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Vaughan Marshall

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

Vaughan Marshall (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Vaughan Marshall (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Alongside the ‘business’ end of racing with the daily staging of races according to a carefully planned programme runs the equally important collecting and recording of data.

The simple act of recording race after race, day after day, means that – at the race track anyway – history is written every 40 minutes and being on course gives one a front row seat. As with most things in life, some bits are just that little more special than others and the 2017 renewal of the Gr1 Cape Guineas certainly qualified.

In addition to the hours, days and months of hard work that goes into getting a horse to the race track, volumes can be written about stories and connections behind every name in our record books. The Jockey Club calendar entry for Saturday, 16 December 2017 reflects that the race was won by Tap O’Noth, a 3yo colt by Captain Al out of Wintersweet. Bred by Alec Foster and racing in the interests of The Hon. Gillian Foster and Alec Foster, the horse was ridden by MJ Byleveld and trained by Vaughan Marshall. Although unremarkable information on its own, a little delving through the history books reflects that it is Vaughan’s 5th Cape Guineas winner. In addition is the fact that he trained Captain Al to Guineas victory in 2000, saddled his son, William Longsword in 2016 and has just repeated the feat with Tap O’Noth.

Marshall Mastery

Vaughan first won the Cape Guineas with Sea Warrior back in 1986. “That was a long time ago!” he chuckles. “I’d only been training for a couple of years and took the bold decision to come down here and take on the might of Mr Millard, who had the likes of Ecurie and Potomac. It was a very bold decision and one that eventually paid off. It was a very good and very exciting time in my life,” he reminisces.

Sea Warrior wins the 1986 Richelieu Guineas

Sea Warrior wins the 1986 Richelieu Guineas

Sea Warrior’s win is often credited to clever riding tactics by Muis Roberts, although Vaughan intimates there may not have been total accord with the instructions! However, with the result in the bag, it matters little. “Tactics had to come into it, especially with the strength of the South-easter, but it turned out to be a great ride.”

Sea Warrior was an R18,000 National Yearling Sale purchase. “He was a feisty little horse. He was from the first crop of Complete Warrior out of a good female line and a very athletic horse, which is what attracted me to him.” It was also the start of a wonderful relationship. “Out of my five Guineas wins, four have had connections to Klawervlei. It’s been a wonderful ride for me with John Koster.”

Face North

Face North

Face North makes it a double in 1990

He collected his second Guineas trophy in 1990, courtesy of Face North and Kevin Shea. “Face North was bred by Sydney Press. He was from a batch of horses Millard threw out and started in my satellite yard in PE. He won his maiden in PE at the beginning of November and then I brought him down to Cape Town. In those days you had to win three to qualify for the Guineas. He won his next start in early December and we were under pressure to win another race, so we ran him again about two weeks later and he won that and qualified. Then he won the Guineas and ended up winning 5 in a row. He was a super, super horse.”

Sadly, Face North was killed in a road accident a few months later. “He was heading to Johannesburg for the old Germiston November Handicap. The idea was to race there and then travel to Cape Town for the Queen’s Plate and Met. I had three horses on the float, the driver fell asleep and they were all killed. Those were my three best horses at the time. It was a big blow for me to take.”

Start of an Era

Then came 2000 and that unforgettable win by Captain Al. “Gary dos Santos and I were friends through John Koster, although I didn’t train for him at the time. I was still based in Durban and Gary asked if I’d take a horse for the winter season. It was Mustang Manny who was a half brother to Captain Al. I won the Natal Free Handicap with him at the end of the season and when I came back, Gary asked if I’d train some horses for him. I had Mustang Manny and another brother called Khamsin Wind who I won 6 or 7 with.”

Captain Al

Captain Al’s win heralded the start of a new era

When Captain Al came up for sale at Gary asked Vaughan to take a look, he liked what he saw and they duly bought the horse. “Gary and John were very close friends and of course after we bought him John said ‘You must look after this one, I want him back as a stallion’, so that was always at the back of our minds. He did very well,” he says thoughtfully. “He won the Guineas and we took him to Durban for the Natal Guineas. Unfortunately at the time they closed Clairwood temporarily and moved us to Summerveld. He contracted a lung disease and actually lost a large portion of his lung function. He ran twice in Durban, but was disappointing both times. We brought him back to Cape Town and I brought him back to sprints and he won the Merchants and the Diadem. As a 4yo we ran him in the Cape Flying which was really too short. He was battling with his breathing, so we decided rather than ruin his reputation we’d send him to stud, so in March of his 4yo career he was already on the farm waiting for the season to start.”

