Jack Milner: In spite of the impediments brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020/21 season has been a triumph for trainer Paul Peter.
His exploits saw him finish second on the national log behind Justin Snaith and he was also named Highveld trainer of the season for the first time.
“It’s been an exceptional year,” said Peter. “We’ve broken our record on the number of winners from 120 to 155 this season.
“It has been hard work and taxing, but we do it for passion otherwise we wouldn’t bother.
I’m a real animal lover and this is my dream.”
He attributes their success to two main factors – the quality of his staff and the support of his family.
“We’re all together. Everybody is so motivated, and I’ve got a good bunch of people around me.
“I’m in a good position because my staff feel it’s their business. They take such pride in what they do, and you can see their dedication by the way the horses are turned out.
“My head lads, they really go the extra mile. Nothing is too much for them. If we have a sick horse in the middle of the night, they are there,” said Peter.
But, he added, he couldn’t do it without his family, all of whom have their role in the yard.
Son Tony is his assistant trainer while wife Marcel works hard behind the scene.
“I’m not good with paper work so my daughter, Kiara, who has just qualified as an occupational therapist, helps when she has a chance.
“We’ve dubbed my other son, Joshua, our floating banker, because he organises the floats whenever we travel with our horses.”
Also in the loop are brothers Johnny and Dominic. “Dominic is a pedigree fundi while Johnny handles the marketing.
“We all check the pedigree of the horses we are interested in purchasing and then I will check the confirmation.”
Peter has lost two of last season’s stable stars. Summer Pudding has been retired to stud while Dingaans champion Catch Twentytwo is in quarantine and will soon be heading off to Australia to join Mathew de Kock.
“We miss Summer Pudding so much. We haven’t put another horse in her box, but her half-sister by Gimmethegreenlight is coming, so we’re leaving the box open for her.
“I’m also excited to see how Catch Twentytwo, performs in Australia. If he does well it could open up another market for South African horses.”
But he still has some exciting new talent in the yard.
Lately, bloodstock expert Justin Vermaak has joined the advisory panel, both with regard to purchases and the placement of their runners. “If stuck, I always turn to him. He picked Mufasa, Sound Of Summer and Val D’Orcia.”
All three Peter rates as runners to follow.
“Val D’Orcia’s got a lovely presence about him. He has Classic potential, so we’ll probably go for the Graham Beck Stakes and the Dingaan. If he does well, we will look at the Triple Crown next year.
“Mufasa is very smart and is turning into a nice strong horse.
“Big Burn, a full sister to Catch Twentytwo, is one of my leading lights for the season. I don’t think she will go more than 1400m and 1200m is ideal at this stage.
“Master Archie, who beat Dyce last time, is a top sprinter, while Tullamore Dew, Riverstown’s half-brother, looks really good.
“Smorgasbord is a half-brother to Afraad and if he can stay up to 1800m, he could be very decent. He’s thickening out nicely which I like to see in two-year-olds who have just turned three.”
Of the older horses Peter says Reunion and Sounds Of Summer will be aimed at the Summer Cup while MK’s Pride is expected to be making his seasonal debut on Saturday and then will be aimed at the Grade 2 Joburg Spring Challenge.
“MK’s Pride was beaten under a length in two Group 1 races and travelled to Durban four times during the season,” said Peter. “I’ve given him a break, but he is back in work and has done quite a bit of sand work. He’s been entered in a Pinnacle Stakes over 1450m on Saturday.
“Reunion is one of our horses for the season. We’re working towards the Summer Cup for him and Sound Of Summer.
“Sound Of Summer is a typical Silvano. He’s a late mature and he’s improving all the time. He’s a laid-back type of horse. We’re hoping he will go 2000m.”
Other horses Peter believes will do well this season are Netta and Doctor Doolittle. “Netta didn’t travel well when we took her to Durban for the Woolavington 2000. I think she’s a lot better than that.
“She has a very high merit rating of 120, probably a bit high for her, so we will have to go for weight-for-age fillies’ races.
“Doctor Doolittle is better than his form suggests. He’s needed time and we will see the best of him this season.”
Looking to the future, Peter added: “It’s hard to set goals and targets because we’re dealing with flesh and blood.
“We just want to do our best.”
Peter also credits jockey Warren Kennedy, who has ridden so many of their winners. “We have confidence in him, and he has trust and confidence in our horses.”
His final words were for veteran trainer Ormond Ferraris. “He taught me the work ethic, taught me that fine line of how to get horses super fit without hammering them.
“Even now, he still helps me when I have a problem.
“I really owe him a lot.”