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Virginia Beach wins on debut under Calvin Habib and gives Tony Peter the perfect start to his career as a licensed trainer (JC Photos)

A familiar surname returned to today’s Computaform for the Vaal Classic meeting as Tony Peter saddled his first runner as a fully fledged trainer, wrote Jack Milner on tab4racing this morning.

The filly Virginia Beach is a Maine Chance Farms-bred by Silvano and is a full-sister to Vivacious Spirit, who won on debut. 

She was backed into 5/2 second favourite for her debut today and won the 800m Maiden Juvenile Plate in fine style, beating the hard-knocking favourite Heirloom by 2,50 lengths under Calvin Habib.

The latter has been a lifelong friend of Tony’s and said he was chuffed to have ridden his first winner.

The Peter family must have been through some emotional times recently but the phlegmatic Tony did not show it in the post-race interview.

He said, “It is a very proud moment. I have been waiting a long time for this since coming back and have not had it easy and comfortable like it was. I have very few horses so it was hard to get a line on this horse, but she looks a bit special. She has a very good mind, takes everything in her stride and eats up well … she is a pleasure to train. I am just happy I could get this kickstart with the first runner being a winner. I’ve had many sleepless nights, not because of the pressure of winning, but just because of being back on the racecourse and doing what I have to do … I don’t like letting anybody down. I am just happy I have got such a good support system.”

He mentioned his girlfriend Samantha, his parents and the rest of his family.

He also gave special thank yous to Ormond Ferraris and James Maree, whose knowledge he said he had “stolen” and absorbed like a sponge.

He also had a big thank you for his chief supporters, former champion owners Suzette and Basie Viljloen. 

He thanked the owners of Virginia Beach, Dr Dane Arumugam, Prof I M Sanne & Hyperpaint Syndicate (Nom: Mr J T Peter) and breeders Maine Chance and was also particularly chuffed Calvin had been aboard.

Virginia Beach was Tony’s only runner at the meeting.

jack Milner had spoken to Tony earlier in the week and wrote:

Tony  was assistant to his father, Paul, who gave up training in September, despite having won the Champion Trainers’ title last season.

Tony was offered the option of taking over the stable when his dad gave up but turned it down and joined the family business. However, he soon discovered it was not for him.  

“I’m not really built to work in the paint shop,” he said on Tuesday. “I started off from scratch and was just not suited to that sort of job. I left school when I was 16 and went straight to work with the horses.

“So, I decided to come back but on a much smaller scale.”

Now he is back at Turffontein and has a small string of 10 horses to start off with. “I’ve got some good owners and most of my horses belong to Basie and Suzette Viljoen.

“They actually tried to talk me into staying when my dad gave up and when I decided to come back, they gave me lots of support.

“They are unbelievable people and I feel blessed and honoured to be training for them.”