Ken Nicol: The Paul Reeves stable is very much a family oriented affair, as his wife of over 30 years Charlmain does the accounts, while daughter Stacey assists, as well as being married to jockey Devin Ashby, who picks up many of their rides.
But Saturday could be a big day, as they send out classy three-year-old filly Helen’s Ideal, who will be a serious contender for the Listed Sweet Chestnut Stakes over 1400m at Kenilworth.
Born in Bournemouth, England, 51 years ago, Paul’s parents came to South Africa when he was only four.
“I had no family background in racing, but always loved horses, and all animals. I started riding when I was 12, and quickly developed a passion for it.
“My stepfather’s friends all said I should become a jockey, which pushed me in that direction. I entered the academy the same year as Andrew Fortune, Glyn Schofield and the late Gerrit Basson, while Glen Hatt and Nicholas Shearer were a year ahead.
“Probably the best I ever rode was the sprint/miler Bad Influence who was trained by Dr Louis Naude. He won about 15 races and had a really powerful turn of foot.”
But while Paul enjoyed life as a jockey, he knew he would join the training ranks one day.
“I was a better horseman than jockey, and always felt I wanted to train horses,” he says frankly.
But it happened sooner than expected as he was forced to abruptly retire from the saddle following a shocking collision on the training tracks in 1999.
“It was pitch dark, and there was confusion about which direction we were working on the cinders. I was riding for the late Trudy Houreau at the time, and collided head-on with one of her other horses going in the opposite direction.”
The upshot was that he suffered an arm broken in three places, as well as a damaged back and neck. But it could have been a lot worse, as both horses were killed instantly.
“I had nerve damage which meant I couldn’t ride anymore, and still gives me pain to this day.”
A little-known fact is that he then worked for the NHA as a starter for a short period as he plotted the route forward.
“I then went to the UK to gain experience, and did pre-training for Newsells Park Stud. It had just been bought by Mr Klaus Jacobs, the father of Andreas Jacobs, who now owns Maine Chance here.
“I prepared horses for top trainers like Sir Michael Stoute and Mark Johnston while there, and worked with some classy types for instance Gitano Hernando and Strawberry Daquiri.
In 2008 he returned home, and took out a trainer’s licence.
“We started with three horses. Current Line was my first winner, and I had a leased filly from Sorrento Stud Into Temptation who won four times in my first year.”
Triple Listed winner Sea Cat was a R20k purchase, and has been his best so far, while Nonki Poo also won Listed honours. Helen’s Ideal seeks to emulate that feat on Saturday, where she is weighted to win.
“She was named after part-owner Paul Barrett’s wife. He’s been with me since the early days, while Andy Elton is another stalwart owner of mine.
“We’ll run her in the Sweet Chestnut and then the Stormsvlei mile, and then take a decision regarding where to from there.
“She’s really blossomed since being fitted with blinkers, winning two strong handicaps impressively, and only going down three lengths against the colts in the Derby”
All three his stable stars so far have been fillies.
“We’ve had good colts as well like Forward Drive, but the better ones have tended to be sold on to Mauritius,” he explains.
“Looking to the future we’d like to become a powerful smaller yard, with perhaps 40 quality horses. We are at 27 presently, 12 of which are juveniles.
“We work hard as a family, and considering there’s no huge buying power behind us I think we can be proud of what we have achieved so far,” he concludes.
And there should be plenty more to look forward to in the future, hopefully starting with Listed glory this weekend.