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Erico Verdonese

Erico Verdonese

Erico Verdonese

Erico Verdonese

Erico Verdonese has been involved with training horses from the time he finished his military training soon after school. He took out his open license in 1996 and has had a fair amount of success. Racing is his passion and with it goes his love for the horses he trains whether they be good or bad. He enjoys a wealth of experience having been associated with trainers like the late Michael Roberts and the late great Syd Laird. With his dedication and hard work he is a fun loving man and his owners are known to really enjoy having horses in his yard.

What is your full name and age? Erico Verdonese and I am 50 years young.

Tell us about your family? Am married to Cathy and we have 3 daughters – Gabriella, Francesca and Ghita-Michelli.

Where do you live? Mulbarton, Johannesburg.

Where are your stables? Turffontein racecourse.

When did you get your trainers license? In 1996.

Were you always destined to be a trainer or did your life take a roundabout route to get to where you are now? I wanted to be a jockey but my parents would not agree to this.

You were assistant trainer to the late Michael Roberts. What lasting memories do you have of him and what do you think he taught you that has been of great value to you? He was an excellent horseman and I still base a lot of my training methods on what I learnt from him.

Who were your earliest clients and are any of them still with you? Mr George Dowling and Shane Lubbe and I am very happy to say that they are still with me.

What did you do before you became involved in racing full time? After school I did my military training and then straight into training.

Do you have any family members who are involved in the game? My daughters enjoy the game, mostly when I am winning, but in any event they always support the yard.

How many horses do you have in your yard? Right now I have 34 horses.

What is the maximum number of horses you would like to train? I think 50 would be a good number to train.

Do you have an assistant trainer? Not at the moment but if things keep going well I will have to think about having an assistant.

Tell us about the team you have assisting you? One battles to find grooms these days but I have been lucky and am ably assisted by my head groom, Oupa.

Which is the best horse in your yard right now? Caribbean Coast is my best horse right now, having won the most races.

From your perspective how important is it to have a top class sand track to race on? When there are no other tracks available then it becomes very important.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the Vaal sand track. What are your thoughts in this regard? (Ha ha) we should not ignore these comments and try to improve the track.

Do you have a stable jockey and how important do you think it is to have a stable jockey? Throughout my years of training I have always said that you need a stable jockey. When looking at successful stables they always have a stable jockey.
Gavin Lerena helps and rides a lot of work for me but is now in top form so is not always available to ride my horses for me.

Who were the trainers, apart from Michael Roberts, who influenced you the most when you started training? I was an assistant to many good trainers. I started with the late Mr Richard Stranger and went on to work for Stanley Ferreira. It was a great privilege to have met and worked for Mr Syd Laird. He was a gentleman and horseman. I also worked for Alec Laird who I regard as my friend and whom I consider to be one of our better trainers.

How do you handle always being asked for information by the press and by members of the public? In the old days I worked for many good trainers and we did not talk about “the graft”. Today we need our punters for the game to go from strength to strength and we try to point them in the right direction but we also do not always know what is going to win.

What do you consider the best horse you have trained in your career thus far? Crimson Waves was a really good horse but, unfortunately, he had bad feet. But for that he would have won feature races.

If, for any reason, you could not continue training what would be your alternative career? I have worked with horses most of my life and I would hate to think of an alternative career. There have been times when I thought I might have to think of something else but fortunately for me some very solid owners have supported me through those times.

Who were the people who gave you the most encouragement once you became a trainer? My late father and family and friends.

What are the most important lessons you have learned about training and racing since you have had your trainers license? I feel it is very important to be humble and patient.

Which of the trainers are you particularly friendly with? Down the years I have become friendly with most of them.

Was there ever a time when you felt you had made a mistake by becoming a trainer? Yes – every day!!!

In recent years South African trainers, jockeys and owners have had plenty of success racing overseas. Has this inspired you in any way to attempt to follow in their footsteps and race overseas? Yes, it would really fantastic to have a horse good enough to take on the world as have some of our horses in recent times.

From what you have seen which horse do you think could be the up and coming ‘star’ of SA racing? Mike Bass has English Garden who appears to have lots of potential.

How many winners have you trained to date? I don’t really know but I am striving to push that figure up as much as possible and as soon as possible.

Do you consider racing to be as straight as possible considering the stringent policing of racing by the various authorities? The controls of racing are very strict and I would have to say that I consider racing to be very straight.

What do you say to anyone asking you if owning a racehorse is a good proposition? Racing is not for the faint hearted but there is no better feeling than to watch your horse pass the winning post in front.

Do you think it is possible for those passionate about racing to be able to make a living from racing by punting? I would say that it would be very difficult to make a living punting.

Do you have any business interests outside of racing? No, racing is my passion and my living.

Do you have any great interest in sport or any other entertainment outside of racing? Yes, I like to watch soccer and I like to play squash.

Are any members of your family greatly interested in racing? Yes, they support and follow the game to keep up with what I am trying to achieve.

Do you have any serious regrets about anything that has occurred to you as a trainer? No. I would have to say that the game has been kind to me.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career to date? Winning the grade 1 Nursery with Fallon.

How do you celebrate a big win? By having as much fun as possible.

What advice would you give to any young man, or women, asking you if being a trainer was a worthwhile career? Be in it for the right reasons with a lot of dedication and hard work.

Apart from winning what gives you the most satisfaction about training horses? I believe that seeing a horse doing his best to win even though he might not be good enough to win is a great privilege.

When you are able to take some time off where is your favorite holiday location? I find that going to the coast does it for me. My family tell me I am a completely different person when relaxing at the coast.

Do you have many friends outside of your racing circle or do you find that the majority of your friends are connected to racing? Yes, I do have many friends outside the racing circle. It helps to balance life for me.

Night racing seems to be a way to get more people to the tracks. How keen are you personally on night racing and do you think Turffontein is the right place to have night racing? I personally enjoy night racing and think it is good for the game. As for whether Turffontein is the right place I say- no comment.

If you had one piece of advice for your fellow trainers what would it be? We all eat from the same pot. Let’s do what is best for the game which is HORSE RACING.

Do you have any superstitions regarding what you do or do not do on racedays? When I worked for Richard Stranger I was never allowed to wear green but I personally do not have any superstitions.

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