Dean Kannemeyer may be said to have been born into the racing game. With his father, Peter, always on hand to advise and instruct him about the racing and training of racehorses he could hardly have received a better racing education. Dean has the reputation of being an honest and sincere man who always has the best interest of the horse and owner at heart. It is seldom that there is not a champion in the Kannemeyer yard and right now it looks as though Noordhoek Flyer is ready to step into the shoes of previous champions Dynasty and Eyeofthetiger.
What is your name and age? Dean Martin Kannemeyer. I am 50 years young.
Where do you live? I live in West Beach. It’s about a fifteen minute drive to the Milnerton Training Centre.
Tell us about your family? I am married to Mandy.
Your father is Peter Kannemeyer who wrote his name into the record books as a trainer. Was there ever a chance that you would not be a trainer? I doubt it and always spent more time at the yard than doing my homework! I was fortunate to receive an excellent grounding.
As a schoolboy did you spend a lot of time at the stables with your dad? Yes, every possible moment although he would not let me neglect my schoolwork.
What would you say was the greatest influence your father had on you as a trainer? The principle of communicating with clients in an open and honest manner.
Is there anything that has really changed a lot for you as a trainer since you took over the reins? I took over in 1999 and if anything, the economics of training horses has changed. Owners are very aware of the real cost of maintaining horses in training and are probably more results and delivery conscious than they were in the good old days. Then we recently established our www.dkannemeyerracing.com website as a shop window for our clients and supporters. Technology is the way the world is going and we need to maintain a competitive edge.
How many horses do you have under your care? I have about 90 at any one time.
Tell us about the team which assists you in keeping the stable running like clockwork? David Lilley is my Assistant and he has been with the family for thirty years. Assistants Lee Newton and Sasha Habib balance the age demographics of the team as they are both in their early twenties and very enthusiastic and motivated. Our head groomsman Never Die Mbombi has twenty seven years of distinguished service with the Kannemeyer family. Then I should not forget my wife Mandy who plays an important role in client liaison and keeping the endless admin in good order.
With the Vodacom July to be run shortly you have had to take Noordhoek Flyer out of the race. As a trainer looking unbiased at the race which horses do you now feel are the main contenders? Anything that Mike de Kock sends to post has always got to be taken very seriously. Then Pocket Power doesn’t look like he is quite ready to throw in the towel just yet. Big City Life has also found form at the right time and Raymond Deacon is one of those owners who tend to strike gold wherever he goes. A fascinating race!
As yet you have not been tempted to take any of your horses to Dubai where the stakes are really impressive. Is there any chance you will be doing so in the near future-especially if Noordhoek Flyer keeps on improving as he has done recently? I am extremely keen to try my hand in Dubai, but I need to take the right horses. It is an expensive exercise and very competitive. Noordhoek Flyer remains a consideration at this stage as I believe he is good enough to more than hold his own there.
Apart from Noordhoek Flyer which of your horses do you feel will win their way into the feature type races? I prefer to let the horses do the talking and don’t believe in hyping up horses prematurely as either way they make fools of us.
Has the financial crisis which has affected most of the racing world had any effect on your training operation? I don’t believe any training operation is immune to what is going on in the world. That said, I have always adopted a conservative policy in terms of overheads as well as my customer profile.
You have just come back from visiting South America. How successful was that trip for you and your owners and who accompanied you on the trip? I always find my South American trips worthwhile and constructive as the set-up and people that we deal with are both professional and hospitable. There is a wonderful element of understanding and trust that exists between us and doing business is an absolute pleasure. We normally have our team of Jehan Malherbe of Form Bloodstock, leading Vet Dr John McVeigh and also Mike de Kock, who is there for his own clients.
With the success South African bred horses are having overseas there are many who say that SA bred horses are under priced. Would you subscribe to that view or do you feel that with stake money in this country still relatively low that owners and trainers are paying a fair price? I believe that there is tremendous value to be had in buying SA breds. They have also proven in recent times that they can hold their own on the world stage and I believe that most buyers look beyond the local stake picture to the exciting and rewarding prospect of racing overseas.
As a man who gets to see horses being bred in other parts of the world how would you compare SA breds to those you see elsewhere? SA breeders can be proud of what is produced here. Our horses are on a par with anything I have seen abroad and we shop abroad for variety and alternative options with different bloodlines. We probably just don’t produce enough truly high quality sprinting horses.
In South Africa which stallions do you particularly like? I obviously have a very soft spot for Dynasty, whose offspring have made such a massive early impact. Any trainer would also love to have a few Jet Masters, Fort Woods, Western Winters, Parade Leaders and Captain Als and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the likes of Victory Moon and Right Approach. We are, in fact, very fortunate to have a great stallion band from which to choose.
Which of your rival trainers are you really friendly with or is it difficult to have close friends amongst the trainers who are your rivals? It is a competitive game but I have a cordial working relationship with most of my colleagues. Obviously, and with all due respect, various of the older school trainers are probably closer to me by virtue of the fact that I have been around the stables since my nursery school days.
Who are your longest standing patrons? Household names like the Jaffees and Graham Beck have supported us for many decades. Then Fieldspring Racing continue to be a dominant force.
Have you had any reason to regret becoming a trainer? I have never regretted the path that I chose so long ago and the game has been extremely good to me.
As opposed to that what has given you the most pleasure from being a trainer? I obviously aim for the Graded race winners and while every single winner is a special celebration for the team, I would probably rank my two Vodacom Durban July winners in Dynasty and Eyeofthetiger to be my career highlights.
Your dad has now retired but does he still come to the stables to keep ‘his hand in’? My Dad is now in his late seventies and enjoying a well earned retirement. He knows that he is always welcome to pop in, which he does from time to time, although he has no practical role in the yard anymore. There comes a time in all our lives when we need to call it a day!
How important do you think it is to have the same jockey to ride the horses every morning? Grant Behr, Morne Winnaar and Ossie Noach ride a fair amount of work for me and I enjoy getting their feedback. I don’t consider it crucial that we match the same jockey to the same horse every day though.
What is the driving force which keeps you getting up early every morning to go to the track? I have always strived to finish as high up on the trainer’s log as I can. That will only be achieved by training many Graded race winners. It’s those big race winners that keep that pep in the step!
What do you consider to be the best horse you have trained to date? If pressed I would probably go with Dynasty, although Noordhoek Flyer still has his whole career ahead of him and I rate him very highly. The ill-fated Rabiya, Eyeofthetiger and Roman Charger are other horses that warrant a mention.
How do you feel when you are running a very fancied horse in a race like the July-do you ever get pre-race nerves? I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t get nervous and having given up smoking some time back, I have to cope with stress on my own. Having understanding and well established owners also means that the pressure is reduced considerably.
We all like to make a profit from racing. Do you think it is possible to make a living by punting horses? There are just so many factors at play and unknowns that can influence the outcome of a race. I don’t punt personally, but understand the importance of the gambling rand in terms of horseracing’s sustainability. I hope that most folk punt for fun and the love of the game.
What do you think are the most important lessons you have learned thus far about racing? Always remain honest to yourself and your patrons.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? Build lasting relationships with your clientele and surround yourself with the very best professionals available. Always keep your eye on the ball and remember that the wheel turns and we all get our turn.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Keep doing the basics right, even when the chips are down and let your horses do the talking on the racetrack. Talk is, after all, cheap and it doesn’t pay the bills.