One Wedding And A Gr1 Cracker!

Mercury Sprint next for Alesian Chief

South Africa’s newest Gr1 trainer was in the middle of his son’s wedding reception somewhere between Makopane and Polokwane, when his progressive 3yo Alesian Chief stormed to victory in last Saturday’s R750 000 Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint for a defining moment in a career dating back thirty years.

While the 58 year old Corrie Lensley had enjoyed a sneak peek as he watched his once raced maiden Now I Got You chase Sean Tarry’s flying Thunderstruck home in the Gr1 Gold Medallion a couple of hours earlier, it would not have been good manners to have reached for his mobile and tuned into the GallopTV live stream, while his son Lean was tying the knot with the lovely Catherine.

Catherine and Lean Lensley – began their new life together on the same day Dad Corrie saddled his first Gr1 winner

“It’s ironic that my first Gr1 winner came in the very midst of the emotional moments of my son’s wedding. But I don’t think it would have been the proper thing to have suspended the ceremony to listen to the Hollywoodbets Scottsville commentary!,” laughed Corrie, who admits that family and horses are two of the most important aspects of his life.

The wedding plans had been made a year ago – and Corrie says at that stage nobody imagined he would have a Gr1 runner – and a Gr1 winner, on 4 June 2022!

He says that his phoned beeped during the beautiful ceremony  – it was a whatsapp from Cliffie Miller.

“He said ‘you did it’! So it was dizzying day – and probably the quietest notice I could have had that I had just had a Gr1 winner!”

Corrie’s plan fell perfectly into place when his only two runners on the big day left the Vaal early on Thursday morning with Choice Carriers.

Alesian Chief in the victory canter past with Muzi Yeni’s famous wave (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

His partner Emmie La Grange arrived in Pietermaritzburg advance of the float and the horses were housed in the visitors boxes at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.

“I must thank Gold Circle for the manner in which we were treated – the hospitality and preparation of the boxes was first class. A special word to Charles Bawden, who was so kind and helpful. I sent four Grooms down as I find that horses can get excited after travelling. Strange surroundings get them going. But Jankie, Freddie, Johannes and Hoi Hoi are four solid and dependable team players and between them, Emmie, and of course Muzi (Yeni), the dream came came together!”

He quickly points out that a man who deserves a major mention is Cape breeder, Spencer Cook.

“Spencer found the Ambiance Stud-bred Alesian Chief. We got him for a good price. Spencer would make a brilliant bloodstock consultant. He probably doesn’t market himself aggressively enough!”

Corrie says that Alesian Chief is likely to be aimed at the R1 million Gr1 Mercury Sprint at the end of the season. Then he is off ‘for a lekker break’, he adds.

Now I Got You ran a cracker in the Gr1 Gold Medallion – he is likely to run on Hollywoodbets Durban July day in either of the Gr2 Golden Horseshoe or the BSA Sales race.

“He should have finished a lot closer to Thunderstruck than he did. He was bumped 400m out and was baulked for a run and had to switch at the 150m. Looking ahead, it’s difficult for an inexperienced young horse around the turn at a strange track. Let’s see how we draw, and I will discuss that with the owners.”

Although emotionally touched on by his partner Emmie La Grange in the post-race interview on Saturday, Corrie is loathe to dwell on the injustices and merits of the decision to close Flamingo Park.

“We know the devastation that Flamingo Park’s closure caused. Lives and a community – it’s too terrible. But the great pity for South African horseracing is that we have a hole in our ecosystem without a sand track – whether it’s in the Cape or Turffontein,  or wherever. Some horses only perform on sand – I’m thinking of a stallion like Philanthropist, as an example. Kimberley was a vital cog in the supply and demand chain. Those horses today have shorter shelf lives – it’s impacted on the overall health of the industry right across the spectrum, in my opinion.”

Corrie was born in Ellisras (now Lapalala), in the Northern Province near Botswana, on 23 February 1964.

His father, a farmer and game hunter, and a ‘very good dad’’, died when he was 12 and his mother moved to Rustenburg. The youngest of five by seven years, his older siblings had already left home

Corrie’s involvement in horses started a few years before, though.

His uncle Boet Horn was a farrier and from age nine, he’d travel with him to visit Bernie Shaw (Singapore-based trainer Patrick’s father) every weekend and school holiday. He trained for Frik Kroon and had 70 or 80 horses.

In 1993 he started out as a stable employee to trainer Bill Human, who was based on a farm outside Coligny.

After just over two years Corrie left Oom Bill to join his brother in a start-up construction company- but the call of the horses was too strong and he returned to the fold in 2001. He took out his trainer’s license in 2003.

He started out with a small string of horses, all owned by Hans Burger and soon moved to a private establishment at Potgietersrus which had 40 stables.

“I put a lot of miles on the clock in those days, carting horses up and down to Bloemfontein and Kimberley, three times a month.’’

A horse called Striparity was his first runner and first winner.

Emmie La Grange and Corrie Lensley – a Gr1 team!

A humble man, Corrie says that when he trained King’s Temptress to win the Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery a decade ago, it was a ‘fluke’.

“I know how to get Alesian Chief fit – but with top horses and big race travelling and Gr1 preps – I’m learning every day. This entire experience is a learning curve. For some trainers it’s a regular thing. For us, not so. But we are loving it. We are blessed to have a great team and top notch owners. We really are. I love salt of the earth racing people. Thank you to everybody who sent us wishes. There are many good people around!”

Watch the replay here!

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1 comment on “One Wedding And A Gr1 Cracker!

  1. Gregg Clarke says:

    Your commitment, humbleness and honesty is remarkable Corrie and You deserve all the success you are achieving and more. All of SA’s best and finest Trainers past all bear the special qualities you and very few other of your colleagues have. This class of salt-of-the-earth non BS Trainer (eg Mr Ferrari and Barend Botes) and wirth theor wright in gold seldom get the support they deserve because, of course, many in this industry are aloof and have a class image to protect. The Viljoen”s are a stand-out exception to the sad and observation. Thete are many, many people including I who applaud and salute the Lensleys, Ferraris, Botes, Oosthuizens and other genuinely good Trainers andcwhen You shine we smile.

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