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Brett’s Rising Son

Zapatillas fires from Randjesfontein

When James Crawford arrived at Randjesfontein eight months ago to set up a satellite yard for the Brett Crawford Racing Team, he couldn’t have dreamt things would have turned out as well as they have done to date.

“I have been around the stables since a toddler in the days that Dad still worked for Mr Dennis Drier and Mrs Plattner and have learnt plenty from him. And when I got to Joburg I shadowed Mike de Kock who guided me on the unique traits of the local conditions – the tracks, for example,  are different to what we are used to,” explains the 22 year old, whose biggest win came on Saturday at Hollywoodbets Greyville.

Zapatillas (Louis Mxothwa) gets up on the outside to beat Super Warrior (Calvin Habib) in a thriller (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“Zapatillas was sent to the farm after his top-class third behind Universal in the Listed Politician Stakes. And then he came to me for preparation for the SA Champions Season. We sent him down to Durban last Friday and he is back ‘home’ already and looking a million dollars,” adds James after the son of Master Of My Fate stormed up late to win a humdinger finish to Saturday’s R400 000  Gr2 World Sports Betting Guineas.

James chats with modest pride about what is a singularly impressive training feat for a 22 year old.

“We had given Zapatillas the work and he really was in fine fettle. He hadn’t raced for over 3 months but I felt that he had to have a big chance. The draw is all important at Hollywoodbets Greyville – and he was well slotted at 6. Louis Mxothwa also knows him well and he rode a peach of a race. It’s a pleasing win in many respects. Look at the quality of the opposition – we had the Gr1 Cape Guineas and Gr1 Cape Derby winner behind us. And Zapatillas is looking for further. So it’s very exciting!”

James Crawford and Kabelo Matsunyane – top team (Pic – JC Photos)

When asked if the Daily News is next on the horizon for the Hollywoodbets Durban July entry who has firmed from 33-1 to 20-1 for the big one on 2 July, James is quick to point out that Dad Brett makes the final calls.

“While I do my own noms and scratchings from here, Dad will be talking to the owners and looking at the options. A decision will be made on that. We always have a plan with an end goal in mind, “ he says.

James, who is single and focussed on his career, says that the idea of a Randjesfontein satellite yard came about with the intention to offer a broader and more diverse option for their Cape-based string.

“It also gives me a great opportunity to show my mettle and learn the ropes, while I have my Dad and Mike de Kock to lean on when I need some advice. But more importantly, we are providing our owners with alternative options for horses who may not be suited to conditions down South – both in terms of the programming options and the climate. That said, Philippi has the best track in South Africa, in my opinion.”

James explains that Mike de Kock has given him great insight into aerobic and anaerobic exercise for his equine athletes. And the general work regimen is quite different in Gauteng.

“At home in Cape Town, due to the depth of the sand we do a lot of 800m work. But here, working them for a mile is not unusual. I have seen light framed horses put on condition up here after a lot of work. The tracks are much lighter.”

He says he has a great team, with only Zapatillas’ Groom Eric Mpukane from the original Crawford operation in the Cape.

Watch Zapatillas’ big win:

As far as jockey support with work-riding goes, he singles out Kabelo Matsunyane as particularly hardworking.

“My philosophy is – if the jockey rides work, we give him the chances on raceday. Kabelo has ridden all of my winners – bar Louis Mxothwa in the Gr2 on Saturday.”

James has trained 9 winners in short time but realises he has massive shoes in which to walk.

His Dad was born in Zimbabwe on 7 September 1971. Once he left school he served as a stable employee to Brian Muscutt, Neil Bruss and Shane Rankin in Zimbabwe.

Brett crawford – top trainer

At the age of 19 Brett left Zimbabwe and moved to Johannesburg in 1989 were he joined the Mike de Kock yard. In 1991 he moved to Cape Town and became assistant trainer to Peter Muscutt, running the satellite yard for 2 months in Port Elizabeth with great success.

In 1993 Brett moved to Eric Sands where he stayed for 4 years and had the pleasure of working with one of South Africa’s best sprinters in Flobayou. In 1997, Brett had the opportunity to move to Durban through a strong job offer from the racing legend Dennis Drier.

After a rewarding four and a half years with Dennis, Brett developed in many ways and learnt fundamentals in mastering the art of training a thoroughbred.

Flashback to 2003 – Piere Strydom and Angus win the Met

In 2001  he became Private Trainer to Mrs Sabine Plattner. In the 8 years with the team, Brett produced 30 Graded winners, including 7 at Gr1 level.

“I intend making a career of training and I am fortunate to have been given this great start. My goal is to chase Dad’s great Gr1 record, no matter how long it takes me,” laughs James.

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