IN the aftermath of anoter succesful L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Festival, we publish today our Turf Talk Newsletter interview with Gaynor Rupert.
The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate is now firmly established as a racing and social highlight, and it’s catching on as a major racing event on the global calendar. You’ve proven that racing fans and others still enjoy a stylish, classic day at the races with all the traditional bells and whistles.
- Do you think that this format you have now perfected can be duplicated elsewhere in South Africa, or do you think LQP is such a great success because it is so perfectly suited to Cape Town and this great time of year?
We are constantly trying to concentrate on the horses and the racing and less on the party aspect of the day. The blue and white theme probably only works in Cape Town because people now associate it with the beaches and the sun of the Cape.
We have many visitors to the Cape in January which helps to give it a more
international feel and there are many activities during the preceding week which are unique to the Cape. Each racetrack should have its’ own unique race days, the Durban July and the Sun Met are good examples of this. They are completely different to anything else and hugely successful, much more so than the LQP.
The history of the Queen’s Plate and fact that being a WFA race means that the very best horse wins appealed to me as a sponsor and I believe everyone wants to see excellence.
- We’re 15 years into this special occasion, with two two-day festivals also successfully completed. Despite its phenomenal growth and status, there is a feeling that you have more surprises coming in future and that the event could grow even bigger. You must be thinking, ‘Can I improve on what we’ve done, and how’?
We’re always trying to improve but right now I’m not really interested in growing the event bigger as I think the intimacy of the day makes it more special and everyone can enjoy everything that is on offer without being crowded or standing in long queues. It changes a bit each year as we try to improve the experience. This year everything will be centred around the grandstand so that each and every person has a view of the racetrack and of the horses which is the whole point of the day.
- You’ve achieved incredible heights with Drakenstein Stud, the Queen’s Plate and as leading owner in only 15 years, starting virtually from scratch. This must have given you enormous pride and satisfaction?
Yes it has. I love every aspect of the industry from breeding to racing and I am very proud of having achieved Owner of the Year with my homebred horses and nearly all of them fillies. We are a great team and very excited about what we’ve achieved. Each person plays a critical role.
- It’s quite uncanny that you stepped into racing virtually below the radar – never seeking publicity, accolades or bragging rights – yet you’ve reached the top in a short space of time. What motivates you, what makes you tick?
That’s very kind of you, the truth is I’ve been involved much longer than people realise from 1986. I wouldn’t say I’ve reached the top by any stretch of the imagination but I’m certainly trying my best to get there. What motivates me is the love of the horse and the love of the game.
- In relation to Drakenstein, we know all about your team’s knowledge, dedication and hard work. They’re a progressive bunch, but you have been the quiet driving force. Has your own mentioned research and reading carried on, intensified?
Yes I read all the time and wherever I am in the world I visit racetracks and stud farms and try to learn from people who know more than I do.
- Do you have a personal favourite among your band of stallions at Drakenstein?
Trippi is without a doubt my favourite, he was the first stallion at Drakenstein and besides being a horse of exceptional beauty he has done me proud and was Stallion of the Year a couple of years ago.
- You are obviously a keen team builder. We’ve seen significant changes in racing’s management, at Kenilworth racing, Phumelela and the RA. What are your views on transparency and accountability in racing’s management, and how do you see the future of the industry?
I believe in 100% transparency in everything we do. One shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to be able to see. Only do what you will be proud of or don’t do anything at all. For the first time in a long time I’m very positive about the future of our industry.
- Mr Johann Rupert’s social interest lies with golf, in which he has also changed the landscape. Has your success perhaps perked up his own interest in
racing? What are the chances of Mr Rupert racing a few runners himself or in partnerships?
Johann has a great interest and knowledge of racing but he much prefers seeing the foals on the farm and does not like racing. One of the things we both appreciate about the industry is that it is a high employer of people and it nurtures important skills. We need to find ways to employ more people in SA so the growth of our industry is paramount.