LANCE WIID was born into a family where both his father, Derrick, and uncle, Brian, were always involved in racing. Lance, though, was not overly keen to go into racing because, as he says, it is tough to find good paying clients. After studying Law and Economics he worked for an engineering company, but eventually, the racing bug bit him and he started training, mainly for his father. Quite early in his career he had Kings Gambit who was a top horse and won him the SA Classic and Derby. Unfortunately, he was then sold to race overseas. He has continued his good work and this Saturday he saddles WINKING JACK in the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint at Clairwood. Recently, WINKING JACK lowered the colours of the great JJ The Jet Plane. It will be interesting to see how he shapes against the likes of WHAT A WINTER and DELAGO DELUXE. Racegoers may be assured that Lance will have WINKING JACK in peak condition and he could, once again, upset the applecart.
What is your name and age? Lance Wiid and I am 45 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Gemini, 6 June 1967.
Where were you born? JHB.
Where do you live? Henley-on-Klip.
Tell us about your family? My family have been involved in racing from my birth. When I was born my dad, Derrick, was a keen punter and owner and my uncle, Brian, was and still is a trainer.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? I am sure people call me lots of things.
Favourite food? Italian and seafood.
Favourite drink? Rum, preferably, Captain Morgan.
Favourite music? Blues, jazz and rock.
Favourite sport? Cricket and boxing.
Favourite holiday destination? Re-mainia.
Your uncle, Brian, has for many years been a successful trainer. Your late father, Derrick, was always very involved in racing both through owning horses and then as an administrator. What was your business before you became a trainer? I studied Law and Economics for a while at Rhodes and Wits. I then did my National service as an Ops medic. After the army I worked in the engineering game for a while as a cost accountant and eventually as a technical buyer. I then became a bookmaker for a few years and finally put my time and energy into my passion, namely training.
It seems you were not always keen to become a trainer. What were your main interests before that? I was not overly keen, because of the uphill battle to secure good paying owners. My interests always lay within the racing game and I was always going to be involved 24/7.
Who had the biggest influence on you in deciding to make training your career? The athletes that this great sport produces, both the horses and jockeys. Both are very underrated in their brilliance, horses are natural athletes and a jockeys discipline to maintain his craft are attributes that any sportsman would envy.
Who were your first clients? My father was my main client and his sister’s husband, Armin Hurlimann, has been a staunch supporter since I started training.
How many Grade 1 winners have you had to date? I have had 3 Grade 1 winners.
How many feature race winners have you had to date? 4.
How many winners have you had in your career? 250 winners.
Which was the first really good horse you trained? Captain Courageous.
Which other horses set the stable alight before you had Kings Gambit? Keen To Crest, Kiaat, Crimsons Linqua and Captain Courageous.
How did you acquire Kings Gambit? I think I got him because my name started with ‘W’ and his owner had been through the list.
How soon did you realise that Kings Gambit was extra special? The first time I saw him canter I phoned his owner and said, “Horse Chestnut is on my farm.”
In his first race he started at 14/1 and won by a short head. It seems he may have taken you by surprise – was this the case? No, I knew he was the best I had trained and knew he would win Grade 1’s. He always moved in slow motion when others were running their hearts out.
Next time out he started at 7/2 and won easily so by now you knew he was pretty good. You then ran him in the Gauteng Guineas where he ran 5th. Were you, by then, expecting the great wins which he was to put up in the SA Classic and the Derby where he won very easily? Yes, I knew he could win those races.
He was then sold. Were you happy to see him leave the yard or do you feel he could have achieved much more if he stayed in South Africa? I was not happy as I believed he could have done more here, but the money abroad is far more attractive than what is on offer here.
For the record what did he achieve overseas? He won a few races overseas, including a Group race and ran something like seven or eight 2nd’s in a row. Included in those seconds were Royal Ascot appearances.
You have WINKING JACK running for you on Saturday 14th July in the Mercury Sprint, over the Clairwood 1200m. He has some top sprinters to beat in that race. Realistically what sort of chance do you give him of beating the likes of WHAT A WINTER and DELAGO DELUXE? At the weights none, but because this sport is not an exact science he has an equal chance and I feel he deserves his place in the field. He is well and I will be over the moon with a top five performance.
It may be fair to describe WINKING JACK as a hard knocking individual. He has run 40 times for 9 wins and 17 places so he has more than earned his keep. In April this year he beat JJ The Jet Plane at Turffontein. Do you think that could be the highlight of his career? Beating JJ was a surreal experience for me, and must be the highlight so far.
What made you decide to run WINKING JACK over the sprint distances as he was racing over further and even won a race over a mile? I was battling to keep him sound, so when he returned from a layoff we ran him over 1000m. He showed that he was better at sprinting so we kept him to the sprinting races.
He is now 7 years old. How much longer do you think he will stay in training? One more season.
WINKING JACK is a gelding but has done you and your partners really proud. What sort of retirement will he be getting? Better than me.
You train on a small farm. How difficult is it for you to have a decent track or tracks to work on? My tracks are well established and serve all my needs.
How many jockeys take the trouble to come to the farm to ride work? I have champion work rider Jackson Feni in the saddle and one or two jocks make the trip every week.
When you need to give your horses hard fast work, can those gallops be done on the farm? Yes.
WINKING JACK was bred on your farm. Is he the best horse you have bred to date? He is one of the better ones.
Which other decent sorts have you bred at Henley Stud? Ounce Of Royalty, American Affair and Spanish Succession.
How much breeding do you do on the farm even if it is only on a small scale? Very small, two mares.
If it was possible which stallions would you send your mares to? Var.
When buying yearlings do you like to stick to families you know or are you prepared to go with new stallions and mares? I try to find a horse that is trainable from a conformational point and I do look at families that show a high percentage of winners to runners.
When buying yearlings, or older horses, are there any particular physical attributes which you must have in a horse? Soundness.
Are there any definite no’s about buying any horse? Lame horses.
Do you like to have a punt on your horse when you feel it has a really big winning chance? Rarely. I would rather back someone else’s horses so I do not get sour with my horses.
What is the most memorable and exciting moment you have experienced in racing? All graded wins, the SA Derby stands out for me.
What do you consider the most important lesson you learnt from your dad, about racing? The game is bigger than all of us.
What is your philosophy on racing? The only rules are that there aren’t any.
From what you have seen and experienced do you think racing is ‘straight’? Yes. It’s just that it has many variables. If it was not straight people would retire with loads of money.
What is your opinion on the NHA’s decision to stop betting operators from sponsoring trainers? If I had a betting sponsor it may affect me, but I do not.