Was there any inkling that Captain Al would turn into the phenomenon he became? “John and I always had faith in him,” he says firmly and then recounts an amusing story. “At my partner Jenny’s 40th birthday some of the folks at the party – we won’t mention any names – said we were mad to send the horse to stud and that he wouldn’t make it as a stallion. Gary was at the party and the next day he phoned John and said maybe we needed to reassess. John asked why and Gary explained what he’d heard. John said, ‘What have I told you and what has Vaughan told you? ‘That he’ll make a stallion,’ answered Gary dutifully, to which John replied, “So we’ll stick with that!” Vaughan still chuckles at the memory.

Continuing the legacy

Hill Fifty Four wins the 2014 J&B Met

Hill Fifty Four wins the 2014 Met

Vaughan trained Captain Al’s first juvenile winner, National Captain, who won first time out. He also trained his first feature winner, Captain In Command. “Unfortunately Gary passed away a year before the Captain Al’s started running, so he never saw them. It was very sad. He loved that horse dearly,” says Vaughan softly.

Vaughan stayed loyal to his champion, making something of a speciality of training Captain Al progeny, including Hill Fifty Four who won the 2014 J&B Met, but he shrugs modestly and says he’s had a huge amount of luck.

Like father, like son

Very special – William Longsword

Asked to describe William Longsword, the first thing he notes is that he had a wonderful temperament, much like his sire, as well as like his current charge, Tap O’Noth. “The best way to describe William is that he’s a brute. He was a big, strong horse who made his presence felt. He knew he was good. The story I always tell is that he was very quiet and not coltish at all until the Wednesday after the Guineas. They came to take his photograph and he was virtually impossible. We couldn’t get him to stand,” he shakes his head. “The next day he was back to normal, but just for that one day he announced ‘I am the Guineas winner.’ He was very special.”

With Anton Marcus opting for Table Bay as his 2016 Guineas ride, it was extra special that long-standing stable jockey MJ Byleveld got the ride on William Longsword that afternoon. “MJ puts in a lot,” observes Vaughan. “Obviously the relationship with Mayfair was hard because whenever there was something that looked good, MJ was jocked off, so it was wonderful that he got the ride that day. But what makes it really special to me is that William and Tap O’Noth were both drawn badly and MJ had to pull out some expertise to win. He did it both times and to me, with aplomb.”


And of course there’s the small matter of like father, like son. William Longsword looked the epitome of his sire thundering down the Kenilworth straight and a Guineas double with both the sire and the son is a rare achievement. “It was a very special race,” says Vaughan. “I’d had that feeling before with Hill Fifty Four, who was also by Captain Al. To me the Guineas and the Met are the greatest races to win, so to win them with sons of Captain Al was just the cherry on the top as far as I’m concerned.”

“I was sorry to lose William so early in his career, he was a sound horse and I thought he could go on and win more big races, but taking everything into account, Captain Al’s fertility at the time and the fact that the bloodline was needed on the farm, it was the right decision for him to go to stud. He was extremely valuable obviously and that’s what you’re here for. It’s a team game and you work together.”

(Pic – Chase Liebenberg Photography)

Tap O’Noth takes the tally to 5! (Pic – Chase Liebenberg Photography)

On to Saturday’s victory. Vaughan is famous for turning his horses out immaculately, with their neat tack, braided manes and specially coloured browbands, they are always a picture on parade. The stable’s efforts served to make it even easier to spot the good looking son of Captain Al this year as he is a particularly high class individual. Vaughan concurs, “From the first day we cantered him and put him into work he gave us the impression he’d be a special horse. Everything we asked, he did with consummate ease and he just went on from there. When we knew we had a Guineas horse on our hands, we just had to plot a course to get him here in good shape and we knew he’d bring it through for us.

Looking ahead

The plan going forward are currently a little fluid. “We will have a crack at the Derby and see how he goes there. I’m pretty convinced he’ll see out the 2000m. Obviously there’s a little bit of doubt, but we’ll take it one step at a time.”

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