Louis Goosen - Trainer of Waywest Goddess
(Photo : JC Photographics / Summerhill Stud)
WHAT BIG RACE? WHAT PRESSURE?
Trainer Louis Goosen, in his popular Racingweb column “What’s the Story?”, reflects on two-year-old Way West filly, Waywest Goddess, a R60,000 graduate of the 2009 Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale, in preparation for Saturday’s R500,000 Allan Robertson Championship (Grade 1) over 1200m at Scottsville.
Louis notices several strange occurrences in his Vaal stable as the big day approaches and he produces his diary to give us some light-hearted insight into the what happens behind the scenes as the pressure mounts and everyone goes dilly. Everybody that is, except Waywest Goddess herself!
Saturday 15 May, 2010
“It’s important to stay calm, cool and collected. Racing’s a simple game and there’s no panic necessary, ever. Let’s just do things right and all will be fine, come race day. Be relaxed, like me.”
This was my message to my duly assembled and seemingly bewildered team, two weeks before the Allan Robertson.
Five minutes later, during my inspection of the yard, I found three empty plastic shavings bags in the shavings store. This is where the empty bags are supposed to be kept. But, they must be folded and inserted into another empty bag, which must be kept upright and in its place.
I assemble the now somewhat bemused team again and explain to them the virtues of having the best run, spotless yard. The team assume that special “blank look” which they normally reserve only for me, on occasion. When they leave the yard on their horses, in single file and in specific order for the next string, there appears to be a fair amount of chitter-chatter and gesticulating among them. Some point to the side of their scull caps. Every now and then, I catch the words “big race” and “le merrie”. I know that “le merrie” means “the filly”.
At the track, I immediately correct their conduct by explaining that they must never ever again point at their heads whilst riding, as they need both hands on the reins at all times. I give them a green card. A green card is one of the three cards which exist in the yard. We have a green card, a yellow card and a red card. Simply put, a green card explains the rule, a yellow card is a fine and a red card is very big trouble. Fines have nothing to do with wages. Fines come from the “kitty”, which is cash money from my pocket, to the value of R70 per person. It is distributed on Saturdays. I also have a whistle, which is blown, prior to any card issue. This goes down well with the team, who love their soccer. The problem is that my whistle keeps on disappearing…
Jockey Menno Malherbe returns from work saying that Madam Madonna worked very well. I give him a yellow card for lying…
I then rush off to the races to saddle Candy Cotton. She is beaten by Robbie Sage and Michael Leaf’s first timer, after the false start. The third horse is far behind.
I am disappointed but also most happy for Michael Leaf, whom I had brought into racing, into Chris Erasmus’ yard about 17 years ago. Piere Strydom tells me that Candy Cotton was changing legs and feeling her shins a bit. The owners and I agree to put her away, especially Brett Parker, who remains smiling and bids me farewell, as I leave immediately for my mate, Lindsay Dollery’s farm and the solace of one or two sharpies in the middle of nowhere, in relaxed company.
Monday 17 May
At track, trainer Lucky Houdalakis asks me where “the filly” is, as he would like to take a look at her. My horses are busy leaving the ring, on their way home. I point to the third horse from the front of the string. He is a 4 year old bay gelding. Lucky looks at me in a funny way and says something which sounds Greek to me.
A few months ago, I moved my ring, to be right opposite Lucky’s ring. Lucky is a laugh a minute and it’s impossible to have a bad day, after bumping into him early in the morning.
Waywest Goddess had a nice easy canter and as usual, we removed her saddle after her work and sent her home before the rest of the string, as she prefers this.
Tuesday 18 May
Menno returns from work with Madam Madonna, smiling and saying that the little filly will run a good race on Thursday and will finish right on top of them. I encourage him to change his medication and give him a brief lecture on racing, over-confidence, the nebular hypothesis theory in terms of creation, the virtues of leading a balanced life, whilst remaining positive and the dangers of medication.
During this very important discourse, I note that my assistant trainer Vic Moore is getting better and better, every day, with the “yard side shuffle”. Vic remains in my blind spot, throughout the discourse. Thirty minutes later, Menno takes the next horse. I also notice that my horses are ringing a deep path into my ring. I immediately call Zachiel, our track manager and ask him to level the walkways in the rings, as they have obviously not been done for months. I also give him the equivalent of a yellow card, in that he won’t be cracking an invite to our next yard braai. After a long silence, Zachiel says that the rings are done monthly and that they were done 3 days ago…
Menno is smiling too much, so I put Khehla, our regular work rider on Waywest Goddess and instruct him on her work. After 22 years of close association with Piere Strydom, it’s not normal, all this smiling and positive input. We can’t have false confidence. Waywest Goddess works like a rocket! Khehla comes back smiling and says that she worked very well. I don’t give him a yellow card, but I do explain to him that he must always tell the truth, as he is her regular rider and that he must not exaggerate. I call Lucky and show him “the filly” before she leaves track.
