Turffontein-based trainer David Nieuwenhuizen was the figurative David amongst the Goliaths at the 2023 Equus Awards at Emperors Palace last Wednesday evening.
Producing a national champion from a relatively small string is no mean achievement, and the man who commenced his training career with just four horses at the Vaal eighteen years ago is looking forward to his best season ever.
And he also becomes the newest Hollywoodbets-sponsored trainer this week as he looks excitedly ahead at the term ahead.
We pressed David to tell us about his horses worth watching this season, and maybe even the next generation Equus winner lurking amongst his 32 strong string!
“There are 14 nicely bred unraced 3-year-olds that we will step out and then four 2-year-olds that have joined the stable recently. My owners also purchased two nice 2yo’s at last weekend’s sale,” he smiles.
“I am really and truly proud of my team and my loyal owners,” David tells the Sporting Post as he reflects on the impressive Champion 2yo Male trophy that was awarded to the exciting Rakesh Singh-owned Sandringham Summit.
“We all strive for Grade 1 winners, but Equus is the benchmark of excellence in the various categories and it’s no mean achievement emerging from a melting pot of the points system, a deliberation by an esteemed panel, and a public vote,” muses the 58 year old horseman
The Varsfontein-bred Sandringham Summit, a R1,7 million purchase selected by Rakesh Singh and Zeyn Kirsten at the 2022 BSA National Yearling Sale, won the Gr1 World Pool Moment Of The Day Champion Stakes, to give David his maiden Gr1 success, and was also victorious in the Gr2 Durban Golden Horseshoe. The handsome athlete had 5 starts during his first season for 3 wins and 2 seconds, and accumulated stakes of R842 250.
The former workrider programme student, who was taught the basics by two top men in James Maree and the late Gerald Turner, knows a good horse when he sees one.
“At this stage Sandringham Summit is the best I’ve trained and his record backs that up. I believe he is good enough to compete on the international stage,” he adds proudly as he says that they are likely to start the Equus champion 3yo’s term in the 1450m BSA race at Turffontein on 7 October.
“We have sat down and discussed it and we are likely then to aim at the Gr2 Dingaans on Summer Cup Day, and then at the SA Triple Crown.”
Enjoy the Gr1 replay:
So Sandringham Summit won’t be seen in the Cape this summer?
“We always have to do what is best for the horse. That’s a fundamental and plans will always remain fluid, but we are considering all options as we progress. I have never raided down South yet, and you cannot do it without the right horse. But yes, the incentives in the Cape are good and it remains a consideration!”
Sandringham Summit follows in the hoofprints of some very decent stakes horses trained by the former athlete, who still uses the principles of his distance running, and his marathons and Comrades training.
“I have put many of the fitness models into the training of my horses. This gets them fit off a good base, accompanied with speed work.”
The star filly Virgo’s Babe is close to David’s heart and entrenched the Nieuwenhuizen name after her Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery success in 2013 under MJ Odendaal.
The daughter of Malhub also won the Listed Swallow Stakes. And the Nieuwenhuizen honour roll continues with Gr3 HSH Princess Charlene Starling Stakes winner Mill Queen, the Gr3 Lebelo Sprint star Anna Capri, Flying First Class, who won the Sun Chariot and Allez France Stakes. Rapid Flow doubled up by winning the Allez France.
A quiet man who doesn’t shoot his mouth off and hype up horses, David runs an operation that ticks over like clockwork and the expectation as the team heads into the new season is tangible.
“I am fortunate as I have a great team around me. This is not a one-man show! My assistant is Nikki Radford and we currently employ 11 grooms, 3 of which are also work-riders. The team was over the moon with the Equus award and it’s great to feel the energy and the buzz. We also make use of the best vets and farriers in the industry to compete on the same level with our opposition,” adds David.
The Pretoria-born David, a Jeppe High graduate, is married to Heather and has 2 daughters, Nikki and Tarryn.
He has come a long way since his icebreaker Nombulelo, who won on 7 September 2005.
“She was owned by myself and cost R5 000 at a Horses-In-Training Sale. The race was over 2400m and she was ridden by Kevin Derere . What a load off my shoulders to get my first winner!” he recalls fondly.
We asked David what the biggest challenges are facing him as a trainer?
“I remain positive and there are so many folk around who are truly passionate about this game! But currently stakes are an issue, which makes it difficult. Also getting new blood into the industry is a challenge, I believe. And the racing programme needs to be revisited. But I am not moaning! I think with the winds of change blowing through the corridors of power, and exciting things happening, there’s great hope!”