Tutuzela helped apprentices, young horses, difficult horses and starting stall learners and he gave many kids a thrill to remember by allowing them to sit on a racehorse. (Picture: Supplied)
The kindest of the kind, the 20-year-old Albarahin gelding Tutuzela, has passed away.
Garth Puller tearfully broke the sad news over the weekend that a KZN racing legend had gone to “gallop up with the angels”.
Garth did not want to see his old friend suffer so had him humanely euthanased when he went in to shock after suffering a severe bout of colic.
Tutuzela introduced just about every apprentice in the country to workriding over the last 17 years.
He also not only introduced young horses to the track and to the pens, but also accompanied difficult horses to the start at the races, including in such big races as the Hollywoodbets Durban July.
Many children have sat on Tutuzela and were later excitedly able to tell their friends they had ridden a racehorse.
Garth inherited Tutuzela as a young horse from Greg and Karen Anthony’s Highveld yard.
His sire was a failure but he himself was quite well related being out of a Northern Guest winner and a half-brother to the twice Gr 2-winning stayer and Gold Cup runner up Ampitheatre (Braashee) and from the family of the like of dual Gr 1 winner Make It Snappy as well as champions Icy Air, Russet Air and Ice Axe.
He slowly improved under Puller’s care and eventually won a race as a late four-year-old over 2400m at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.
However, he was always worth his weight in gold.
Garth said, “From about 2006, every apprentice who came to the old Clairwood training track, there first ride was Tutuzela. He’s just got one of those natures. He never puts his ears back. He never ever looks to kick. He takes everything in his stride. I can put three apprentices on him at the same time. He takes a lot of horses to the start. He has even taken horses down to the start of the July. All the naughty horses he takes down like the lead pony does. He helps the apprentices, he takes all my babies to the track in the afternoon when they’ve just come in to introduce them to the track, and when they pass through the pens he passes with them. He is old but big and he beats any baby out the pens, in fact he beats any horse out the pens.”
Tutuzela never once in his life showed any resentment to his work load, which included being hired out by other yards, and enjoyed doing everything ever asked of him.
Trainers, jockeys and owners first became familiar with the big horse at the old Clairwood training centre.
Puller used to bring him to the little coffee hut near the training centre’s gap to quench the horse’s thirst.
Garth would ride him on to the concrete platform among the early morning training track attendees who were having a cuppa.
Newcomers were always astonished to see this.
However, they quickly relaxed when they saw the regulars showering the horse with greetings.
What followed was even more astonishing.
Instead of dismounting the horse in the conventional way, Garth would slide theatrically off his back with his arms by his side, landing behind him.
He would then leave him unattended while fetching a bucket of water.
Tutuzela might as well have been one of the cofffee drinkers.
He stood there as calmly as anything, gently chomping on his bit and not showing the slightest sign of flinching.
On the cold winter mornings steam would be coming out of his nostrils.
It was always a heartwarming sight and added to the richness of being among the horses and being privy to the excited chatter of pending races.
Garth said, “He was a non-sweater and he used to give me a special type of neigh to tell me he was hot and thirsty. Clairwood was hot and humid. That same neigh was the one he gave me everytime he heard my voice on the night he had colic. He was telling me he was in trouble. He had a different neigh for when he was in trouble and a different call for when he wanted a treat. He always enjoyed his treats and everything we ate he ate, from paw-paws, to grapefruit to oranges to bananas to sugar cane, to rusks to sandwhiches, he ate anything we ate.”
Garth generally used the present tense during the interview for this article because one senses he still feels Tutuzela’s presence.
He told the story of the late great lightweight jockey Joe Byrnes who at the age of 87 when blind was taken for a ride by Tutuzela around the paddock.
Garth concluded, “Uncle Joe will ride him up in heaven now.”
“Rest in peace” need not be said for the most peaceful and kindest of beings but he is going to be sorely missed by many in the racing fraternity for both his lovable nature and his work ethic.