Youthful Gareth van Zyl was crowned champion trainer of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province for the 2021/2 season. He saddled 60 winners for a good 15.2% strike rate and will be aiming higher in the new season.
International Racing Club
Gareth, who trains Alittlebitnaughty and promising Money Heist for the IRC, said in a Sporting Post interview some years ago: “One of the reasons I chose a career in training – apart from the fact that I love working with horses – is being able to work with people that I might never otherwise have the opportunity to meet. For example, when my dad had his job with (the late) Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer, we had the opportunity of dining with her – the fact that racing can bring you into circles like that is amazing.
“In racing, perception is everything and you can fall out of favour very quickly. After all, one can only warrant support by the big races you win.” He’s honed a skill set to lay the foundations for the big time: An excellent way with people in an industry full of opiniated know-it-alls, openness with regular, detailed horse reports, a refreshing honesty and an in-depth knowledge of the industry. This underscores his personal brand and he says: “If you look at any of the big-name yards, they are brands in their own right and the driving force of the business is established by the type of races you win. My priority will be to get horses good enough to compete in and win Graded races across the country.”
You can have all the PR in the world, but actually knowing how to train and get results is still the most important aspect of his profession and Gareth has repeatedly stated he does not want to be ‘just another number’ in the ranks. “I want to be champion trainer and be able to pursue my racing interests abroad and I feel my dad has given me the tools to be able to do that. My ambitions with racing are to end up being able to travel. Although our export protocols dictate that it’s not easy to set up abroad, I hope we can reach a stage where we can raid abroad. It would be great to take on the world without having to take on the unfair rigors of quarantine that we’re currently under.”
His training perspectives: “You need to get a horse fit, but you also need to keep it sound, make sure it eats well, goes to the start, jumps from the pens well and so on. Soundness is first and foremost for me and it’s something I monitor closely. Obviously the sound ones are better and easier to train, but it’s the nature of the game that they’re not all sound.
“This leads on to one’s perspective in buying horses. We’ve had success with horses that haven’t been top end buys, but one has to acknowledge that the horses you buy are what will differentiate between success and failure. I try and look at as many good horses as I can to develop my eye, but you can refer to bloodstock, or specific aspects of the specimen, but usually they make fools of us. One can only hope that if you buy enough of the right stock, you will eventually end up with a few good ones.”
Here is our Q&A with Gareth van Zyl:
1. Full name? Gareth Harrison van Zyl.
Nominate someone for our Q&A next? Spencer Cook.
Nominate two horses to follow for the rest of this season.
Money Heist, Captainofthegreen, Wiccan Warrior.
Chosen charity for readers to donate to: Hole In The Wall Horse Project. – IRC