David Rahilly had a long and distinguished career as a jockey. Forced to hand in his jockeys licence through injury he spent a number of years as an assistant trainer before taking out his open licence. Luck was with him as one of his first horses was Power Lord who appears to be a good sort in the making. David has a great love for his horses and has learnt a lot from both Gavin Smith and Geoff Woodruff who he worked for before taking out his licence. At the moment he has 30 horses in his care but that number will surely grow as he steps up the number of winners. David Rahilly is well worth looking at as a trainer.
What is your name and age? David John Rahilly age 43.
Where do you live? Three Rivers, Vereeniging, Gauteng.
Tell us about your family? I’m married to Media Rahilly (she is my wife, my assistant trainer and my bookkeeper). We have 2 kids Desire 20yrs and Donavan 14yrs and a beautiful grand-daughter Hay-lee 2yrs.
Where were you brought up? I was born in England and my family immigrated in 1971. We lived in Cape Town for 3years and then moved to Kriel in Mpumalanga. From there myself and my twin brother, Simon, went to the Durban Jockey’s Academy, 1983-1985, and from there to Johannesburg Academy. In 1986 I went to PE where I finished my apprenticeship.
Were you or your family in any way connected to horses or horse racing? No, not at all. My dad always wanted to be a jockey and Simon very small in size, so he decided that we should be jockeys.
Who were the other apprentices with you at the academy? Donovan Habib, MJ Odendaal, Warren Bailey, Simon Rahilly, Gunter Wrogemann, Schalk Barnard
How many of them are you still friendly with? Gunter still rides for me and Donavan and I are big mates. MJ and I still get along.
Where did you first start riding in races? My first ride was at Greyville in Durban for Gail Thomson.
Who was the trainer, or trainers, you mostly rode for? Ronnie Sheehan and Gavin Smith in PE.
Where did you ride your first winner? In Bloemfontein on a horse called, Camargo for Trainer JC Nader, 1985.
How long did you ride as a jockey and where was your base? 23 years. Mostly PE and the last couple of years in Gauteng for GV Woodruff.
How many winners did you ride? 161 winners 796 places.
How enjoyable did you find being a jockey? It is an amazing job because you become one with the horse and that’s what I miss today.
Which trainer did you have your most success with? Ronnie Sheehan and I once had 4 winners on one day.
Why did you decide to hand in your jockey license? I was forced to stop due to injuries. The last thing I had to have was a neck fusion and I was not allowed to ever ride again.
What did you do with your life once you handed in your jockey license? I was an assistant trainer to Geoff Woodruff for 3 years and then decided to take out my own license.
Who were your first patrons as a trainer? My dear friend and loyal supporter Vasan Harry, Kuben Govender and Mr & Mrs Devachander
How many horses did you start with? 3 I bought at the national 2 year old sale.
Where were your stables and are you still in the same stables you started with? At the Vaal yard 11. I’m now in yard 9.
Which is the best horse you have trained to date? Must be Power Lord and Son Of The Burg
How many horses do you currently train? I have a yard of 30 boxes and am proud to say I’m currently full.
Which of your horses do you feel could win their way into the top division? Power Lord.
Which jockeys ride the most work for you? At the moment Lance Pagel. Sherman Brown comes out as often as he can and the appies on the days that they come to Vaal. I have a great bunch of grooms who can all ride work so I’m very blessed in that regard.
Do you have, or are you considering, having a stable jockey riding for you? No I don’t have a stable jockey as my string is too small at this stage to tie a jockey down.
What are your immediate ambitions for yourself and your stable? I started training in Sep 2009. My 1st season as trainer I had 16 winners and I’m hoping to do better this season, and to win a Grade 1 race of course.
Outside of racing what else are you passionate about? I would love to play more golf but time doesn’t allow it and then just to chill with my wife and kids.
Which horse, Igugu aside, do you rate as the best horse running in South Africa right now? Pierre Jourdan.
Training methods appear to have changed quite dramatically in the last couple of years with much more use being made of treadmills etc. Do you think that these changes have improved the standard of the horses racing and do you have access to these luxuries? Training methods have changed for the better but when you get stuck go back to the old methods which still seem to work today? No, I don’t have any luxuries in equipment.
You have been associated with many top class trainers down the years but is there any one of them which you will remember with particular affection for his training ability or personality? Yes Gavin Smith. He is the most dedicated trainer I’ve ever had the privilege to be associated with. He works hard and is a very good and professional horseman. Then Geoff Woodruff is a great man and great horseman.
Which of the stallions standing in this country really take your eye and whose offspring you would like to see in your yard? Jet Master, Fort Wood, Western Winter.
What has been the most exciting moment you have experienced in racing over the last couple of years? My first winner was special when I brought Power Lord back after his operation and he won a very good race.
How do you like to celebrate a big win? We invite all our clients to the Vaal and have a huge braai and we go big….
What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game? Never a dull moment, always something happening and the thrill of winning.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? Never trust anybody. A big part of the racing game revolves around punting.
Do you ever have a big punt on one of your runners when you feel it has a really big winning chance? No I’m not a punter myself.
Do you ever advise owners or family or friends to have a punt on any of your horses? Yes I give my owners the confidence to have a good punt.
If pressed to advise anyone how they should bet in order to make money punting what would you say? PA is by far the best bet.
Do you feel nervous before a big race when you have a well fancied runner? Yes very nervous. I can’t even eat before a big race.
How much time do you spend studying form? Not much. I mostly study the races that I have runners in.
The control of racing is now very strict. Is there anything more, in your opinion, that you think the authorities could or should do to make racing even straighter? Yes, they could jack up the security at the stables like they do in Mauritius.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? I believe it will go from strength to strength.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Never give up, racing is a long game and the wheel will turn, so keep at it.