Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. That’s the Paul Peter philosophy on life and his chosen profession. The quietly spoken 50 year old from Turffontein will don the SA Champion Trainer crown for the first time in a career spanning some 14 years, as the sun sinks below the horizon on Sunday evening.
For all his success in one of the toughest jobs on earth, Paul Peter is the antithesis of a showman or loudmouthed braggard.
More than once in the past few months, as his duel with incumbent Justin Snaith unfolded, and his fans had their friendly digs at the Cape champion on the Sporting Post comments platform, Paul called our offices to reaffirm that there was no quiet hate, sharp needle or flagwaving ‘wela kapela’ going on in the background.
“I appreciate what the guys are saying and they are clearly passionate about their racing. But Justin (Snaith) and I are self-respecting colleagues. There is a tough winner-takes-it all competitiveness, which makes racing the great game that it is, even on a blue Monday backwater meeting. But none of the schoolboy aggro, believe me. Hey, let’s never forget – this game is a big wheel and we all get our turn at some point, ” he laughed modestly, as he expressed his discomfort at the partisan keyboard stone throwing that may have suggested he is a Michael Jordan type prima-donna.
Talking exclusively to the Sporting Post on the eve of Champions Cup day at Hollywoodbets Greyville, Paul Peter expresses great satisfaction reflecting on a season where the stars aligned.
He currently has 202 horses, including yearlings in training, and behind the Snaith machine is the biggest stable in the country.
“Pardon me if I use cliches – you must have heard them all, but they are all true. It’s been a long road of hard work, a great team effort from our staff and Warren Kennedy, and unbelievable loyalty from so many owners. You need plenty of luck too – but you sort of make your own luck in this game,” he adds.
While Paul has often spoken of veteran Ormond Ferraris as a mentor and inspiration, the legendary trainer is no longer based at Turffontein, having moved with his son David and family to their new home in Plettenberg Bay.
“We miss having Mr Ferraris’ ear, but I don’t think that anybody would argue that he hasn’t earned a rest!”
Paul’s son Tony has been a key player in the stable’s success, and strong management is key for a yard with a Gauteng HO and a satellite base at Summerveld. His son Josh is also his assistant, while Marc is his nephew and is another assistant. A real deal family business!
“Tony is the ‘floating banker’ in our stable. He plays all positions, and I really could not have done this without him. And like me, he doesn’t enjoy the limelight. He is just happy to be working amongst these wonderful animals.”
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While the stats are still in the melting pot with a few days to run of the current term, Paul’s new SA record of 216 winners was a milestone in itself. And he tells us that it was a primary goal – even beyond that of lifting the championship title.
He surpassed the previous record of 215 set by Sean Tarry in the 2016/2017 season a fortnight ago. The record deal sealer was Vanderbilt, owned by reigning champion owner Suzette Viljoen.
It was also fitting that he broke the record with a Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein-bred half-brother to Summer Pudding, who was the horse who put him on the map. Summer Pudding, bred by Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein and raced by Mauritzfontein Stud, gave him his first ever Gr1 win in the Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, before going on to land the Wilgerbosdrift SA Triple Tiara as well as the Gr1 Woolavington 2000 and the Gr1 WSB Summer Cup.
Paul says he is looking forward to the season climax at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.
“The show on Hollywoodbets Durban July day was different class. The vibe has been fantastic. It’s a great arena to race in. I must thank Gold Circle at the same time for the hospitality and warm welcome to KZN. With what’s happening in Joburg and Cape Town, I think South African racing has reached a crossroads and we are moving in the right direction. We are in good hands!” he says enthusiastically.
Paul has some nice runners on Saturday. He suggests that Shangani, who runs in the Marshalls World Of Sport Gr3 Gold Cup, is his standout.
“He stays all day and is an easy horse to work with. He is very fit and has the vital asset of stamina coupled with a turn of foot. We took him down to Hollywoodbets Greyville for the Lonsdale to show him the lie of the land. Warren says he enjoyed the track. I’m always nervous to say I am confident – but I am!” he laughs.
Paul provided us with some notes on his other runners on the day.
Reunion runs in the Listed Darley Arabian:
Doing very well and he improved last run with the pacifiers. He is a very observant horse and the equipment will calm him down – the pacifiers slow down the vision. Saturday should be quieter than July day in terms of crowds, and if he takes to the polytrack, he must be a runner.
Ode To The Ocean runs in the Prosport International Gr2 Debutante:
We hold her in high regard. She was bumped last time and pulled a hind muscle. It’s been a long road to recovery but she is fit, well and sound. Must have a place prospect.
Swing Upon A Star runs in the Epol Gr2 Umkhomazi Stakes:
Was very disappointing at his last start. He is a half-brother to Flying Bull and we really thought he would get a mile. I suggest one puts a line through his last start. Must be a candidate for trifectas and quartets.
Bless My Stars runs in the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes:
This is a very impressive filly. We are throwing her in deep end from a decent draw. She has shown enough and deserves her place here. She will continue to improve – she is one for the notebook.
Miss Cool runs in the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes:
Her last two runs have been disappointing, but we are now stepping her up in trip. We’d always thought she would be looking for a mile. We are hoping for an improved run and have put Rachel Venniker up for some girl power and soft hands!
River Queraress runs in the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes:
She takes on the colts as she drew better here. This has been her mission for the last 6 months. She ran third in that Hollywoodbets Scottsville Gr1 over a trip far short of her best. She is good value – don’t leave her out. She is bred to stay – her dam is related to SA Derby winner Irish Flame. As a physical specimen, and in terms of her racing style, she is crying out for the mile.
Big Burn runs in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint:
She is well drawn for a change and is course suited. She has not been overraced and is doing well.
Master Archie runs in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint:
Would have preferred a slightly better draw for him, but in terms of wellbeing he is spot on. He produced some nice work on Tuesday. And what better man than Gavin Lerena to have aboard from that draw!
Smorgasbord runs in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint:
He was very disappointing last time after a decent effort in the Drill Hall – but had excuses. When he was switched he dropped the bit and lost his momentum. Has a place chance.
Val D’orcia runs in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint:
Won a good race in the Post Merchants. He enjoys this track and trip. Runs from the best draw and has an each way shout.
Astrix runs in the HKJC World Pools Gr1 Champions Cup:
Ran a good race in the Hollywoodbets Durban July. I really do feel that he could have got second behind Sparkling Water, but they cut throats out front. He ran from a wide draw and was pushed wide. If he reproduces that effort he should be in the top 4!
Mk’s Pride runs in the HKJC World Pools Gr1 Champions Cup:
This is a small but competitive field of Gr1 hardknockers. He hasn’t won in Durban yet – but has run some good places. This 1800m will suit him down to the ground. Muzi knows him well. Has a place chance and anything better would be bonus.
Sprinkles runs in the Gr2 Gold Bracelet:
She had a slight break after the Woolavington. She will be spot on. She must have a chance
Casa Inverno runs in the Listed Umngeni Handicap:
It is her first time on the poly. She is in a good space at the moment. She is drawn wide but there is speed in the race. Each way chance.