“I believe it is the right time and it really has become very tough for the smaller trainer,” says veteran Cape horseman Stan Elley following his shock announcement that he would not be renewing his licence at the end of this season.
The 64 year old Elley has enjoyed a cracking KZN Champions Season, and is in the envious position of having two runners on the Vodacom Durban July top twenty log. That is no mean achievement for a yard of his size.
He saddled the Gr2 Betting World 1900 winner Dynastic Power just over a fortnight ago and at Greyville on Saturday he sent out the Silvano soldier Punta Arenas to produce an impressive July prep, when the 6yo won the Gr3 Cup Trial beating a decent bunch going away.
The irony of the timing of Punta Arenas’ win was not lost on Elley:
“It is quite ironic isn’t it,” he said in his characteristic soft-spoken manner as the Badge Boys led in Punta Arenas, who has never looked better in all of his years of racing.
“I wrote to my patrons a few weeks back to inform them of my decision. One just knows when the time is right and the decision is based on a whole lot of things. Doing it now also means that I will give myself time to do a lot of the things I have always wanted to do.”
He confirmed that he would continue with his Tellytrack duties, something that he has been doing with distinction and polish since 2 August 1997 – the day Sciantiso won the Gold Cup.
“Has it been eighteen years already? Time flies doesn’t it? I remember being asked to stand in for Wendy Norman five days prior to the meeting. I lay in bed the night before thinking, what on earth have I gotten myself into. In hindsight, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I have met some truly wonderful people. I have never gotten bored with it and each meeting is a brand new challenge.”
Stan has been training racehorses for 41 years and started out at his own property (purchased some years later by Hymie Maisel) down the road from the Philippi training centre. He opened his doors for business with just six leased fillies.
“That’s some time ago. They were mostly Field Master fillies. I recall Seal Kitten was raced by Butch Watson-Smith, Jimmy Roux and Sylvester Vasconcellas. Then I had Dixie Dawn who ran second in the Fillies Guineas. They weren’t bad!” he laughed.
Stan has never had a large string, but has always been very competitive in the features. When quizzed on his top horses, he said it was a close call but would have to nominate the outstanding Jallad star Kapil’s win in the KRA Guineas as a highlight.
“The wind was howling and it was a terrible day weather-wise. He turned for home last and powered through them for a great win.He beat a subsequent July winner in Hunting Tower, as well as classic horses like Moneybags, Floatyourboat and Express Way. It was a strong year! I also had Rei Rei who won the KRA Fillies Guineas. Then Express Courier won the Diadem in 1988. I would have to sit and think back to compile a comprehensive listing. But I have been fortunate to have been blessed with some good horses over the years,” he said humbly.
Will he miss anything about his lifestyle training racehorses?
“I will miss my horses and my owners. They are the cornerstone to success in this game and they make us look good some days.One thing I won’t miss though is the early mornings in the dead of winter in the Cape!”
And what of his July horses?
“Punta Arenas is moving well and really is on top of his game. I was thrilled with his prep. Dynastic Power’s Cup Trial run has puzzled me. He did have an abcess in his hoof between the two races and maybe the brief break from work coupled with the antibiotics took the edge off him. That wasn’t his run and we will have him spot-on for 4 July,” he confirmed.
Was he aiming to win the July and go out in a blaze of glory?
“From your lips to God’s ears! One can’t plan these occasions, but it would be a great way to bring the curtain down on anybody’s training career. But just having a runner or two in this great race is an honour for any owner or trainer. So let’s just get there safely and we will do our best.”