Clinton Binda is rapidly making a name for himself as a trainer with a bright future. Never happier than when he is with his horses, he consistently wins races with largely moderate animals and his career can only continue to blossom as a better quality of horse now starts to find its way into his care. Adept at placing horses in the right races and not scared to race his horses as often as each individual horse is capable of while still being able to give of its best, he is the only trainer in modern SA history to win two races in consecutive days with the same horse (Saint Stephen in early 2010). A shrewd buyer of inexpensive horses at both yearling and in-training sales, he wastes little time and effort with non-performers and his owners are all the better for it, while punters can rest assured that any Binda-trained horse that is capable of winning a race will win it. With his uncomplicated no-nonsense approach, he would simply not have it any other way.
What is your name and age? Clinton Binda, 46.
What is your star sign and birthdate? My star sign is Virgo and my birthdate is 21 September 1965.
Where were you born? I was born In Johannesburg.
Where do you live? I live and train on a plot in Nooitgedacht which is near to Fourways in the North of Johannesburg.
Tell us about your family? I have been married to my wife, Sue, for 18 years & we have two children, Dylan who is 14 and Dayna who is 12.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? No.
Favourite food? Peri-peri chicken or steak & chips.
Favourite drink? Coke.
Favourite music? Anything good.
Favourite sport? Horse racing.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Home.
Tell us about your team back at the yard? My team is made up of myself, Doubt, Watson and their grooms. Doubt and Watson have been with me since I started in 2003.
You were exposed to racing from the age of 6. Was there ever a time when you considered doing anything outside of racing for a career? I was exposed to horses through horse riding from 6 and racing only when I was about 12. No, I never thought about a career in anything other than racing however I have done other things in order to be able to afford to train. I studied in America to be a farrier so I shoe my own runners and I also made metal sculptures for gardens for many years.
Who was the first trainer you ever worked with? Robin Smith in Zimbabwe.
You have said that Mark Watters taught you a lot in the early days. Do you find that what he taught you then is still significant today? I work my horses very similarly now to how we worked them then. I have just adapted the work to suit my track.
In what ways do you think training has changed since you started or is training still basically the same? The methods are the same but I find that my track has settled better and I am more accustomed to it now.
Much has been made about the great advances in horses feed. Do you find that the ‘new’ feed has made a significant difference to what a horse can do? I don’t think so – the new technology feeds are not competitively priced and don’t give any advantage in my opinion. I don’t feed them that. I have always fed Epol cubes and the only change for me is the one from the Millard cube to the Gold cup cube.
Your stable is going through a purple patch. Is there any particular reason for this or is it just a plan coming together? Our stable is doing well at the moment. I use Nooresh Juglall who rides my horses as I want them to be ridden. We both benefit from the fact that I have better stock than I had before and to be quite honest we turn the horses over fairly quickly if they are not going to earn.
In the past you never had a stable jockey but with Nooresh Juglall now riding for you on a more or less permanent basis it appears you could say that he is your stable jockey. Do you agree that he is a big part of your stable’s success? I used Nooresh earlier on in his apprenticeship with not too much success. The next time round I was much more demanding. He doesn’t ride work which is done by my work riders but he plays a big part in the success that we are having and in time to come I think he will be a top jockey as long as he remembers that it is the horse which is important. He has learnt to ride my horses as I prefer them to be ridden. They can be handy or come from off them but they need to be held up until the 400m. He still makes mistakes, and has a lot to learn, but he is very likeable and easy to work with.
Your juvenile colt DUE AND PAYABLE made an impressive winning debut. How is he doing and what races do you have planned for him? I gave him a rest after he won. He is back in work now and I am looking at running him in a juvenile plate on 14 Feb. Depending on how he does there I plan to aim him at some of the smaller juvenile features.
Which do you think is the best horse in your yard right now? Mystical Jet &Tiger Tales.
You also have the useful MYSTICAL JET who is unbeaten in her three career starts to date. How do you rate her and what are the plans for her? She seems well above average but I am taking it one step at a time and at the moment the dream is still alive.
Who is your biggest patron? My wife and Terry Kung.
Do you have any horses in your yard which you are considering raiding with during the KZN winter season? It’ll have to go on their performance but some are going the right way.
Being a trainer is a tough job. What gives you the most satisfaction about the job? Winning!
What are the qualities you look for in a horse before buying it? I more or less look for a medium sized horse that is well quartered with good shoulders and correct conformation.
How long does it take you to decide whether a horse has the ability to win or not? It depends. I buy a cheaper type of baby that tends to be backward and needs a bit of time but with horses that were in training I rest them first and I will usually know whether they will earn in the first two or three months.
How difficult is it for you to tell an owner that his horse is not worth keeping? Not difficult. My good friend Owen Heffer once told me that you cannot make excuses for bad horses.
With the cost of keeping a horse in training becoming really tough do you have any ideas on how to keep the costs in check? In terms of my own yard I try to do most things myself. I make my own bedding, I shoe my own horses, I transport them myself and I turn them over quickly if they are not going to earn.
Since you started training some great ‘helps’ for trainers have been introduced such as treadmills and more use is being made of swimming pools. How important do you think these things are to enable a trainer to get the most out of a horse? I have a very good track so I don’t have a need for them. I try to keep my horses sound and don’t over work them. The only machine I use is a horse walker.
Do you feel that the trainers with big budgets to buy have a big advantage over the ‘smaller’ trainers when it comes to getting the best horses? Yes I do think so because they are able to buy more horses at the quality end of the market and therefore have a better chance of finding a quality horse.
What is the most you have paid for a horse on behalf of a patron? R160000 for an unraced two-year old.
Which has been the most successful expensive horse you bought? I don’t usually buy expensive horses-for example, Opening Night cost R 20 000. Most of the expensive horses that I have in my yard were bought by other trainers.
Do you like to visit stud farms to look at the ‘babies’ before they come up for sale at the various sales around the country? No, I don’t have the time.
You are very good friends with Craig Carey of Arc-En-Ciel Stud. To what extent does he help you to source horses? Craig and I have been friends for more than 20 years and he has supported me from day one. This is the first time that we have had a proper horse together in Mystical Jet.
You have a popular sponsor in the form of HOLLYWOODBETS.NET. How important is it for a trainer to have a sponsor and what are the benefits thereof? Quite frankly I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of Hollywoodbets.net (Owen Heffer) and they have supported me right from the beginning.
You seem to understand the merit rating system very well. Do you get any assistance in this regard? Yes. I have had a good teacher in Matthew Lips.
You buy many 2nd hand horses. What do you particularly look for in them? I mainly look for horses that have shown ability earlier on and seem to have lost it. I try to correct the problem but mainly I just run them in their right divisions.
You achieve unbelievable success with many horses that most trainers give up on. It would obviously be great if you could get better horses. What can you offer a potential client? Honesty and communication! A bad horse is no reflection on me or the client.
Outside of racing do you have anything else you are passionate about? I like building machines-mainly those that will make me better at what I do – for example I built my walker and a shavings machine to make our horses’ bedding.
If you had any advice for your fellow associates in the racing game what would it be? Giving up is easy – this game is not for sissies.
Do you think racing is well-policed? Yes, I do think it is. The NHA does a very good job otherwise there would be chaos as money tends to bring out the worst in people.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? It’s a game I love. I have more excitement in 60 seconds than some people have in their lives.
What do you think can be done to create excitement into racing to create more enthusiasm from the public? People need to be involved. There is no winning without losing and people need to be involved in the winning side of things.