The racing industry is in shock after the death of leading Gauteng trainer Leon Erasmus, who died in a car crash on Sunday.
Erasmus, 58, was dislodged from his vehicle when it collided with an oncoming car on the Randfontein-Vereeniging road. He reportedly swerved to avoid a head-on collision and was hit on the driver’s side, saving the lives of his wife, daughter, son-in-law and one-year-old grandson travelling with him.
Statistics provided by the National Horse Racing Authority show that Erasmus trained 648 career winners and enjoyed over 7,800 placed runs since the 1990-91 season, his best being a tally of 61 winners in 2012-13 and again in 2013-14. His best horses were 14-time winner Little Hampton, the sprint king of the Vaal’s sand track; grade2 Fillies Guineas winner Go Indigo, sprinters Jimmy Choo and Tiger Territory and handicappers Power Jet, Never Give Up and Virtuosity.
Tributes poured in, including a touching response from Malan du Toit, the horse behaviour therapist, who said: "I am shocked and heartbroken. Leon was an unbelievably friendly man always willing to chat and crack a joke. A good trainer in his own right, I will always remember him as the ‘Boerseun’ of South African racing. He loved his family, his horses, his farm and his country."
It is fair to say that the Erasmus’s stable became a part of the fabric of Gauteng racing and was such for several years. Not a meeting would go by without serious punters looking through the card and saying: "Where will Leon Erasmus strike today?"
The Erasmus stable’s Regal Girl was entered for race 2 at the Vaal on Tuesday and has not yet been withdrawn. Erasmus won a handicap at the country course last Tuesday with eight-year-old Stravinsky, who has earned over R1m for his owner.
Trainer Mike de Kock saddled five winners at Turffontein on Sunday and with his runners on a roll it will pay to consider them all at Tuesday’s meeting.
Best of De Kock’s nine runners could be the imported three-year-old colt Condor Gulch, bred for long distances, improving and trying 2,000m for the first time. The yard’s Glamorous Scandal (race 5) is coming to hand fast and looks a fair bet from a good draw.