Having Paul Lafferty playing a pedantic English professor emeritus in the shadows is just one of the challenges facing Gold Circle’s new age TV duo of Warren Lenferna and Kevin Shea as they set the scene and tip the winners from their new look studio at Greyville Racecourse.
One of our greatest jockeys and a horseracing fanatic who has been under a driving ride to break into the sport of kings since his primary school days. A diverse coupling in anybody’s language, but a must include in all exotics.
The long and the short of it, and a passionate pair down to their immaculate shiny shoes on raceday, the nattily attired combo – proudly sponsored by Jonsson Workwear – may not be as easy on the eye as Fiona Ramsden, Julie Alexander or Nadine Low Ah-Kee.
But what they lack in the glamour stakes, they make up for with genuinely one-paced enthusiasm, a keen eye and a determined resolve to find the winners for Joe Public.
And therein probably lies the crux of the success of the duo, who are seen dashing to the tote windows in between live crossings to Rivonia. They relate and are empathetic to the emotional rollercoaster of punting.
“If preparation were the yardstick to success in racing, then we would probably have both been multi millionaires by now,”laughed the 39 year old Warren as he described how he and Kevin Shea exchange whatsapps and telephone calls in the build-up to their duty days.
“One would think we were prepping for the live coverage of the Oscars or the presidential inauguration. We argue, debate and discuss the card ad nauseum. Worse than a married couple we are! Then we arrive an hour before the first race, do a dry run and go through the card together – again. There is always a smoke break, a snack break, a tea break – and of course those dashes to the tote window as you mentioned earlier. I said tote window – not the payout queue by the way,”he chuckled.
While the recent passing of Gold Circle producer Raymond Rogers has cast a cloud over the racing community in KZN, Warren and Shezi, as Kevin is known to many, are determined to build their show into the world-class viewing that their late colleague demanded.
“Raymond took no nonsense. He was a hard taskmaster when we were working and a friend when the racing was over. There are stresses while presenting – the stuff that goes on and gets said in our ear pieces when things are going pear shaped on the controls can be very stressful and rattle even the most accomplished broadcaster. Thank goodness these are few and far between. Raymond’s passing was a shock to us all. Kevin and I are determined to up our own merit ratings every week and to honour the memory of a great man and a colleague we all respected,” said Warren.
A towering giant in the mould of the late producer they called ‘Spielberg’, Warren is the first to admit that he is being paid a salary to live his dream.
“Don’t tell them, but I’d actually do this for charity 365 days a year if that’s what it took,” he laughed as he sketched his deep love for a game that he lives, eats and sleeps.
He is engaged to one of South Africa’s leading racing photographers in the always toiling Candiese Marnewick.
“Luckily Candiese loves the racing game and the breeding side of things and shares the same passion as me. That makes her naturally tolerant – on most days! Do normal people watch racing replays instead of the Sunday night movie and have Tellytrack on all day? Who knows – I don’t know any! If Candiese wasn’t indoctrinated in the mentality that racing is a 24/7 commitment, I think she would have given me my marching orders ages ago,” says Warren with a frown that switches the humour to a serious reflective moment.
But then he is up with the pace again as he speaks fondly as he looks back on what he reckons some might label as a ‘misspent youth’.
“How many of my schoolmates who read their science textbooks or Shakespeare instead of Winning Form actually love their jobs today? It’s in my genes. My late grandfather owned horses and was a punter as well as my late father – all the men in our family love racing and the ladies do not, somehow. My Mom enjoys coming to the races but is not much of a punter. She leaves it to me and let’s me carve the turkey with her,” he laughs as he excuses himself to watch the Fairview third race.
Warren recalls the school breaks and pacing it to the call box to try and hold off a late run from Matthew Stevens to listen to the race commentaries on the tickey box.
“The public phone was right outside the staff room and we were often caught screaming horses home during breaks. It probably didn’t impress the unconverted amongst the teachers on reflection. No wonder I felt victimised some days!”
The Durban-based golfer and Dad to two step-daughters has worked for Winning Form and Duncan Howells Racing and is currently with Gold Circle in the Media Centre at Greyville under the iron fisted rule of the legendary Andrew Harrison.
The most emotional winner for Warren was was when Skye Pretender, a horse he owned a share in, trained by Des Egdes and ridden by then Apprentice Gavin Lerena, won the day after his Dad passed away.
Most memorable punting days are too many to mention – but he smiles and the dollar signs are visible in his bright eyes as he recalls when Zeeno and Same Jurisdiction (Kevin Shea was aboard) won their Gr1’s 1 and also the day Gary Rich won with Dukes Drift ridden by Ian Sturgeon.
“Portman Square with Kelvin Jupp up ran second – the exacta paid R990! What a day,” he adds.
His partner, multiple international Gr1 winning jockey Kevin Shea is nodding off out of boredom at this stage and forces his way through the gap as Warren gazes out of the window.
Kevin was forced to quit race riding in 2015 after 37 glorious years in the saddle.
He had suffered a debilitating back injury and had gone to great lengths to speed up the healing process, visiting various medical practitioners, including a masseuse, the spinal injury unit at a local hospital, a physiotherapist, doctors and even a man in the centre of Durban who practised traditional Chinese medicine.
But none remedied the suffering and Kevin switched to a new career in TV under the guidance of broadcasting legend, Martin Locke.
Looking back on a great career, Kevin did not hesitate to say that he rated his Vodacom Durban July winner Ipi Tombe and the Mike Bass-trained Sun Classique amongst his greatest.
A natural sportsman, he says he hated school but loved sport. He grew up in Durban and went to Northlands High School. As a15 year old he joined the SA Jockey Academy in 1977.
He steered his first of his 100 apprenticeship winners home for Des Rich in 1979 on a horse called Druid’s Robe, a moment he labels ‘sensational.’
“I loved the lifestyle at the academy and I think it brought the best out in me. Those were great days. Cyril Buckham, Vince Curtis and Dave Cave were the riding masters and I was one of 38 apprentices and spent a memorable five years making some good friends and loving every moment of it. Interestingly, I ended up the last one of those 38 guys riding.”
The 55 year old Kevin was a talented rider and it didn’t take him long to ride his first Gr1 winner. That was on Have A Fling in the Holiday Inns in his 3rd year for Buller Benton, just shortly after he had taken over from Fred Rickaby.
He worked for some of the great trainers of the game – the likes of Tony Furness, Doug Campbell, David Goss, David Payne and in latter years Mike De Kock.
“I realise how fortunate I have been when I list those big names and others that I have ridden for. Good trainers usually mean good horses – and they can make jockeys look good too!”
He cites his long suffering wife Kim and his three children as his inspiration.
On the flipside of the coin, grandstand jockeys and bad losers are his favourite pain in the neck.
The tangible mutual respect between the two makes them a winning combination.
“Warren thinks my chirps and one-liners are world class. How can I not like the man?” laughs Shezi.
“What I enjoy most about Kevin is that we support one another and we do not look to outdo each other. If he forgets something – I just step in and continue and vice versa. For me Kevin is a legend of the turf and has a wealth of knowledge that I love to tap in to. Even today as a pensioner, he has remained the same that he was when he was 33. Fifty years later he doesn’t look a day over 75 once the make-up has been applied in the studio,” he laughed.
Catch the GTV Team on Tellytrack (Dstv 239) at Greyville racemeetings!