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Brett Crawford

"Let’s face it - we are all in the game to win the big ones” - Meet Mr Met!

websize-brett-crawford“When Futura moved up between Helderberg Blue and Punta Arenas under the hands I knew he would win.

An emotional trainer Brett Crawford describing his glorious moment of a professional coming of age and the unbridled joy that he had broken the ‘hoodoo’ of the past two years. He was back in the bright J&B Met sunshine, after twelve years in the shade

We have a feeling that history will teach that Saturday’s major win was a significant turning point in the career of one of South Africa’s fastest rising stars, in a sky dotted by fewer major players every year.

In just seven years in the post-Plattner era, the 43 year old Zimbabwean-born Brett Crawford has built an impressive client base of some of the big players on the South African racing scene.

And no matter how good a horseman he may be, without good owners to buy the good horses, nobody can win the big ones – even champion Mike De Kock will concede that.

The cordial and quietly spoken Brett Crawford was taught well – he worked for three seasoned racing men in Mike De Kock, Eric Sands and Dennis Drier on his educational journey through the school of hard knocks.

“I have been fortunate to enjoy the support of quality owners. In Futura’s specific case, they are legends to train for. We discuss the way forward but they leave it to me to make the final call.”

But let’s take a step back.


Angus – Brett’s first Met winner

The flashbacks and comparisons to Angus’ victory in 2003 are inevitable for Brett.

He was private trainer then in the powerful Sabine Plattner operation. But being salaried and answerable to one boss is very different to running your own operation and being accountable for every aspect of a business in a tough industry – and being responsible for delivery to a host of owners.

“Angus’ win was very special as winning your first J&B Met is an achievement in itself. But 12 years down the line I have learnt to appreciate and enjoy each Gr1 victory as they are very sought after commodities to come by. Futura has given me my best two racing Gr1 achievements so he’s made me truly very proud,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

And what a moment it was!

The Met build-up this year was characterised by sideshows and uncertainty. Mini soapies, where the media and public fed on the sensation of doubt and stress. It is entertainment. But not funny when you are the pilot at the controls in the eye of the storm. Just ask Justin Snaith.

2015 J&B Met Gallops - Futura

Futura – Blossomed in a top gallop

But down the road in Philippi, Brett Crawford had his own Everest to climb.

Futura eventually stood his ground in the big race after the original Crawford Met trio, that included Captain America and De Kock, had been whittled down.

2013 Selangor winner De Kock lost form and failed to fire in the Diadem.

Captain America, a boom 3yo, ran below par in the Premier Trophy after a decent fourth in the Green Point Stakes.

In an astute tactical refocus to build his charge’s confidence, Brett threw Captain America into a quality handicap on Met day, lumbering a ridiculous back-breaking 64,5kgs.

“He will handle it,” he said of the son of Captain Al on Friday before the race.  He did. Captain America came home hard against the steel to win by 3 lengths. He is now headed to Johannesburg for the Horse Chestnut Stakes.

Future Imperfect

Brett C

December drama with coughing

Futura had his own little drama. He coughed and was withdrawn from the Diadem – then thought to be a strategic Met prep stepping stone for him.

But Brett modestly acknowledges that the gods may have unwittingly dealt him an ace rather than a joker:

“After his cough Futura enjoyed a great prep, including winning the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. And in any Gr1 programme, prep is everything. I was very confident about him winning the Met. His coughing may well have proven a blessing in the end as he peaked at just the right time,” he suggested.

On Legislate’s sensational withdrawal last Wednesday, Brett said that he felt for the connections but admitted that it did give the Futura team more confidence:

“Legislate is a top horse. But we are proud to say that as far as strength goes, Futura still beat the best on offer on the day.”

A Proud Owner Speaks

John Freeman

John Freeman

Futura part owner John Freeman, writing in his Freemanstallions enews letter, summed things up well.

‘Bernard Fayd’herbe’s big match temperament, his cool, calm professionalism very much part of the winning formula. Brett Crawford and his team have done an amazing job with the horse. To win the big race with Team Jackson is a dream come true. For me as a service provider in the industry to own a piece of a horse as good as this, that I chose as a yearling, makes me very proud. I have told you about how we bought him from Guy Murdoch – thanks Guy and thanks to Mike Jolly who got the mare into Guy’s hands in the first place.

Futura’s win on Saturday pushed his earnings to over R3.3m, accumulated in just 11 career starts covering a period of just over 13 months: seven wins (incl 3 Gr1), a second place and never further back than he was when placed 3rd in the July. Only 4 horses, Pocket Power, Yard Arm, London News and Empress Club have completed the Queens Plate / Met double in the past 30 years. You have to go back to Wolf Power and Foveros beyond that to find more. I think Dynasty’s supporters can take some comfort in that association.’



Happy day – Futura is led in after his great win

On comparing his best horses, and specifically Jackson, who has now retired to stand at Highlands, Brett said it was always difficult to measure horses.

“Jackson was a champion but had his issues, which were difficult to manage. On the flipside, Futura is a natural laid back easy to train athlete and conserves his energy for race day.”

Brett said that only one man could train a horse, but that a racing operation succeeded because of the team.

“I have a great team. And we couldn’t do it without my wife Jill and kids James & Sarah’s support as well as my entire staff. From the head grooms and each and every groom – as well as my assistant Barry Donnelly and Jevin Awotar; Futura’s groom Siphesonke Phaca; our vet Dr Emma Alsop; farrier Dwayne Store. And then our regular jockeys, Bernard  Fayd’herbe, Corne Orffer and Ralton Peters. This whole show would not be possible and each individual has contributed. They have all made my job easier and collectively made me very proud.”

Quotable Quotes

What did Brett feel about the Cape Premier Yearling Sale and will he be at Val De Vie in two weeks?

“The CPYS was a professional well run sale with some high quality horses on offer. I was fortunate to take home a few. I will most definitely be at Val De Vie!”

Brett is expected to make a major impact in the KZN Champions Season. Is he looking forward to it?

“Yes, I am looking very forward to going to Durban and will be based at Summerveld. We will take as many horses as possible – it just depends on Gold Circle as to how many boxes we are offered.”


Bernard Fayd’herbe and Futura – developing into a hot combo

Will he be going for the SA Champion trainer title?

“I am in the game to service my clients to the best of my ability.  If that leads to us being title contenders, then so be it.”

Will the Met win change anything and what is the Brett Crawford Racing basic business philosophy?

“On Sunday morning it was work as usual. Nobody can rest on their laurels in this game. As for our approach, honesty is always the only policy. Then we also feed the best and treat each horse as an individual. If they are simply not good enough then owners need to be told that. Ultimately results are what count. Let’s face it – we are all in the game to win the big ones.”

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