Picture: Alson Ndzilana (image credit: www.mikedekockracing.com)
Mike de Kock’s assistant trainer Alson Ndzilana, who was previously the long time assistant of Joey Ramsden, has acquired his own trainer’s license and will be opening his yard at Randjesfontein on May 1.
Former trainer of 45 years experience James Goodman helped him make the breakthrough as is revealed later in this article.
Alson is now looking for owners to join his yard.
He has a life-time of experience in horses and more than thirty years experience in the racing industry.
He hails from Umtata and grew up riding horses.
His father Jackson worked at Summerveld for Steve Benton.
Alson spoke to presenter Benni Langa on 4Racing’s Racing Today show and revealed, “I learnt about horses from my father. He told me what he wanted me to do, but I went the opposite way. He kept telling me don’t go and be a groom, but I chose myself to be a groom. I went to Cape Town and the first trainer I worked for was Mr Piet Steyn. I started in 1991 and worked for for him for a few years. In 1996 I joined Mr Joey Ramsden. I spent a lot of years there and gained a lot of experience. He ended up trusting me to look after his horses.”
Alson said a life in horseracing appealed to him from the beginning because as a young horseman he grew to love horses and still does today.
Asked what appealed to him about training he said, “I want to train racehorses, because I know I can do it.”
He added, “I am quite confident I will be a top trainer.”
He said his two chief inspirations had been Ramsden and De Kock.
He revealed that even before joining De Kock he used to watch what the master trainer did when he brought horses to stay at the Ramsden Milnerton yard for the Cape Summer Season.
He also used to watch De Kock during the SA Champions Season at Summerveld, because he shared a ring with Ramsden.
He said, “They are my role models and I want to be on a similar level as a trainer.”
He said there were many things Joey Ramsden had taught him, but the chief among them was how to look after horses and keep them in good condition and how to ascertain there was something not right with a horse.
The Hollywoodbets Durban July and the WSB Met are the two races Alson would most like to win, among other big races.
The process of becoming a trainer included experience as a “stable employee” and experience as an “assistant trainer”, which qualified him to sit for his trainers exam.
Goodman said Alson had made it sound easy in the interview, whereas in actual fact his rise from groom to trainer has been meteoric.
He pointed out Alson had been instrumental in preparing a July winner, the Ramsden-trained The Conglomerate in 2016.
Alson recalled that day and said, “I was over the moon.”
He recalled the turning point for The Conglomerate, whose preparation he admitted had not been going very well, had been when he suggested removing the cheekpieces.
He had told Ramsden his work on the track, without the cheekpieces, had been brilliant.
However, he could not answer Ramsden’s reply question, which had been why had Anton Marcus in that case chosen to ride the stablemate St. Tropez?
However, Alson was thrilled when the legendary jockey Piere Strydom was booked for The Conglomerate, knowing that this horse did not like the stick. The cheekpieces had also been removed.
Alson recalled of the four horses on July day that year, two had to be scratched so they only took two runners to the course, and both of them were in the main race.
“It was exciting, but there was pressure,” he recalled.
James Goodman said, with the support of Fundi Sithebe and 4Racing, he had sought a sponsor about two years ago to set up a trainer from a previously disadvantaged background, knowing how enormous the expenses were to set up oneself, not to mention the red tape involved and the difficulty of attracting owners.
The initial sponsor pulled out, so it has been a long road.
James said he had spent the ensuing two years “traipsing up and down driveways” looking for a new sponsor and Betway had “really been my last port of call, I had exhausted all other avenues.”
He continued, “Betway were involved with Mike de Kock, so they know Alson and they saw the value. 4Racing then organised stables at Randjesfontein and they’ve done a fantastic job fixing up the stables. Then CMH motor group have said they will provide Alson with a vehicle. All three of these sponsors were equally important.”
James added, “We have reached a point where the stable doors are open, but we now need to close a horse in that box behind them. So now we have to go out and canvas owners. We’ve had many really good owners who said they would support this initiative and hopefully we can get horses in the yard that have some potential, so Alson can show what he can do with them.”
He continued, “We will run his background business. Make sure all the vat is done, the groom’s wages are paid, the groom’s contracts, the admin, the signage.”
He added, “We are going to have functions at the stables and be able to look after owners the way they should be looked after.”
He said at the beginning of this initiative the chosen trainer had had to fit certain criteria, including being younger than 50, and of all those canvassed Alson had fitted the bill perfectly.
He added, “I don’t think Mike de Kock will be too happy to lose Alson because he is a talent. Beside training a July winner he also trained a Computaform Sprint winner (the Ramsden-trained Attenborough) and a number of other Group races.”
James continued, “Mike has really been a great help. He is losing his right arm, Alson is an integral cog in his operation, but Mike has been nothing but supportive and we are really, really grateful to him.”
Goodman said he himself had given his life to racing and this project was his last “hurrah.”
He said, “I want to end off by putting somebody who deserves to be in this position on the map and then see him making a success of it.”
James added, “I think Alson is a better trainer than me, so I’m certainly not going to interfere with him as far as training goes!”
Owners, staff and equipment would be the order of business for Alson in the near future.
Alson said, “Each and every owner when they come to my yard, the door is open.”
Alson Ndzilana has tasted success at the top, but now he wants to achieve it under his own name and many who have seen him at work will be as confident as he is that he can do it.