DENNIS EDWARD EVANS could be forgiven for believing his middle name is ‘Success’. Dennis is a man who could be a prime example of someone who has both remarkable ability and foresight. From the time Dennis decided to forego the opportunity of taking the ‘glamour’ job of being a junior professional soccer player for Ajax and, instead, becoming an apprentice electrician most everything has gone right for him. Together with his wife, Gael, Dennis has scaled the heights of the Singapore racing scene and has not done badly in SA either! Right now Dennis and Gael own shares in the hugely talented Victory Moon colt, MUSCATT, trained by PE maestro Gavin Smith. On Saturday MUSCATT will be competing in the Need For Speed Sprint for 3 year olds at Kenilworth over 1000m. This could be the horse which puts the name Dennis Evans up in lights in SA.All racegoers, will be watching this race with keen anticipation. Whatever happens Dennis and Gael are here to stay and racing will be all the better for them.
What is your name and age? Dennis Edward Evans. Born 3rd July 1942 at Epsom, Surrey, UK. I am a Cancerian.
Where do you live? I now have a house on the Hans Merensky Golf Estate in Phalaborwa, Limpopo. This gives us the opportunity to enjoy raw Africa in the Kruger Park and a 2nd house on the Pearl Valley Golf Estate, Paarl, W.Cape where we have access to, perhaps, a more sophisticated lifestyle and our Cape horses.
Tell us about your family? I have 4 children Jayne, Sarah, Nicholas and Matthew, in addition to many grandchildren all of which I am very attached to.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? None that I am aware of. This probably indicates that there are many that have not been made known.
Favourite food? My favourite meal would be the Malaysian dish Nasi Goreng and Gael makes a fantastic cottage pie.
Favourite drink? Favourite drink is difficult. I will exclude the large array of excellent Cape wines and go for the lesser known Tetley Imperial Bitter Beer.
Favourite music? It is again not easy to choose as it is usually associated with a period in one’s life experience. I will always enjoy the traditional jazz of Bessie Smith, the moody Dizzy Gillespie, the popular Mike and the Mechanics right through to Handel and Elgar.
Favourite book? As an avid reader it is almost impossible to limit the selection to one book. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable is a classic book in every sense and in the popular category Gerald Seymour’s debut book, Harry’s Game, comes to mind.
What are you reading at the moment? Currently I am reading The Zanzibar Chest by Adrian Hartley. Well written but a sad indictment of African politics.
What is the characteristic you like least about yourself? I would like to apply a more disciplined approach to eating and exercise.
Favourite sport? It is horse racing but I do enjoy watching rugby.
Are you interested in soccer and, if so, which is your favourite soccer team? I played semi-professional soccer in the UK as a youth and have been an admirer of Arsenal over the recent past. They produced the most technically advanced soccer with a short game way up in UK. Others have now caught up with them and, with the sale of the cream of their players the others are in a development stage.
Favourite holiday destination? This must be The Datai Hotel, Langkawi Island, Malaysia.
What tertiary qualifications did you achieve? My ambition on leaving school was to be a professional soccer player and was offered junior professional terms by Ajax, Amsterdam. However I did not end up in such a glamorous occupation opting, instead, for an apprenticeship in electrical engineering.
You are known to be a very successful entrepreneur. Please tell us about what sort of businesses and enterprises you were involved in? Project Management led to my move to SA in 1974. I began my own business in 1981 with materials processing within the mining industry. I was the joint inventor of the Patent “Increasing the Recovery of Gold from Calcine Leach Residues by Fine Grinding.”
Was there any one particular business you were most successful with? I became involved in the corporate aspects of mining and BEE Development in 2000. This led to me selling out in 2007 to enter retirement which then led to a larger involvement in horse racing.
In many respects the business scene in South Africa has changed a lot. Do you think there is as much opportunity for entrepreneur’s as there were when you started out? There is no doubt that opportunities abound for young entrepreneurs in SA. Industry needs university graduates to ensure growth and production quality. Irrespective of education, identify a need, supply that demand and you have a business. Keep your integrity always-even on those occasions when it is not convenient to do so.
How did it come about that you provided funding for the movie, Spud? My eldest son, Nick, has an interest in films and theatre. After discussing the project with Ross Garland I decided to provide a portion of the funding. I joined him later and have enjoyed the new experience by going on set and seeing how much detail is applied to every aspect of the production.
The world renowned actor, John Cleese, acted in that movie. Did you get to meet him and if so how easy was it to get along with him? We met John Cleese, Troye Sivan,
the young actor who portrayed Spud , and the production team when they joined us for dinner at Summerhill Stud’s Hartford House. John Cleese is an international star who protects his privacy whilst simultaneously enjoying himself. He is a delightful dinner guest but he had his focus on getting to know Troye. It was the first time that they had met. The first thing that strikes you is that he is around 6’5’’ tall. He is very fit.
