“Thoroughly”, the recently released autobiography of master trainer Ormond Ferraris ghostwritten by gifted scribe Charl Pretorius, is a page turner which should be enjoyed by all racing fans.
The layout has short, concise, easy to read chapters and the content reaffirms Ferraris’ reputation as a dedicated trainer who puts his horses first.
Ormond develops expertise in all facets of training and his most rewarding finds at the Sales range from a R200 purchase to the brilliant Australian-bred Tracy’s Element.
His famous dedication to his profession was in fact emphasised on the day he spotted Tracy’s Element.
It followed an exhausting flight to Australia, but rather than rest in the hotel and wait for the next day he went straight to the sales grounds where he spotted the filly walking by soon after arriving there.
The book also confirms Ormond to be a forthright man, particularly when believing he has been wronged.
The first time a wealthy owner pushed him too far the twenty-seven year-old Ormond jumped in his car and drove to the latter’s office. The subsequent confrontation makes interesting reading!
However, the sometimes rocky relationships he had with owners, some of whom had reputations as people not to be messed with, is trumped by his expertise as a horseman.
Therefore, his career progresses steadily.
Ormond’s career truly took off after moving to the Vaal, a fact which would probably not be known by many.
His reasoning for the move, i.e. the training tracks had no clay underneath them and thus drained well, proved spot on.
Ormond also had up and down relationships with some jockeys, as the book will reveal.
However, what shone through was his loyalty to jockeys, and vice versa, which always allowed a flourishing partnership to develop with the good ones.
One of the fascinating aspects of the book is it gives insight into different eras of racing in South Africa.
Stable punting was essential to survival in his early years because trainers and jockeys, amazingly enough, did not get a percentage of the stakes money. All of the stake money went to the owner.
The pressure was high and reached such a zenith in Ormond’s career that in the mid 1960s, following a spell of gambling losses which ate into one particularly big win, he packed up training.
Luckily for SA racing, he was soon back where he belonged.
There were then the boom years of the 1970s,1980s and the first part of 1990, when massive crowds attended the races, the stakes increased and the quality of the thoroughbreds competing was as good as ever.
The horses were bred tougher in those days and this is emphasised when Ormond states matter-of-factly that his top class colt Distinctly made his debut over 800m on October 10 of his two-year-old season!
Of course Distinctly is at the centre of Ormond’s most disappointing day on a racecourse, the 1975 July.
Another aspect mentioned by Ormond is that throughout the dark days of apartheid, peace and harmony existed between the various races of South Africa on the racecourse, even in the times when they were forced on to separate grandstands.
The era which followed the boom years was the corporatisation of racing, which was deemed necessary due to the legalisation of casinos, which brought with it a steady dwindling of crowd attendance at the races as well as a downturn in betting turnover.
One of the owners Ormond most admired was American Barry Irwin and he mentioned the latter’s outspoken opposition to the nepotism and capture of racing by the elite which characterised the corporate era.
The reader is kept captured throughout by insight into the memorable horses he trained like Tracy’s Element, Wagga Wagga, Distinctly, Pretty Border, Vigliotto, Fine Regent, Miss Averof, Rakeen, St. Just, Travel North, Overarching, Cherry On The Top etc, his affinity with sires like Hobnob and his stints at numerous training venues, including Milnerton.
There are plenty of fascinating side dramas too which keep the pages turning.