In the afternoon, Parlotone runs a cracker to finish 2nd over the 1800m Vaal Sand trip and just doesn’t get up to win, whilst the third horse is many lengths behind.
I notice that another horse had bugged Parlotone the whole way around the turn and had bumped the little guy a few times at the top of the straight, when Piere wanted to move into contention. Upon investigation, I find that it was Danielle McCreery on the stable companion to the winner. Piere is obviously unhappy about this. I storm off and vociferously object about the incident to my mate Steve Moffat. I also pop my head into the Stipes boardroom and mention my displeasure.
The best, though, is the incident in the weighing room. At the weigh-in Piere notices Danielle as she comes to weigh-in. He also notices that he has a fair audience of jocks around, so he quippes, ”Hey, Danielle, if you want to get so close to me, why don’t we rather do lunch?” McCreery is quick, with her razor sharp response, “Oh, were you the one screaming like a girl?” Piere disappears quietly and quite quickly. One nil to Mc Creery.
I assemble the team at the yard, after races, and again explain the merits of staying calm, during the build up to the Allan Robertson.
On the way home, the security guard at the stable gate is a bit slow to open the gate and I explain to him that trainers are very busy people and that even 7 seconds is a long time to wait.
When I arrive at home, Lauren has already made supper, which includes fillet steak and three veggies. I simply point out that I prefer rump or T-bone as there is at least a bit of fat on it.
Lauren ushers me out of the house, to the lapa, where my own cooking area is. Before leaving, I explain to her that she must stay calm and that the pending Allan Robertson must not affect her normal behaviour. Lauren just looked at me and then disappeared to run herself a nice hot bath. It’s amazing how stressed people become, over a simple horse race!
I call my mate Clinton, who is from Albatross Ski Boat Club and knows nothing about racing. We have a few sharpies and watch the Susan Boyle story for the 29th time, whilst I do the rump steak on the coals, with special pepper sauce which includes freshly ground pepper, cream and Jack Daniels.
Thursday 20 May
Waywest Goddess works like a rocket, still blowing, but only very slightly. I go off to find Steve Moffat and apologise for being rude to him on Tuesday. I explain to Steve that all the members of my team are behaving strangely.
Menno finishes second on Madam Madonna and might even have won the race, if she wasn’t so green. He returns with a smile. I complain that he never gave us enough confidence. Still smiling, Menno leaves to go and weigh in, but with a bemused look on his face. We have a great night at the Vaal Trainers Club raising funds for our clubhouse. Julia Moffat has simply outdone herself.
Friday 21 May
David Rahilly arrives and states that he has had enough of training on private tracks and wants to move back to Vaal. PGL (Navesh Ramdhani) assists us speedily and all is arranged, for David to move over on Monday, including Corne Spies’ float for the horses. Our problem is to find the keys to the yard, which Craig Mayhew had, which he gave to Danny Gonsalves, so that Danny could come in and feed the 2000 or so stray cats, which he still looks after, ever since he stopped training ten years ago.
Craig is not answering his phone and this is probably because of last night’s fund raiser. I vaguely remember Craig’s wife threatening to knock us both out last night and my suddenly grasping Vic’s side shuffle and practising it.
Craig finally answers and the keys are sorted. I am convinced that all Vaal Trainers’ functions should be sponsored by Prohep.
Waywest Goddess looks well and enjoys a nice, easy canter.
Saturday 22 May
Waywest Goddess looks tight and ready. I choose to canter her again, instead of fast work. She is very well!
Upon returning to the yard, I notice that the team is not doing performing normally.
Firstly, I drink a lot of tea, all day, but especially at the yard. Unless made by the flask, nobody can make tea fast enough in the mornings. Tea is Menno’s job. Menno is already making the next cup, before I am halfway with the previous cup. Secondly, Vic has now perfected the “yard side shuffle” and is nowhere in my vision, which extends across the entire main yard. He always seems to be in the other yard or in the feed room. Thirdly, the team seems to have gone missing. They are either inside a stable or the feed room or the other yard. This is most disturbing, as this team has been with me for years. All its members returned to the yard when I started training again.
