Robbie Dawson is from a famous KZN horse family and is one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most respected thoroughbred farriers.
He has plated seven Hollywoodbets Durban July winners, including the last five.
He said, “It’s a pretty high pressure week but the horses don’t know who they are, so it’s just the numbers for that meeting which are high, particularly with all the July runners. You do always get that little feeling down in the pit of your stomach this week, but other than that it is all cool. We have nearly 60 to plate for the meeting, which is fantastic, very fortunate to be in that position.”
He is plating about seven or eight of Saturday’s July runners.
He said there was nothing special about the way a July runner was plated and added, “They are just special horses to have reached that level. You get to know them during the season. Linebacker, he is a gentleman, Do It Again is a gentleman, they are all just proper, really nice horses to work on.”
He said one of the bonuses for July week was no midweek racing and all of the trainers go to the sales too, so the farriers can just get on with their jobs.
He said the timing of the shoeing for a July runner varies.
He said, “Some of the guys like their runners plated a week-and-a-half before, but in general they are plated in the week of the July.”
Those who like it done a week-and-half before are the trainers who consider it important for a horse to have a gallop in the new shoes to get used to them before the race.
Robbie said, “I prefer it if they gallop in their old shoes and are then re-plated.”
He said it was not considered vital for a horse to try out his or her new shoes before the race.
He said, “I know some trainers who like to have their horses plated the day before the race, so it is not that important, as long as everything goes according to plan – it can go awry and leave you in a bit of trouble!”
He said for this year’s July meeting he himself had started shoeing on Monday and would have them all finished by today or tomorrow (Thursday).
A master farrier like himself can make an immense difference to a horse’s career.
An example is the Peter Muscutt-trained Gentleman’s Wager, who arrived at the Muscutt yard in August 2020 on a 73 merit rating and he is now a 105 merit rated-Listed winner.
Muscutt’s training and horse care skills combined with Dawson’s farriery skills played a part in the turnaround.
Robbie said about the seven-year-old Oratorio gelding, “He had a foot issue which hampered the early part of his career quite a lot. We basically threw the book at him and then threw the book away and had to think a little bit out of the box. We did a little bit of unconventional shoeing on him and he became sound, but then he went off again. He tells you very quickly when he’s not a hundred percent right. We trotted him up this morning (Tuesday) and he is a hundred percent right. A lot of it has to do with pressure on certain areas and it is so hard to isolate exactly where it is and what has caused it etc. So you have to think out of the box and take away the pressure and keep your fingers crossed that it all goes to plan. At the moment he’s got a three-quarter shoe on. I have also had heart bars on him, I’ve had reverse bars on him, I had sole packs on him, I had casting tape on him, I threw the book at him. Pete and the owners have been very generous with their time.”
Gentleman’s Wager runs in the Listed Compendium Insurance Brokers Handicap over 1600m, having been unlucky last time out in the Grade 3 Cup Trial over 1800m.
Robbie’s family are well known in KZN beyond horseracing having run a riding school called Stoneyhurst, which started in Zambia before moving to KZN and having various locations including Hillcrest before settling in Hammarsdale.
Today, Robbie uses the same property in Hammarsdale for his Leckhampton Valley Spelling and Pre Training facility, conveniently situated just 21km form Summerveld.
Picture: Robbie Dawson (Gold Circle)