BRAAM Van Huyssteen, who entered the world of racehorse ownership eight years ago, has expanded his string to 175, spread across the country with different trainers. He’s in the top ranks of owners today with a winning strike rate that has kept him coming back to the auction rings to feed what he terms, his “illness”.
Van Huyssteen jokes: “I have the illness of horse ownership, but it’s a wonderful illness. People outside of racing look at me and think I’ve lost my marbles, but if only they knew the feeling of being this happily cooked!
“Members of my family, too, have a good chuckle at my expense. Except my daughter Bianca, who is a SA championship showjumper. My love for horses started alongside her at the championships, helping her and grooming her rides.”
In what could be a record of sorts, Van Huyssteen has enjoyed an incredible run with his two-year-olds this season. Of the 12 to have raced, 10 have won, including Sir Frenchie, Outlander and Seattle Flame. Of the 10, seven won first time out and three came through at the second attempt. In addition, Van Huyssteen’s juveniles completed a ‘Grand Slam’ – winning in all five racing jurisdictions.
Most recently, at Flamingo Park on Monday, two-year-old Seattle Singer won her 1000m debut for Van Huyssteen, Pieter Louwrens and Rob Macnab. Trained by Corne Spies, Seattle Spring (Collen Story) won by 0.75-lengths and Spies said: “Braam has a few horses by Sail From Seattle. I also train Quinlan for him, a decent sort who looks to have a future.”
Van Huyssteen enjoys racing in partnerships with friends. He owns 50 horses with businessman Greg Bortz, 11 with breeder Filo Englezakis and the remainder in smaller partnerships with others. He has trainers in every centre, including Yvette Bremner in Port Elizabeth , Justin Snaith and Greg Ennion in Cape Town, Spies and Johan Janse van Vuuren in Gauteng.
“I am with professional stables and my best so far has been 20 winners in one month, in March 2016. But they’re not always winning at that rate so I keep my veterinary bills in check to keep the costs manageable. The vets all know to walk past my horses, not to stop unless it is really necessary! Kerry Jack of KJ Bloodstock handles my billing and schedules and is also a big help when we select horses.”
Despite his efforts, Van Huyssteen says he hasn’t really caught on to picking his bloodstock buys on conformation. “The experts have tried to teach me about cannon bones and hocks and hindquarters and what to look for, but I still buy on lucky lot numbers and sometimes on a hunch when unusual things occur around the sales ring.
More seriously, he tells, “I do try to keep things within reasonable costs, however. I like to find what I consider value at the sales. I jot down the lot numbers of those that appeal to my eye on a casual level. Then I look at the pedigrees and if the bidding is within a reasonable price range I get involved.”
Only once, Van Huyssteen says, has he spent big money to secure a share of a young horse – this happened when he was travelling in Europe with Markus Jooste of Steinhoff and Mayfair Speculators fame and they landed up at the Tattersalls Sales at Newmarket.
“Markus liked a filly called White Satin Dancer, by Oasis Dream, he got her for 2,6-million Guineas and I secured a share. I mean, after all, Markus had just purchased my business Tekkie Town, we’d become friends and the least I could do was take a share in a horse with him!”
The grey White Satin Dancer is considered Van Huyssteen’s best horse in training. She was left at Newmarket after the sale, went into training with Tipperary-based David Wachman and won impressively over 1600m at Leopardstown in her second start, last October.
Sporting Life reported at the time: “The daughter of Oasis Dream quickened along the inside to take the lead from Xenobia halfway down the straight and stormed clear, crossing the line with four and three-quarter lengths to spare.
“Wining rider Wayne Lordan said of the 4/1 winner: ‘She’s a filly we’ve always liked. We ran her in a Group race first time out and she ran a good race. The race actually worked out as good as you can get it. Today she travelled easy and picked up well, she’s a smart filly.’ ”
Van Huyssteen tells: “When Wachman retired late last year, White Satin Dancer was moved to trainer Nicolas Clement in France and she is as highly thought of as ever. She turned three as they do in January, she’s been entered for the Fillies Guineas at Deauville on 13 May and we have dreams. The day she won in Ireland she had three expensive Galileo fillies well behind her, that may be a sign of big things to come!”
Locally, Van Huyssteen is still search of his first Gr1 winner, but it won’t be long as he’s enjoyed three Gr2 wins already, including Grey Cossack in the Gold Vase.
Van Huyssteen remains fully involved with Tekkie Town, the casual shoe business he built from scratch to massive. He says: “I am actually working harder than ever. Steinhoff bought us lock, stock and barrel, including management and staff, so work still comes first!”
He’s a jovial guy, Braam van Huyssteen, he shares the disease and he’s 100% for real. No chances of a scandal here. We wish him all the best!