakes – twice – Waywest Goddess and Variometer, The Gardenia Handicap – Waywest Goddess, The Bauhinia Handicap- Variometer.

What would you say has been your most memorable day in racing? Waywest Goddess winning The Ruffian Stakes. I had a premonition that she would win and had planned my speech in the car on the way to the races!

As a long standing owner you will have been associated with many jockeys. Who would you say were the jockeys who impressed you most? Piere Strydom without a doubt. He is sheer class, an absolute gentleman and actually has no idea how good he really is. I am also very fond of Deon Sampson who has done very well for us over the years. He is also a very nice guy with a good attitude. Anton Marcus only rides for us on the odd occasion. He is always courteous, professional and top class.

What is your philosophy on the racing game?  I am in racing for the love of the game. It’s a passion! Enjoy racing to the fullest and trust your trainer to reap the biggest rewards.

From what you have seen and experienced do you think racing is ‘straight’? Yes. It is extremely competitive and there’s no time to play games.

Have you any ideas as to how to bring more people, be they owners, punters or generally just those who like to watch racing, back to the racecourses?  I am an accountant, not a marketing man. Having said that, I would like to see more young people at the races. Perhaps a funky venue with a good vibe at the races for the young, with food and beverage at good prices for them.  A sushi bar!

The saying is “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman”. Does this apply to Claude Comaroff? Definitely! My wife Joy supports me 100%. I couldn’t contemplate life without her.

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