I inspect my premises and find a cigarette butt on the pavement outside, a new weed growing in the paving across the road and one stable which is in very good, clean condition, but with only 250mm of base bedding, instead of the regulatory 280mm.
I issue a yellow card to the groom and to the gardener. This is difficult to do because my whistle is gone again, so I have to assemble the whole team in order to issue the cards. This is again difficult to do properly, as Vic has suddenly side shuffled to “check” something very important in the other yard and Menno is closely guarding the kettle. The team are giving me the “blank look” and Sam, my stable employee of many years is smiling. When I ask Sam why he is smiling, he retorts, “We are having more meetings than Codesa used to have. Don’t worry, we won’t get beaten in the Allan Robertson.”
I again explain to the smiling team, the virtues of staying calm… As they leave for the next string, there is more chitter-chatter and gesticulating. I give them a final green card on the “two hands on the reins” system.
Upon my return from track, the team suddenly gets together, mysteriously produce a whistle which looks exactly like one of my twenty missing ones, and proceed to blow the hell out of it. When I emerge into the group, they give me a yellow card, for riding my motorcycle down to the track entrance, without my “scull cap” on. I have to pay up…
I leave to go and prepare to watch the Super 14 semi-finals. The guard opens the gate when I am still 100m away…
Sunday 23 May
Waywest Goddess is on her toes, so we work her fast, with some extended pace in the work. She works very well, in my opinion. Heer work must have been very, very good given the fact that I am on duty at the yard, after the night before’s celebrations and a while after my team had arrived, The Bulls beat The Crusaders and also, extended celebrations on The Stormers ensuring that The Cup stays in SA.
Tuesday 25 May
Menno rides Waywest Goddess. He had previously worked her in her prep for The Nursery. He returns smiling, saying, “Wow! This filly’s got gears!”
Menno rides Mohawk Valley in a 1000m sand race, which is too short for him. He runs a fair race and we will look for a 1200m sand race and a good draw. He has been getting bad draws over the 1200m for about 8 months and we have had to run him all over, to keep him ticking. Bellotto Flash runs a good third on the heavier Vaal Sand course. She might pick up one more before being sold to stud.
Wednesday 26 May
Waywest Goddess looks absolutely ready and has a nice canter. Vic continues with the “yard side shuffle” which he has now perfected to such a degree, that I have visions of a new reality show for TV. Vic is the perfect assistant and team leader for the yard. In general, he is quiet to the point of making Lester Piggot sound like a chatterbox.
Thursday 27 May
Waywest Goddess goes out for her final sprint-up, this morning. She looks a pocture. Menno gets off, doing the smiley thing and declares that she will take a power of beating on Saturday.
Waywest Goddess is a small, lightly framed filly. She gave her all in The Nursery and returned quite a few kilos lighter. Albeit that this is her final run as a two year old, and notwithstanding the fact that the Grade 1 Allan Robertson is possibly the most important race of her entire racing career, we allowed her ample time to completely recover from The Nursery and we have brought her into this race gently and with empathy. Her blood count of this morning though, reflected that she is spot on, again.
Friday, Lauren and I leave for Scottsville. Waywest Goddess, together with Indigofera and JJ The Jet Plane, leave around midnight, tonight night. I will be on hand to receive her and to ensure that her race day stable is ready and that Security don’t spend half an hour running around looking for the gate key, whilst horses are waiting / sweating in the horsebox, etc.
From now on, it’s up to how she travels and how she reacts to the strange course and surroundings. Waywest Goddess has settled down a lot with racing. Let’s hope she relaxes during the journey and on the day.
As for the race itself, the biggest challenge is the fact that we are drawn right next to ultra speedy Ibrox Park, which could result in the two overdoing things, early in the race. Whilst every filly in the field must be respected, it is obvious that the superb, big, rangy filly, Hollywoodboulevard never acted in the heavy going on Nursery day. Ibrox Park spread a shoe in that race and Uncle George Scott’s filly, Stormy Coast, ran on very well in The Nursery, which is never easy to do in that sort of going. Most of the fillies from have also shown serious ability. It’s going to be a humdinger of a race, win, lose or draw.
At the yard, I managed to capture Vic, who was not in a position to do the yard sidestep, as he was busy packing our travel medicine kit, which will go with Lauren and I.
Basically, it has bandages, cotton wool, spirits, peroxide, gentian violet spray etc. We always take it with us. Many a light scratch can show up worse up by midday, if not closed off quickly. Whilst checking the meds box, I discovered two packets of Immodiums. I immediately called Lauren and asked her why the filly would need these. She replies, “No, those are not for the filly, they’re for you…”