Trevor Lange Will Be Missed

A life lived to the fullest

A former jockey and trainer, and a man who dedicated his life to horseracing, for seven decades, Trevor Lange has passed away at the age of 87.

In recent years he was an assistant to his son in law, trainer `Lucky’ Houdalakis, and his equine and people skills were in demand as he he tapped as much pleasure from the sport in his later years as he did when he became a jockey in 1951, a trainer in 1971, a Stipendiary Steward in 1988, a trainer again in 1994 and 2000, and a small-time breeder in between.

“My first ever ride was a winner,’’ he is on record as saying as he recalled one of his finest days, 26 December 1951.

“My mount was Forage Cap, trained by Felix Coetzee’s father Hennie. We beat horses ridden by Charlie Barends and Bert Sage.”

Trevor was privileged to ride with the mentioned pair and the likes of ‘Tiger’ Wright, ‘Cocky’ Feldman, Benny Little, Basil Lewis and many other jockeys, still today considered in a league of their own.

He was a successful apprentice, so good that he was given a mount in the 1952 Durban July, just a few months after starting his apprenticeship. The horse was Lord Louis and they’d struck up a good relationship in the run up to the big race, winning three on the trot and being instituted an early favourite to win.

“But Mr Coetzee took me off on the day of the race, they could do it in those days, and it was a major disappointment. Lord Louis finished fourth behind Mowgli, who beat Radlington,” he told Charl Pretorius some years ago.

Trevor did get to ride in nine other Durban July’s – indicative of his talent, and his best-placed finish was a third, in 1958, on Excise. He also won the 1962 God Cup on Specialist for JBK Cooper, the Newbury Stakes on Appeal Court, two PE Derby’s and the November Handicap on Onyx.

He never came across as a braggart when he said: “I was a good jock, competitive against the best. Roy Curling used to joke and say I mustn’t come to Port Elizabeth and steal their winners; Stanley Amos and Peter Kannemeyer and the guys in the Cape said the same when I went there in 1961 and had a big run with Sir Harvey Bruce.”

Trevor was a successful raiding jockey, and adapted to all circumstances to win. One example was his only ever race in Zimbabwe, the then prestigious Castle Tankard on Dr John for trainer Barry Labistour.

A montage from his family, celebrating Trevor Lange’s 80th birthday

Interestingly seven years to the day after his first winner, Trevor was involved in what newspapers for many years afterwards would call, “Racing’s Blackest Day’’ – 26 December 1958 at Clairwood – when a punters’ revolt on the course proper led to two horses having to be put down and five jockeys being injured.

“There was a nine-race programme at Clairwood and at the start of the eighth race, I recall, Percy Cayeux’s mount, the hot favourite, refused to jump. The punters were furious.

“I had a ride in Race 9, there were 16 runners I think and on the way to the start we could see that a large group of punters had congregated close to the grandstand. We got to the start, there were no gates in those days and Charlie Barends was keen to get home, he shouted at the starter that he had a plane to catch and soon after we got clearance from the stipes and the horses kicked off and ran. But as we approached the 200m mark there were lots of people on the track. They were armed with pieces of sharp wood, picket fences from next to the track turned into spears, and they formed a human barrier in front of us!”

Trevor acknowledged that he ‘got lucky’ that day because he was on a stayer in a sprint race and was some way behind the rest.

“But ahead of me the horses were being hastily pulled up. Some were hit by the flying pieces of wood; several horses came down and two had to be destroyed. Five jockeys were injured. I escaped unhurt, thank God, but it was an awful experience all the same!’’

With a few weight problems and an opportunity to train in 1971, Trevor hung up his boots and started at a farm near Henley-On-Klip with a few nice horses, including Salaman and Min Bridge.

Then followed a spell at the Vaal, in the early days of the racecourse as a training centre, and Trevor fondly recalls a handful of trainers operating from the Viljoensdrift track including Ormond Ferraris, Ralph Halket, Bertie Sage, later Ricky Maingard, Spike Lerena and John Nicholson.|

“The Vaal training track was superb in those days. There are a few more today and they are still exceptionally good, world class!’’

He won many feature races including three Jubilee Handicaps, with Flannel, Baldrick and Trauhaut and most of his winners were ridden by Robbie Thompson.

He also served on the Owners and Trainers Association.

Trevor returned to Durban in 1979 for a spell at Pietermaritzburg and Summerveld, turning out  feature winners like Turnsail (Frank Lambert Stakes and placed in the J&B Met).

Times were getting tough though and racing was changing and Trevor packed it in, becoming a Stipendiary Steward in 1988, serving under Dudley Feldman, with the likes of Harold Taylor and the Patterson brothers, Peter and Barry.

But the lure of open air and the horse brought him back as a trainer to owner Derek Martin in the mid 1990s, during which the undisputed highlight was when Martin’s Shoe Shac (Doug Whyte) beating the superstar Tommy Hotspur in the 1996 Computaform Sprint.

Trevor finally called it a day in 2002 after a brief spell on the Highveld and worked in the storage industry where he met Coenie Strydom, who became one of the leading patrons of ‘Lucky’ Houdalakis. We all remember JJ The Jet Plane!

“There’s a purpose to everything and I am so privileged to have been involved in Lucky’s rise to prominence. He is a very good horseman. I tried to give little bits of advice where I could, but he’s good, he knows his oats,” he told Charl Pretorius.

The Sporting Post facebook post on Thursday morning reporting Trevor Lange’s passing speaks volumes of the esteem in which he was held.

Our condolences are extended to Natalie and Lucky, and all of his family and friends. Racing has lost a good man.

  • Information – kind courtesy of Charl Pretorius’ Legends Of The Turf, Volume 2.

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