Tough times have a scientific and educational value, says South Africa’s newest Bloodstock Consultant Gabriel ‘Gabby’ Soma.
The Jeppe High School graduate has the pedigree and racing experience to change the world. And now he has taken the leap of faith at the age of 31 after almost a decade under the skilled direction of his Uncle, Joey Soma.
Many would say that the personable horseracing student, who rode grandstand finishes on the couch in the lounge of the late Cecelia’s and Gary Soma’s home, needs his head read diversifying into bloodstock sales. But he is determined to provide a unique professional service to the market at the right price.
And that starts at 12h00 at Turffontein next Wednesday when MGAS Bloodstock conducts its inaugural sale with Clyde Basel and Alistair Cohen wielding the gavel.
But let’s get to know Gabby the man, first.
“I have been assistant trainer to my Uncle Joey Soma for close on ten years and the wise counsel and lessons that he has passed on are priceless and will, I believe, stand me in good stead for a lifetime. He is one of the greatest pound-for-pound trainers in the world and no doubt one of the greatest judges of horseflesh ever,” adds Gabby proudly as he reflects on his move from the stable yard into the sales ring.
“We had six Gr1 winners in the last six years from shoestring budgets. Uncle Joe picked them all as single buys at the various sales, including Happy Landing and Lobo’s Legend. But after analysing our success over the last 8 years and the continuous lack of support I’ve decided a that a new challenge would be most refreshing and take me down my next road in this wonderful game.”
Gabby is retained by Phumelela as a race programmer for Gauteng and the Cape – a position he has held since 2016.
“This is a role which includes providing the entire population with the opportunity to participate as often as possible over their preferred distance. A complete understanding of the MR system is a necessity to do the job and in order to achieve key performance, and to be able to respond to any queries from trainers and owners. I monitor and access SA horses and their form on a daily basis,” he adds.
The sports mad youngster, who has two sisters, Tanya and Kelly, and a brother Dylan, completed two years of an intended B.Com Accounting degree at UJ before deciding to focus solely on the racing game. He says that when he looks back today, he has no regrets about his decision.
The Soma family’s love for the game goes back many decades. Gabby’s late grandfather Gabriel Soma was one of the greatest judges and personalities to grace the game. He is still spoken about today by many high profile people – the same folk who taught Gabby.
“My late Dad Gary was one of the best form studiers around. He was agent to Anton Marcus for over ten years and the multiple champion jockey will attest to his feeling for the game. My late mom Cecelia was an avid enthusiast and was born into the game. Her parents were owners for many years and her passion and love for the game was with her to the end.”
Gabby has followed in his Dad’s footsteps in the role of guiding top jockeys.
He has assisted Anton Marcus for over ten years; S’manga Khumalo when winning the championship for a second time; Gavin Lerena when breaking ’ Muis ‘ Roberts record for number of wins as an apprentice and Muzi Yeni last year, when the Winning Form jock was second in the National championship.
Married to Natasha, Gabby lives in the Bruma Lake area. He describes his hobbies as travelling and golf.
“I am also an avid boxing fan but love watching all sports including soccer, cricket,rugby and athletics. I enjoy punting because of the thrill and satisfaction one gets when finding a winner,” he adds.
So the man has impeccable credentials for his next challenge and he believes his ability to adapt to trying times and the fact that he has worked in different aspects of the game, gives him an empathy and grasp of the predicament owners and trainers find themselves in on a daily basis.
“I am a realist and don’t like to brag but, I have confidence in my ability to pick yearlings and the knowledge I have built up over years of studying form, will help greatly in buying, selling and moving horses. I have also tried to make it attractive through the reduction of costs. An innovation is that there are 20 horses from the Cape and KZN to be sold in absentia,” he says of next Wednesday’s sale.
“I am grateful for the unbelievable support as the response from a diverse spectrum of racing people has been phenomenal. We have decent horses from Mike de Kock, including Only To Win and Indy Ice, a good few from Andrew Fortune, including Monaco Maiden second placed Captain Hindsight and two runners-up in baby races. Joey Soma has sent several, including African Adventure and Roll Of Drums, while Geoff Woodruff’s Baron Rodney is a nice horse. Top man Glen Kotzen has entered nine, while the red hot Paul Peter has got 13 on the sale with Bold Matador and Casual Wear among them. Grant Knowles is offering an unraced Dynasty colt, while Sean Tarry’s Gr2 winner Purple Diamond is on the sale, along with a few other decent stablemates. There are some really nice buys to look forward to,” he adds enthusiastically.
Gabby says the concept is a winner as Owners are getting a good deal and Trainers are clearing stables for new arrivals.
On the inevitable standard question of the future of the game, he has a few good ideas and says that racing will be here ‘long after we are gone’.
“But the big question is what standard of racing are we prepared to accept? We all need to realize and be humbled about the fact that we are part of such a wonderful game – very importantly, decisions that are made need to be in the best interests of the game as a whole and not for any individual benefit.”