With aspirations of becoming a leading yard in the province, newly sponsored Hollywoodbets trainer Gareth van Zyl opened his Cape season account with a bang from his brand new Milnerton satellite yard at Hollywoodbets Durbanville last Wednesday, courtesy of the aptly named Bright Blue Sky.
It could not have been a better start with two seconds and a win with his first five runners, even if the 50-1 odds about the clearly smart gelding may have caught some punters flat-footed!
The 36 year old horseman, a son of champion jockey and successful trainer Gavin van Zyl, is juggling the demands of family and professional life, and is currently travelling between Summerveld and Milnerton, with the intention of making the Cape his permanent home.
Supported by his wife Kirsten and children Dallin and Gracie – Lee, the move is a major decision, but what he considers a vital one for growth, for the young professional.
He says that the decision to relocate was motivated by the way racing has been rejuvenated by Greg Bortz and Hollywoodbets down South.
“They have injected more stakes and have incentives. I also enjoy the racing experience there. And importantly, it is very customer friendly.”
Gareth says that his plan is to have a successful yard based at Summerveld and at Milnerton.
“It is appealing in the way in which Cape Racing has breathed a newness of enthusiasm and possibility into racing. They are applying themselves to the betterment of racing, in a way which I haven’t previously witnessed in South Africa. I feel that it is in Gareth van Zyl racing’s best interests, to be a part of the movement.”
Can he compete and win in what is the toughest racing region in South Africa?
“That’s the perception, but we did alright there with our string in the season and I think if we take the right horses for the right races, we will do alright. I think it’s tougher in the higher divisions, but we’ll be competitive.”
Gareth proudly told the Sporting Post that he has set up powerful teams in both regions.
“Summerveld is headed up by my Dad with Megan Trot and the vastly experienced Terry Fripp as assistants. The seasoned Spencer Cook is my right-hand man down at Milnerton.”
He beams when he tells the Sporting Post about the core growth of his foundation unit of Grooms and Work-riders.
“Through internal promotions and incentives we have grown and developed a world-class team of grooms and workriders, which have become a part of our DNA. This is a team effort from gun to tape. And our staff are integral to our success.”
He is also excited about having joined the Hollywoodbets family in August.
“The positive impact which Hollywoodbets has made on the South African racing industry is immense, and I am confident that my association with them, which allows me to see a little further into the mechanism of their mighty operation, will further enlighten, inspire, and even empower me to reach greater heights.”
On the general health of the game, Gareth frowns as he points out that the challenges that face racing globally are ‘self apparent’.
“But as long as we have open-minded and dynamic leadership, I will remain optimistic. After all, in an evolving world, there aren’t many industries that don’t have their specific challenges. But very few have a Mr Heffer, a Mr Bortz or a Mrs Slack to bail them out! It’s now or never, and I’m buckled up and ready for the ride!” he enthused.
And on his big horses for the season? Watch this space. More to follow!
He continued, “We will grow the Cape Town yard as we go. I have got horses already waiting for me there and we will be taking horses that will be competitive and building a string. I am not sure of the numbers exactly and it is going to depend on the support of clients as well.”
Gareth, asked what his reasons for wanting to relocate were, replied, “The way racing has been rejuvenated by the Greg Bortz and Hollywoodbets takeover. They have injected more stakes and have incentives and I also enjoy the racing experience there, it is very customer friendly.”
Talking about the strength of the opposition in Cape Town and whether it was harder to win there, Van Zyl replied, “That’s the perception, but we did alright there with our string in the season and I think if we take the right horses for the right races we will do alright. I think it’s tougher in the higher divisions, but we’ll be competitive.”
The strength in South African racing lies in Cape Town and a few big yards dominate , but Van Zyl is a relatively young trainer and has time on his side.
His ultimate goal is to become one of the big yards in Cape Town.