A good 3yo won’t win the L’Ormarins King’s Plate. But a top-class sophomore can.
And we will know a lot more about the strength of our current crop of 3yo’s after Saturday’s royal mile at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth, remembering that both Kommetdieding and Jet Dark will be keeping Charles Dickens honest and on his champion chestnut toes.
That’s the opinion of Summerveld trainer Louis Goosen, who saddled the winning horse in the 2022 KZN Hollywoodbets Sizzling Summer Challenge at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Friday evening.
The 62 year old veteran told the Sporting Post that he literally ‘cannot wait’ for Saturday to watch another vintage renewal of South Africa’s premier weight-for-age mile.
“Look at the honour roll of this great race. Ordinary horses don’t win it. On Saturday we will know how good this 3yo crop really is and whether Charles Dickens is a champion. I must admit that my heart is with Charles Dickens – his presence is really great for our racing. But caution. Jet Dark is a dual winning champion and goes for a rare hat-trick. And then Kommetdieding, a Durban July and Met winner, is the ‘people’s horse’. I would be thrilled for Michelle and Harold (Crawford), as well as owner Ashwin Reynolds, if he were to win. Any horse can have an off day. But both of these seasoned gallopers won’t! It is going to be a fascinating race!”
Still on a high after an amazing plan come together following Princess Tea’s crowning as the winner in the Equine category of the R1 million Hollywoodbets KZN Sizzling Summer Challenge on Friday evening, Louis paid tribute to Hollywoodbets for the contribution and support of racing.
“How good are these guys? Over R1 million in prize money and just when everybody needs it!” he enthuses.
He says he is ‘so chuffed’ for Princess Tea’s owner Preggie Somasundram.
“The man is a soldier and understands racing. She came to me as a one-time winner. A few months ago, Preggie suggested we retire her. I told him, he mustn’t – she was my secret weapon to win this fantastic competition! I offered to lease her then. But Preggie said I must be smoking my socks, or something even stronger! Thank heavens he stuck with her,” laughs the man who gave up 46 years of chain-smoking just three years ago.
He digresses. “My Dad was a jockey and I started puffing when I was a teenager. I had no choice – I was sharing my room with an apprentice. They all smoked and taught me how to smoke. That way I was part of it and wouldn’t pimp them!”
The charismatic trainer, a great conversationalist, is distracted for a moment as he reflects that in those days, 28 of 30 jockeys smoked.
“Today it’s the reverse – 28 are non-smokers. Interesting how fads and life change. I had to give up, otherwise I wouldn’t have been here talking to you today. I probably wasn’t a very nice person for a while in the withdrawal phase. I’m okay today and boy it’s cheaper, too!” he laughs.
The Hollywoodbets -sponsored conditioner runs an immaculate yard, with the assistance of his Equine Artist partner Lauren, who does the ‘mollycoddling’ and looks after the seven different feed options for the 16 Goosen charges.
He says he is happy at Summerveld and observes that every training centre had its ‘challenges’.
Louis moved from Ashburton to the Vaal 2 years prior to covid’s arrival.Then four months after he arrived at Summerveld the epidemic was wreaking havoc.
We asked about his small string and he explains that covid was a killer blow.
“I have always preferred a yard of 20, while 30 is probably commercially viable. I like to know all of my horses and to treat them like the individuals that they are. Many of my owners were in the leisure industry so were worst impacted by the scourge. Others, already in their seventies, decided to not renew their colours. Many of us have a side business to allow us to enjoy our passion, the horses. And my top-class sponsors Hollywoodbets are a big boost too!”
So what does he plan to do to grow his string?
“I look at Mark Bass as an example. The Cape guys really have mastered the syndication aspect. It’s one way to get people involved. We don’t have enough owners of the ilk of Mary Slack, Gaynor Rupert and Greg Bortz, amongst others. We probably have 20 – we need at least 70. And bringing the man-in-the-street in via syndication means that more ordinary get to enjoy this wonderful game.”
Louis frowns as he points to the reality that here in South Africa most trainers ‘are fighting over the same bone’.
“All of us need to change our mindsets. One markets a prospective new owner and introduces him to the game. The next moment that owner is being approached by all and sundry. I have seen the emails. Not even subtle! And the sales companies also tend to provide the introductions to the larger yards. Look, I am not whinging – I am not a cry baby either, but it’s bloody difficult. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything, either!”
He touches on an international ‘top 5’ owner that may be looking at racing here.
“They race 70 horses in the USA. They had a Gr1 winner in Sydney the other day. Gold Circle have been fantastic in hosting them. But I must say there is only one man I will refer them to when it comes to training – and that’s Mike de Kock. An officer and a gentleman!” adds Louis.
Louis ‘The Goose’ Goosen was born into a racing stable. His late Dad Danie was a multiple Champion Trainer in the Eastern Cape, after his weight caught up with him as a jockey.
The silverware proudly displayed in the Goosen cabinet bears testimony to the late Danie Goosen’s many achievements and championships as a trainer before his untimely death in a motor accident in 1977.
Louis started training in 1994, after a spell as Assistant Trainer to Chris Erasmus, then based at Newmarket.
The late Buddy Maroun was a longtime friend of Louis and the friendship really grew from 1996 onwards once the Goosen string moved to Randjesfontein. Buddy became a mentor and his passing on 18 February 2008, whilst in Argentina, left Louis devastated.
The Goosen Racing philosophy is: Without owners, a racing yard is useless. Respect for owners and their needs, regular communication and nothing but 100% effort and honesty are vital, at all times.