South African Racing’s Ol’ Man River Keeps Rollin’

Normandy Stud-bred soldier is evergreen

South Africa’s oldest active racehorse, a R20 000 purchase as a yearling, registered his twelfth career victory and took his earnings to over R1,1 million at Turffontein on Thursday in what was another top-class training feat by local veteran Erico Verdonese.

The in-form Gavin Lerena was recording his third winner of another good afternoon at the office when he steered the 10 year old Normandy Stud-bred soldier Nordic Rebel home at 16-1 to beat the 5-2 favourite Willow Magic by 0,30 lengths in the R105 000 Classified Stakes.

Gavin Lerena steers Nordic Rebel home as he makes it 12 wins from 81 starts (Pic JC Photos)

It was a particularly pleasing result for the gelding’s breeder Oscar Foulkes who offers lots 103 and 104 from the same high class Normandy family at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on Sunday.

Endorsing the longevity, this is also the same family as St John Gray’s 2015 Gr1 Castle Tankard winner Yer-Maan (Jam Alley) who won ten races and raced to the age of 10. Yer Maan’s dam Cheers is a Jallad half-sister to Nordic Rebel’s dam, Vinordic.

Read more here about the Normandy dynasty.

Trainer Erico Verdonese, whose wife Cathy famously suggested once that it would make more financial sense to play golf every day than run a racing yard, told the Sporting Post that Nordic Rebel was more than a part of the family and is ‘an absolute pleasure to train’.

“This tough gelding stands for all that is good in racing. He is 10 years old. He loves his racing. He has never given us an ounce of trouble. If I had another few like him, I’d be smiling,” laughed the 64 year old who lives his passion with just a handful of horses at his Turffontein yard.

Erico recalled that they had picked up the athletic yearling in what feels like another era! That was at the Klawervlei Farm Sale back in 2017 for just R20 000.

Erico Verdonese and Gavin Lerena (Pic – JC Photos)

A son of champion sprinter Rebel King (National Emblem), Nordic Rebel is out of the Western Winter mare Vinordic.

He is raced by Eric and Bev Grace, Dwayne Savadier and the thrilled trainer, and is now a winner of 12 races with 33 places from 81 starts!

“He has given us all so much pleasure, and while it was his first win in over 500 days, Eric, Bev and Dwayne have been loyal and patient. Gavin Lerena has really combined well with him too, and I think this is his seventh win aboard Nordic Rebel.”

Erico Verdonese is a vastly experienced trainer and has learnt from the best. He started out in 1978 with Richard Stranger and his tutors along the way include the likes of Syd and Alec Laird, Henry Eatwell, Stanley Ferreira, and the late Michael Roberts, to mention just a few.

Erico admits that he is probably his own worst enemy when it comes to marketing and promoting his services, and he has empty boxes if anybody is looking for experience, dependability, integrity – and results!

“I don’t do social media and I will never ask anybody to give me or buy me a horse. It’s just not in my nature. I suppose that some will say that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I’m old school.”

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