Fred Crabbia’s black-and-red silks are amongst the most familiar to South African racegoers. Not only does Fred own a large string of horses throughout South Africa, but he is a leading owner in Singapore, home of his champion sprinter Rocket Man. He is now establishing himself as a major breeder as well, and recently imported the stallion St Petersburg, whose first SA runners are two-year-olds this season. Fred was largely responsible for launching South African trainer Pat Shaw’s career in Singapore, and Shaw has more than justified the faith shown in him. This Sunday morning (08:40 SA Time) will see Rocket Man line up for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Sprint at Sha Tin, a race in which he was famously beaten a short head by J J The Jet Plane last year. We wish Fred Crabbia all the best with Rocket Man, and with his future racing and breeding endeavours generally.
What is your name and age? Fred Crabbia and I am 59 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Sagittarius and 30/11/1952.
Where were you born? Nigel (don’t laugh), in Gauteng.
Where do you live? Bedfordview.
Tell us about your family? I have a lovely wife who has put up with me for 36 years, 4 wonderful children and their spouses and three adorable grandchildren.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? No.
Favourite food? Pasta and Steak.
Favourite drink? Whisky.
Favourite type of music? 80’s.
Favourite sport? Horse racing.
Favourite soccer team? Soccer is not on my priority list.
What is your favourite holiday destination? My game farm.
When did you first become involved in racing? +/- 1975.
Who were the people who had the most influence in your decision to take out your racing colours? Armando Freddi and Noel Scholefield.
Who was your first trainer in SA and where did he train? Armando Freddi at Newmarket, Alberton.
Which was the first really good horse that you owned? Russian Feather and Western Peace, they both ended up as minimum eight-time winners.
When you went into racing did you get into it purely for the fun of the game or were you hoping to make a business of it? For fun.
While making your way in racing you were also building up a sizeable business with Mining Pressure Systems. How easy is it to combine business and racing? We seem to have coped with it and I find my business sometimes is more of a stress relief than my racing ….Ha Ha.
Your business interests must consume a great deal of your time so how do you manage to fit your horse racing interests into your busy schedule? My right hand lady Emma helps me tremendously and we have a TV in the office which I think only has a horse racing channel.
Have you found that the winning stake cheques are enough to cover the costs involved in buying, stabling and trainer fees? Only my overseas interests, certainly not my local interests.
How involved do you get with people like bloodstock agents and breeders or do you leave that to your trainers? I leave that to the trainers but we have started breeding ourselves.
How do you go about choosing your horses you wish to acquire? I go through the pedigrees and discuss conformation with my trainers and then we make our decisions.
When it comes to jockeys do you leave that to your trainer or do you want a personal relationship with your jockeys? I leave that to the trainer.
As the owner of Rocket Man you are known all over the world. How exciting is it to own a horse like Rocket Man and has it changed your life in any way? It is any racehorse owner’s dream to own a horse like Rocket Man. It has changed my life in the sense that you cannot believe what a privilege it is to own a horse like Rocket Man and how proud I am of him.
Rocket Man gets his chance to go one better in the R13 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint on Sunday 11th December 2011. Of course, he was touched off by South African sprint champion JJ The Jetplane last year. How well is he and how highly do you rate his winning chance? Very well, but racing is racing and anything can happen. We expect a good run from him. We are hoping for a good draw and we reckon he will be hard to beat.
Jockey Barend Vorster has been a loyal and hard working part of your team and you are rewarding him by putting him up on Rocket Man this time. How confident is he of winning? He better be very confident of winning!!!!!! I think he will definitely give it his best shot as it is his first international and I think he will step up to the plate.
Rocket Man is trained by Patrick Shaw. Did you know him well before he left SA for Singapore or did you meet him once he settled in Singapore? Bernard Kantor and I were instrumental in Pat’s move to Singapore. In fact we brought him his first 10 horses in partnership for Singapore.
How many horses do you have with Patrick Shaw in Singapore? +/- 30.
Apart from Rocket Man which is best horse you own? There are quite a few…. Astro News, Hidden Beauty, Davide, Vale Vole…it goes on and on. I don’t have bad horses….I love all of them.
In SA you have horses with quite a few trainers. A long standing trainer for you in SA is Alan Greeff. Were you friends with his father, Stanley, before giving horses to Alan to train? Yes. We were close friends but I get on just as well with his son Alan who is also just as dedicated and passionate as his father.
You have many different trainers in SA. What is the thinking behind this? Basically, to have representatives in all centres.
How much time do you have to visit the various trainers, in different provinces, every year? I don’t really have time to visit them. I rely on them to communicate with me.
You are now breeding horses on a large scale. How many mares do you own and do you have any advisers regarding mating plans? +/- 30 mares. We do take advice from Dr. Arnold Aldous as he is very involved in the matching up of pedigrees. We leave all mating plans to him.
If you have a really top class filly would you consider breeding with her yourself once her racing career is over? All our fillies are top class and nearly all of them go into breeding once they have finished with their racing career….Steady Chat, Dream Come True, Veiled Essence just to name a few.
What is your favourite stallion in SA? I’d say between Silvano and Captain Al.
Do you have a stallion of your own? If so, what can you tell us about him and where does he stand? I do. His name is St Petersburg, he was a sprint/miler and quite a few of his progeny have done very well in Singapore. When he went up for sale we bought him. He stands at Newbury Stud in Howick.
Did you follow the battle between Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech for the 2010/11 jockey’s championship? Yes. It was very interesting and well done to both of them, it was a tough battle.
Which has been the most memorable day you have had in racing thus far? It is a close call between Dubai and the Kris Flyer Cup in Singapore. Both were Group 1 Internationals but I’d say the Kris Flyer Cup in Singapore as it was at Rocket Man’s home town where he has a huge following.
When you have a good win what is your favourite way to celebrate? I normally have a nice dinner with my family, trainer and jockey.
Do you ever advise friends or family to have a bet when you have a horse in a race which you feel has a really big wining chance? Being a person that doesn’t bet, I don’t prescribe to anybody. If I am asked I will just give my personal opinion.
What is the most embarrassing moment you have had as an owner? I don’t have one.
Outside of racing what is your biggest passion? My family and my game farm.
What suggestions could you make to get the racegoers back to the track and to follow horseracing as they once did? We need to keep our champions in South Africa to compete against each other to make racing interesting, everybody loves to see champions in action. The way to keep top horses in the country is to raise the stakes.
Do you think enough is being done to keep racing ‘straight?’ I do believe this can improve.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? It’s all about the horse. We are their owners and it is up to us to ensure that we act in their best interests at all times.