Although Hedley McGrath comes from a relatively small racing centre, Port Elizabeth, he has the reputation of being a straight shooter with a good eye for a horse and having the courage of his convictions. He has some really promising sorts and KZN racegoers will be pleased that he has plans to raid that province. With his positive no nonsense approach to the game Hedley McGrath looks sure to make his mark on the racing game.
What is your name and age? Frank Hedley McGrath – age 47.
Where do you live? Port Elizabeth.
Tell us about your family? Have three great children – Joshua, Travis and Kayla. I am lucky to have a fantastic lady in my life – Yvette.
Are any of your family members involved in racing or particularly interested in racing? Yes – Yvette is a race horse trainer as you know. My father Frank McGrath was a stipendiary steward and grandfather a jockey and trainer.
Tell us about your grandfather who rode a July winner at a very young age? Frank McGrath romped in aboard the heavily backed Collet 11-2; carrying a mere 40kg back in 1922. The stake money in those days was £3020. in his day Frank rode most of the big race winners. As a trainer he triumphed in the Durban Gold Cup training the winner Polybasite. Frank McGrath was 12 years old when he rode the Durban July winner – a record.
How were your racing colours chosen? My father organised my grandfather’s colours for me.
When did your first get your colours and who was your first trainer? I was granted my colours in 1996 and my first trainer was Vaughan Marshall.
What business were you involved in that set you up to enable you to become a big buyer of horses? I am involved in property and construction.
What business, or businesses, are you currently involved in? I am still involved in a property portfolio and a construction company.
When did you have your first winner? My first winner was in 1997.
Where was that and who trained the horse and what was the horses name? Keen Observer trained by Vaughan Marshall at Clairwood Park.
Who are your trainers at the moment? Yvette Bremner, Joey Ramsden, Mike Bass, Greg Ennion, Gavin Smith and Des (Choppies) Mclachlan.
Which do you consider to be the best horse you own right now? Very lucky to have a number of good horses at the moment – Copper Parade, Celtic Fire, Refined in Fire, Perestroika, Winds of War, Youth Club, Exultation and a number of top juveniles which I cannot mention.
Which horses racing in PE and elsewhere in the country do you think are worth following? Copper Parade, Celtic Fire, Winds of War, Youth Club, Refined in Fire, Perestroika and Exultation.
You mainly race in PE. Where else do you race and which is your favourite course to race on? Durban and Cape Town. Greyville racecourse is my favourite.
You have struck a very successful and profitable partnership with Yvette Bremner. How did this relationship come about? Started with a horse in her yard. Straight forward and an honest trainer.
With the East Cape Derby taking place very soon which horse would you advise punters to back if asked? Exultation.
Do you have a runner in that race and what chance do you think you have of winning? Yes, Exultation – will go very close to winning.
Tell us about the feature races you have won? Won the Golden Horseshoe Grade 1 with Copper Parade, Natalia Stakes Grade 2 with Keen Observer and a number of others.
What is the biggest thrill you have experienced thus far in the racing game? Every winner is a thrill for me – from “Val and Peter Fenix jumping on me” in Durban when Copper Parade won the grade 1 to Jan Peskens, Mark Wright, Eddie Rudman and others enjoying our winners together.
With the KZN winter season about to get started which horses do you think will feature prominently during the season? Copper Parade and Celtic Fire.
Do you own any horses which you think would be worth raiding KZN with? Celtic Fire, Refined in Fire, Perestroika and Exultation.
If you have a horse which you would like to take your chance with in Dubai would you give it to Mike de Kock or would you like to see one of your current trainers take the horse? Any horse going to Dubai will go straight to Mike. He’s a master.
As a big owner of horses how do you go about selecting the horses you buy? I try and keep with the families I know. I sometimes I get a gut feel for example: Celtic Fire.
Do you breed horses yourself? Yes – but it is a tough game.
If so which stallions do you use and where do you breed them? I support my friends’ stallions – breed them at Evening Manor, Ascot Stud, Hemel n Aarde – just a few to mention.
What is it about being an owner that gives you the most pleasure? Meeting great people and having fun.
Are you inspired by the success of SA trainers, jockeys and owners overseas? Yes, I follow with keen interest.
Do you have many friends outside of racing circles? Yes – I have friends from all walks of life.
Do you advise any friends or family to back a horse you own when you feel you have an outstanding win chance? Yes and no.
How do you like to celebrate a big win? All wins get celebrated in high fashion.
Who are the people in racing who have had the biggest influence on you in your career in racing? My dad, George Staffen, Peter and Val Fenix, David Hepburn Brown and Yvette.
Which trainers befriended you when you started in the game? Vaughan Marshall.
Which do you consider to be the best horse you seen in your career? Sledgehammer, Sentinel, Bold Silvano, Pocket Power – just a few to mention.
At this stage of your racing career what are your main ambitions? To win a July or Met.
What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game? Having winners, going to the track and meeting great people.
Which are your favourite stallions? Rock of Rochelle (just arrived), Lecture, Al Mufti, Sail From Seattle, Albert Hall, Casey Tibbs, Captain Al, Fort Wood – just a few to mention.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? It’s never predictable.
How do you like to spend your free time? Spending time with my family and friends.
Apart from racing what else are you passionate about? Fishing and watching most sports.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? It’s a great thrill and a great leveler.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? To be in an honest training yard, go with your gut feel and don’t gamble too much.