Picture: Charles Dickens silenced the naysayers in the L’Ormarins King’s Plate (Candiese Lenferna Photography)
Written by Mark Bass on behalf of Bass Racing Stables
It was a difficult decision to make for the connections but after a lengthy battle with the tipping scale, the decision was made to retire the Chestnut Champion Charles Dickens, to his home of birth, Drakenstein Stud.
He was fondly known by the Bass stable as Goosebumps, and if you have been around the tracks in the last few years you will probably know why. Very few horses raise the arm and neck hairs and pull on the heartstrings, but it was apparent very early on in his racing career that there was something special about this son of Trippi. We knew he was a good horse before taking him to Kenilworth for the first time, but little did we know just how good he was to become.
They say the good ones find you, for Candice, this was perfect timing. Just a few years into her own career as a fully fledged trainer, it was time for her own opportunity to put her 20 years as an assistant to her father to the test . Training and guiding a young talented colt like Charles is not as easy as one would think and comes with a host of pressures, options and careful planning, and the big ones often carry the hopes of a stable. It can just as easily break them.
Charles retires as a 10 time winner, 3 of which were group 1 races. The L’Ormarins King’s Plate, The Hollywoodbets Champions Cup and the Hollywoodbets Guineas, the latter a race that has eluded the Bass stable for 45 years, this was his first group 1 and was particularly cherishable. He also earned two Equus Awards, that of Champion Miler and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt.
We would have loved to have seen him compete on the international stage and been part of that journey. The Hong Kong Mile was always on our minds, but it’s a monkey South Africans just can’t seem to shrug after so many attempts. Which is a great pity for all of us!
Aldo Domeyer steered him home in every one of his 13 starts, and admittedly rekindled his passion for race riding. Hearing him recall his tales post-race always made for interesting listening. You can almost relive the exhilaration through him. He had an intimate rapport and understanding with him and played a huge role in Charlie’s success.
Dickens was a true gentleman to train, he came with his quirks in the stable, and on the racecourse he wanted his own way. It was a challenge to get him to change legs around the left-hand turn causing him to hang out, he was sometimes a little keen, sometimes a little unlucky, and his mouth was a little sensitive, an inherent trait from his father, but his electrifying turn of foot and the brilliance in his ability to turn it on, was undoubtedly his hallmark.
Many horsemen played an important role in his career: Mel Arnold, Belinda Haytread, Robbie Miller, Asavelo Mdudlu and most importantly his groom Basile Oscar Nkunse, who took more bites to his shoulder than anyone we’ve seen.
We will all miss him, but as with all promising stallion prospects around the world who are syndicated, he’s off to prove to his new share and stakeholders that he can perform just as well in the covering barns.
Gaynor Rupert said “Retiring Charles Dickens was a very hard decision to make. I would have loved to have seen him race until the end of the season, he would undoubtedly have won a few more big races but he has nothing left to prove.”
We are most grateful to Gaynor Rupert and Kevin Sommerville and their team at Drakenstein Stud for choosing Bass Racing to train Charles Dickens and the opportunity to be part of his great career. Congratulations on a job well done.
We head off to the Cape Premier sales next week with great expectations and hope in finding the next Superstar. I can’t help but fast forward 3 years from now, where the only certainty will be the team recruiting Charlie’s sprogs by the numbers!