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Billy’s Icebreaker!

Quattro Passi - a memorable win

Like a test batsman who has escaped the nervous ‘noughties’, Turffontein trainer Billy ‘The Kid’ Ruiters is hopeful that his icebreaking winner at the Vaal on 27 January will now set the foundation for his first century.

And before we settled down to a chat, we asked where he thought his next winner may be?

Billy Ruiters – loves the game (Pic – JC Photos)

Billy fancies the chances of House Master in the opener at the Vaal on Thursday.

“Donovan Cooper rode him last time. He was not allowed to use his crop as it was his first race around the turn. Now on Thursday he gets the crop, even though he cannot use it behind the saddle. The gelding is well and I think he will go close!”he told the Sporting Post with some measure of confidence.

Unconventional and unorthodox are the words that spring to mind when chatting to the Hollywoodbets-sponsored conditioner, who saddled the Eightfold Path 5yo Qauttro Passi to a memorable milestone victory in a modest handicap at the Vaal on that generally not-so-thrilling Thursday last month.

But facts are facts, and while it’s not quite on the level of those Ripleys believe-it-or-not tales that we used to read as our mouths moulded the flavour infused chappies chewing gum, to train your first winner when most are focussing on retirement, is no mean feat.

“It’s like getting that first run on the board – you are not going to go out for a duck,” laughs Billy as he outlines the pleasure that veteran champion jockey Mark Khan and the well-travelled Quattro Passi gave him when the pair charged home to beat Lulu’s Boy by over a length in the MR 66 Handicap.

Relatively fancied at 5-1 after a decent second at his penultimate start, Quattro Passi was not winning out of turn.

“He was one of a batch of horses that went to Durban for what turned out to be a bit of a wasted exercise. When he returned he looked like he needed a square meal and we have worked on building him up. This was his sixth run back with me and I knew he would run a big race,” says the man who started out in the dark old days of discrimination with ambitions of becoming a jockey.

Quattro Passi (Mark Khan) is led in by Jomo Shabalala, Stincky Poie, Billie Ruiters & Joseph Chauke

“I ride a lot of my own work, but this is a strong fellow, so Mark Khan came and worked him a week before the win. He jumped off and, being the good judge he is, said that Quattro Passi is well and should go close. He asked me what I was going to do with him in the interim – I said, walk, trot, walk,trot, walk, trot – then race! History shows it worked out as planned and congratulations must go to owner Benny Marais,” adds a pleased as punch, Billy.

Over 46 years in the racing industry have fashioned Billy – he doesn’t have stars in his eyes but is determined to make a success of training.

“I started for my own account when Chris Erasmus left for KZN in January last year. So, yes, it took me a year to break the ice, but I only had five horses in my string to start with and that’s now grown to 30, with a few nice babies in the mix too.”

Billy will run the first of his 2yo’s in a few weeks.

“Having few runners, means one could be tempted into rushing things. But patience is a vital business asset when it comes to racing. And I’m pleased with the feedback on the babies. Denis Schwarz has singled out one filly who he feels is feature material in time. That’s encouraging. But I’m not getting ahead of myself!”

He adds that having good workriders is important for feedback and planning.

“One of the senior jockeys said he’d come regularly but I have never seen him again. But Neo Quale and Charles Ndlovu are a major help to me and we get through the work,” he adds as he says he is keen to increase the size of his string.

Clint Binda (Pic-Candiese Lenferna)

“I only have three owners – but I am fortunate to say that they are staunch. Hollywoodbets have been a massive help with the sponsorship of blankets and equipment. I must thank Clinton Binda for introducing them when I started out. I had very little and it was a godsend. Anthony Delpech and the team have been very helpful and kind too.”

On the state of the game, Billy, who celebrates his 64th birthday on 27 October, says he remains a realist.

“Things are tough across the board. But good ethics and hard work are excellent foundation stones. And I wake up every day knowing that there is absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing for a living – how many people can say that?”

The fifth of twelve children born to Emily and Willem Ruiters in the Elandsriver District of Uitenhage, Billy started out life wanting to be a jockey.

But black and coloured applicants were not allowed at the SA Jockey Academy at the time and the eager young man’s ambitions were dashed.

“I dreamt of a career as a jockey for many years. And then one day I experienced a lifechanger. I met a trainer by the name of Mr Lynton Ryan at Fairview Racecourse. He was like a Dad to me. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He inspired me and said that I could do other jobs beyond being a jockey. He guided me to become an honest player in the racing profession.”

Read the latest issue of the SPRINT:

Billy fondly recalls jockeys like the late Jo-Jo Myburg, Domingo De Allende, Martin Shum, Bill Spencer and Claude Walker.

“These were the jockeys I worked with every day. They would teach me how to hold the reins. How to sit on a horse. And how to remain honest to one’s morals. I was an impressionable 18 year old when I started in the racing industry in 1976.”

An early highlight for the passionate young man was saddling the Jackpot at Arlington, ‘way back when’.

“Mr Ryan had left for Durban to help his father Mr Terry Ryan, and I was in charge of managing the PE stables on his behalf. I was also responsible for riding work. Mr Ryan told me to work all the horses myself. The jockeys were a bit peeved off about it. But when the yard saddled the Jackpot that week, everybody was thrilled!”

Today Billy prides himself on family and his horses.

“My daughter Ursula just had a child. She is six months old – and she keeps me busy! I now have thirteen grandchildren and they are my pride and joy!”

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