When did you first become involved in racing? Being born at, and living close to Epsom my parents took me to midweek meetings and we had picnics on the inside of the track which is public common. I remember quite clearly as a five year old the first time I saw the bright colours and powerful horses flash past me as I stood at the running rail. I was hooked for life.
Who was the person who introduced you to racing? It was 1987 before I bought a horse, Tullamore Downs, at the Germiston Yearling Sales. I bought him completely on impulse for R13000.00. I did not have a trainer or any idea about what was required. I remember watching the horse disappear out of the ring and asking myself, “What the hell do I do now?” I asked Syd Laird to give me advice and he directed me to Carl Ebb. He trained the horse initially for me. Tullamore won twice before knee problems took over. Two or three horses followed before I took a break.
Were you involved nonstop in the racing game from that time or did you leave it for a while and then make a comeback? I returned to racing after retiring from business as Gael and I decided it was a hobby we could both enjoy. I purchased 11 horses as a new start.
Which trainer, or trainers, have you had the longest association with? The trainers we have had the longest association with are: In SA Gavin Smith and in Singapore Pat Shaw, David Hill and Cliff Brown.
Which is the best horse you have owned thus far? The best horse I have owned thus far must either be Ato or Flax.
Which is the biggest race you have won in South Africa? Flowers Angel won a Group 3 overseas, and the best result in SA has been Run For It’s 3rd in the Met.
Which is the biggest race you have won in Singapore? The biggest race I won in Singapore was the $1 000 000.00 International Group 1 Kris Flyer Sprint with Ato. He was bred at Maine Chance Farms and is by Royal Academy out of Another Legend.
How did you become involved with Pat Shaw who trains for you in Singapore? Pat Shaw’s record speaks for itself after his success with Fred Crabbia and Rocket Man. He kindly took two of ours and produced 9 winners in his 1st year.
How many horses do you currently own or are involved in? I currently own or have shares in 21 horses in SA and 17 in Singapore. I have 4 mares at stud in SA and 1 in NZ.
Who helps, or advises, you on which horses to buy? Generally our trainers select the horses they like and I will pick on bloodlines from the catalogue. After extensive viewing and the final passing by the vet we will bid accordingly.
When you have a horse, with a big chance, running in Singapore do you and your wife Gael, go to Singapore to watch it race? Gael and I travel to Singapore 4-5 times a year. Normally a trip lasts 2 weeks. The longest stay we have is 6 weeks in October/November for the Kranji Mile, Raffles Cup and the Gold Cup.
What would you say is your main attraction to horse racing. Is it the actual racing, or the gamble or the chance of making really big money when you crack a champion? The attraction of racing for us is the love of the game, the horses, the people and the excitement of being involved with horses. With the odd exceptional runner it makes it all very special. The gambling side is of no importance particularly in Singapore where the prize money is so big. The sadness of gambling is that a horse is very often judged on how much money is taken or given to a bookmaker.
What has been your most memorable day in racing to date? Most memorable day to date was the International Group 1 day in Singapore. We won the $1,000,000.00 Kris Flyer Sprint with Ato and came 3rd in the $3,000,000.00 International Group 1 Singapore Airlines Cup with Flax. Memorable does not adequately describe it.
Your horse RUN FOR IT ran in the Premier Trophy at Kenilworth on the 15th He came second in the race. Would it be fair to say that he has been a slight disappointment to you? I would run him in Singapore of course. He has the potential to dominate the racing scene there. It is not totally up to me though.
On the 29th Muscatt will be running in the Need For Speed Sprint, over 1000m, for 3 years olds at Kenilworth. How confident are you that he will resume his winning ways? I am confident he will do his best. If he is good enough he will win.
He won his first two races in great style and then, somewhat surprisingly, ran second behind November Rain. Do you put that down to ‘one of those things’ that happen in many horses’ careers? Yes it was one of those things. He was probably a bit green. The young lad did his best and maybe that is his form. Until he runs again we don’t know.
To date Muscatt has shown blistering speed in his races. Does his breeding suggest that sprinting will be his forte or could he develop into a middle distance horse? I expect him to be effective up to 1400m.
If Muscatt develops into the champion it seems he could be will you leave him in PE with Gavin Smith or will you consider relocating him to a bigger center or even campaign overseas with him? All my horses in SA will go to Singapore if good enough. The trainers know this and it is an agreement I have with them.
Your wife, Gael, also takes a great interest in racing. Was she interested in racing before she met you or did she get her involvement through you? Gael has ridden since a child and has 15 boxes on her farm for clients who want to hack in the country.
The old saying is, “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman”. Does this apply to Dennis Evans?As for the successful woman behind me, at the end of every telephone call with our trainer Cliff Brown in Singapore he asks me,” How is the Boss?” That says it all.