WHEN Bad Bob took over and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Roy Magner was the first top trainer to see him coming. Magner moved to South Africa in 1984.
Others followed over the years, and all established themselves within a few years courtesy of horses that made the locals sit up and take note, some of them top runners with Zimbabwean connections.
Magner’s powerhouse stayer Strike It Rich won the Tankard in Zimbabwe and then came to spook Jean Heming and company in the SA Cesarewitch at Newmarket. Dozens of other stars have distinguished themselves for the Randjesfontein trainer.
Paul Matchett struck early with Hideout, Tiza and Cerise Cherry, sons of the former Zimbabwean stallion Goldkeeper; Colin Lee won a string of Graded sprints with Key Of Destiny; Neil Bruss won the Met with Zebra Crossing and Alyson Wright won the Gr1 Premiers with Kochka.
The latest young man to fit into this pattern is 28-year-old Gokhan Terzi, who moved his operation South of the Limpopo last May and has pulled off five wins in ten months with his “iron horse” Tandava, including Saturday’s Gr2 Senor Santa Sprint over 1160m at Turffontein, a biggest career win for horse, trainer and jockey Jarryd Penny.
Like Magner, Matchett and Bruss, Terzi also lifted the Zimbabwe Trainers’ Title, but he’s also had to start with a small string in an environment where new patrons are hard to come by.
Tandava is by the now deceased, former Zimbabwe-based stallion Century Stand, who as a racehorse achieved the honour of beating the legendary Horse Chestnut into third, in the Morris Lipschitz Memorial won at a Newmarket night meeting by Clifton King.
Tandava’s dam Davula is by Kitalpha, the son of Mr Prospector who died after two seasons in the US following his being exported from Zimbabwe.
Terzi is aware of all these interesting pointers and connections and he points out another: “We are thinking of taking Tandava to Scottsville for the Gr1 Tsogo Sprint. He likes a testing track and it’s a race that was won in 2009 by the Zimbabwean star Earl Of Surrey, who joined Geoff Woodruff from Lisa Harris and was also by Century Stand. You never know, history can repeat itself!”
Tandava is a big horse that eats a lot and takes a lot of work at Terzi’s Vaal base. “I’ve tried to ease back on his work and freshen him between races, but he runs below best when I do that. We have to push him, he enjoys lots of exercise and seems to deliver better. He likes to win, when he smells victory he runs at his rivals, he enjoys a challenge.”
As a younger horse in Zimbabwe, Tandava was impossible to break in and had to be gelded. “He won two sprints under Andrew Fortune, who was impressed and opined that Tandava would win low-merit sprints in South Africa, like a MR66 or a MR71.
“But Tandava went off the boil, only regaining his composure as a four-year-old when he beat subsequent Tankard winner Comanche Brave over 1800m. But it was only after he settled in at the Vaal that he really started becoming a proper horse, he has thrived here, matured into a bull of a horse.”
Tandava was bred and is owned by Zimbabwe-based Dave Rosser, who has a small band of broodmares. “Dave has been patient with Tandava, throughout his career. He was emotional after this win, like the rest of us, and his support has been invaluable. He owns a few more unraced horses in the stable in partnership with my brother Gengiz Goksell and we’re hoping there can be some good ones among them.”
Of the four horses in training Goksell bought at the recent Mixed Sale at Kenilworth, Terzi reckons Silver Coin will be the first to run. SA’s record-priced yearling (R6-million), was snapped up for R300,000 and Terzi says: “I am very excited about our new acquisitions.”
The stable has grown to 30 – ideally a string of 50 could be consistently competitive and Terzi comments: “Owner Manie Pillay from Durban took a quarter sharer in a horse we bought at Kenilworth, he was the first local owner to express interest in our yard. But thanks to Tandava we’ve had a few other queries. We know it’s a long and hard road, but we’re happy here in South Africa. We are building, we are trying hard, and my fellow trainers at The Vaal have been friendly, helpful and accommodating.”
We’ll be following Gokhan Terzi’s career. He’s talented and likeable.
Headline photo: Tandava (yellow silks), stormed up to win the Gr2 Senor Santa Sprint. (JC Photos)