Profile – Ricardo Sobotker

Ricardo Sobotker

Ricardo Sobotker

39 year old RICARDO SOBOTKER had a great grounding in the racing game. One of the first trainers he rode for, after completing his apprenticeship, was Joey Ramsden, in 1990, who was running Vaughan Marshall’s yard in Port Elizabeth. He then tried his luck in Cape Town but had no success so he returned to PE where he first rode for Dumas Coetzee and then ended his riding career with Gavin Smith. Ricardo, a born and bred Capetonian, decided to return to his home town where he kept in touch with Joey by riding work and helping out in the yard. In between his time with Joey he worked for Des McLachlan and Glen Puller. 

Ricardo has been with Joey for the past 14 years and has built a solid relationship with him. In that time he has been involved with the top horses in the yard such as Winter Solstice, Major Bluff and Bravura and now he has high hopes for King Of Pain who he expects to see contesting some big feature events. With the Ramsden yard clicking into top gear race followers are sure to see a lot of Ricardo. He often does the post-race interviews on Tellytrack for Joey. This weekend the stable has two runners in the Choice Carriers Championship and racegoers may expect a prominent run from Princess Salme.

What is your name and age? Ricardo Sobotker and I am 39 years old.

What is your star sign and birthdate? Sagittarius. 10 December.

Where were you born? Cape Town.

Where do you live? Cape Town.

Do you have a ‘nickname’? Aro and Ricky.

Favourite food? Curry or a good roast.

Favourite drink? Water.

Favourite music? Jazz or funk.

Favourite sport? Football and cricket.

Favourite books? Biographies or Autobiographies.

What are you reading right now? Signature Wound, it is a secret story of the Afghanistan war.

What is the quality you least like about yourself? I can get very sulky.

Are you interested in soccer, if so, which is your favourite soccer team? I love soccer, my favourite team is Manchester United.

Where did you go to school? Vanguard Primary School and I finished at the jockey academy.

What sort of a student were you? I was okay in the early days of my schooling.

Were you more interested in sport than studying? Yes I was.

Were you always interested in horses or were you attracted to the gambling side of racing? As a child I loved watching Politician run and obviously being small I was always keen on being a jockey.

How did you become an apprentice? I played a football game where someone saw my size and age. He approached me and set up an interview with the Jockey Club. That’s how I became an apprentice.

You rode in Port Elizabeth for 2-3 years. Who were the trainers you rode for in PE? I rode for Joey Ramsden when he was running Vaughan Marshall’s yard there. I then came back to Cape Town for six months, with no success. I then went back to P.E to ride for Dumas Coetzee and ended up with Gavin Smith.

Which were the best horses you rode in PE?  Black Flame and Another Treat, before the end of their careers.

What made you decide to leave PE and relocate to Cape Town? I’m a born and bred Capetonian. I will die here.

What did you do once in Cape Town before joining the stable of Joey Ramsden? I’ve always been kind of in touch with Joey’s yard, whether it was riding work or helping out in the yard. I also worked for Des McLachlan and Glen Puller in between.

In what year did you become assistant trainer to Joey Ramsden? I got my assistant’s licence in 2002.

Do you still ride work? On and off but not regularly.

You have been with Joey for about 14 years now. Would it be fair to say that you and Joey have struck up a really good relationship? Yes we know each other well and have a good relationship.

What is your job on a race day? First of all. Getting the horses and passports to the racecourse. Saddling them up. Making sure they have a good walk before the race and just making sure they are settled.

When the weather is bad how do your horses work. Do they just walk or do you have a treadmill? We have a treadmill which is a great help.

Joey Ramsden has a well-deserved reputation as being a really top man with horses. Which are the qualities about him which you would say have most influenced you? I like the way Joey gives every horse an equal opportunity. It does not matter whether they cost R2 million or R20 000 they are all given the chance to give of their best.

Down the years the Ramsden yard has turned out some real champions. Name some which have left you with lasting memories? I will never forget Winter Solstice’s win in the Queen’s Plate. Major Bluff’s Gold Cup win, Bravura in the 2010 Derby and then Variety Club’s Guineas win last year. All truly unforgettable wins which will stay with me for a long time.

At the moment Variety Club must be rated one of the best horses in SA and possibly the best 1600m horse around. Do you think we have seen the best of him or is there more to come? Variety Club raced quite early as a 2 year old because he was so forward. He is still going strong and, hopefully, he can win the Queen’s Plate in a few months’ time. It is possible that after that we will see him racing abroad. His win in the recent Pinnacle Stakes, over the Kennilworth 1400m and showed that all is going to plan for him.

The Greys Inn colt, King Of Pain, has won 4 of his 6 starts. If he contests the feature events for 3 year old’s, how would you rate his chance? He is, obviously, one of the very best in Cape Town. I believe that he has been crying out for the new course at Kenilworth and he must be a horse that will have a big impact on the summer season.

What is it about him that makes him so good? He has a great action and a great turn of foot plus lots of speed. He will probably stay 2000m, which is a bonus. In my opinion he has just about everything needed to make a great racehorse.

King Of Pain was beaten by Changingoftheguard in the Matchem Stakes over 1400m at Durbanville. What distance do you think will suit King Of Pain best? It is hard to say, at this stage, but I think we will see a different horse on the new course at Kenilworth.

The Australian bred, General Jubilation, owned by the Jooste’s, is already a 4 time winner. Do you feel he has the ability to contest any of the major feature races later in the season? I am not sure about that. He is a horse with many problems and he is probably best over 1400m and possibly 1600m.Unfortunately there is only 1 feature over a mile in the Cape.

The Cape feature season is now getting into full swing. Which horses from your yard do you think are going to be ‘stars’? Obviously Variety Club and King Of Pain. Bravura is working well again and is sound (touch wood). Leeward is coming back after a long break and Silvano’s Jet is one to watch.

Your stable has 2 horses, Trip Poker and Princess Salme, in the Choice Carriers Championship, Grade 2, run over the Kenilworth 1400m. How do you rate them? Trip Poker needed her last run and we are hoping for an improved run here. Princess Salme is doing well and found the last race too far for her. Stable jockey, Glen Hatt, rides her and we are expecting a big run here.

What is it about training horses that really inspires you? I love seeing the babies growing up and going through the ranks.

How interested in the breeding side of the game are you? I am not that interested at this stage but it might still grow on me.

Do you ever visit stud farms to see the stallions, mares and ‘babies’ on the farm? I have been with Joey a few times but I don’t go enough.

Which is your favourite stallion? Var is definitely doing the job.

When young horses are brought into the yard what are the qualities you look for? Good conformation and a good attitude.

How many horses are in the yard at present? 130.

Do you ever travel to any other countries to broaden your knowledge of training and racing? I have been to Singapore and Malaysia but I did not enjoy it.

Are any other members of your family involved in and interested in racing? No-I am the only one.

What would you say if asked how to encourage people to come racing again as they used to when you started out? I am not sure what to say but, maybe, there are too many totes too close to the racecourses.

There is an old saying, “Behind every great man is an even greater woman”. Does that apply to you? In my case I am happy to say-‘there certainly is’!!!


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