FORMER SA Triple Crown winner Louis The King’s first runner, Matthew The King, will be sent out by trainer Greg Ennion in Race 1 over 1250m at Durbanville on Saturday.
This is a long-awaited event for Tiaan and Louis van der Vyfer, who raced ‘Louis’ with Geoff Woodruff; Kerry Jack, who syndicated him for stud and Terry and Anabel Andrews, who stands the son of Black Minnaloushe at Sorrento.
Behind the scenes, both the Ennion team and owner Rocky Warby and his family will be holding hands over their hearts in tribute to the late Mathew Warby, the young man to which this unraced colt owes his name.
Mathew, aged just 23, died of complications suffered during a procedural medical check-up in February 2014. A sickly child, he was born with two heart conditions, Right Ventricular Dysplasia and Cardio-myophatic Arrythmia. In 1998 he had his first heart transplant when he was just eight years old, followed by a second transplant in 2011, at age 20.
Rocky Warby told Turf Talk: “Mathew was a go-getter, a positive person his entire life, he never lost confidence.”
The Krugersdorp-based Warby family founded the West Rand Heart and Organ Transplant Foundation, who paid tribute to Mathew at his death, saying: “His entire life was a delightful tragedy. He was an endearing and loving person who brought tremendous love and joy to every human being he came into contact with. He was sharp-witted, vibrant and exuberant with a large circle of friends.”
Rocky explained that the story of Matthew The King goes back to a day, around 2011, when Mathew had just undergone his second heart transplant. “I visited Philip Kahan on his farm and a Toreador filly caught my eye. Mathew also liked her and we bought her and sent her to Greg Ennion’s yard at Milnerton.
“When Greg heard about Mathew and his background, he recommended we name the filly ‘Changing Heart’, and we agreed. She won four races for us and ran a few places, it was a fun time and Mathew actually saw her in action, as he was spending time in Cape Town for his check-ups. He loved watching our filly at the track.”
When Mathew died, and the Warbys understandably went through sad and trying times, Rocky said he lost interest in racing and sent Changing Heart back to Philip Kahan.
Then, recently, Philip Kahan phoned him up with some news: “Philip said he had mated Changing Heart to the new stallion Louis The King and that the colt she had produced was a nice specimen worth racing.
“I had some partners interested to race the colt with me, but we couldn’t agree on a trainer. I wanted to race with Greg Ennion, a top horseman in his own right with whom we had a history, so I took all the shares and sent him to Greg.”
Ennion commented: “I thought about it and wanted to name this one ‘Change Of Heart’, but we couldn’t get that and ‘Matthew The King’ was available, I think this is a nice tribute to Mathew Warby and his life story.”
Ennion said that Matthew The King is a promising colt: “I like him. We’ve given him two gallops so far and he came through them nicely, two good pieces of work. We’re not expecting much first time out, I don’t rev my young horses as you know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs into the money. He has a Quartet chance.”
Interestingly, in their nine-year association Rocky Warby has never had the pleasure of meeting the astute Mr Ennion and we hope he does so soon, perhaps on a trip to Cape Town to watch Matthew The King, who we’ll be crossing fingers will become a multiple winner like his dam.
Meanwhile, our thoughts will be with the Warbys on Saturday when Matthew The King goes to post under jockey MJ Byleveld in remembrance of the young man everyone said had, “a large and charismatic personality” and whose passing is still deeply mourned by family and friends.