Snaith’s early years vital as he gives old sport a fresh look
Trainer to saddle five runners in Vodacom Durban July
In an interview with trainer Justin Snaith in 2005, journalist Nicci Garner headlined her story: “Snaith’s youthful exuberance gives an old sport a new look”.
They were to prove prophetic words. In the past 15 years the Snaith stable has soared to the premier league of the sport, received the champion trainer trophy and will saddle five runners in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville.
Garner’s in-depth profile about the then 30-year-old makes interesting reading as it documents Snaith’s early grounding in racing which was to prove vital in launching his career.
Even today, 15 years later, not everyone will know that Snaith — after matriculating — flew to Australia to spend a year with leading trainer David Hayes. In golfing terms, that is like being tutored by Gary Player for 12 months.
On his return, young Snaith became assistant to his father Chris and shortly afterwards was offered a job by St John Gray.
Snaith quipped: “My father said if I could put up with St John for a year, then I could handle any owner. He was a hard taskmaster, but I learnt an enormous amount in the year I was with him.”
His next stop was working for legendary Cape trainer Mike Bass and when Garner caught up with him, he and his brother Jonathan had branched out on their own. The stable finished in sixth place in the 2004 trainers’ log.
This week all that grounding — in contrast to his father who rarely engaged with the media — will be helpful as he fields hundreds of questions regarding his quintet of July runners.
What he will be most aware of is that stable star Do It Again can make racing history if he can beat home 17 rivals on Saturday. No horse has won SA’s most famous race three times, but Anton Marcus’s mount goes into the race boasting victories in 2018 and 2019.
Perhaps — like Enable who was on a similar mission in the 2019 Arc De Triomphe — it will be a bridge too far. Nevertheless, Do It Again’s recent third behind Rainbow Bridge will have encouraged his supporters and his wellbeing was there for all to see at Thursday’s final gallops.
So what of the Snaith stable’s other big race hopes?
Belgarion: Now the 4-1 co-favourite with Rainbow Bridge and — for months now — Snaith has been sweet on his chance. His aim was to get the six-time winner in with a handy weight and that goal has been achieved. However, there are one or two worries about the four-year-old. Yes, he beat the Greyville 1,900 field with ease, but it was hardly a star-studded field. Also, jockey Richard Fourie will have to overcome a wide draw in gate 17 — one horse has won from that barrier position in the past 70 years.
Bunker Hunt: At 9-1. Many pundits rate him the best-handicapped horse and I agree. He is 5kg better off with Rainbow Bridge compared to their clash in the Sun Met (in which he ran fifth) and he was two lengths adrift of Hawwaam in the Premier's Stakes in December. Showed he is in tip-top shape in the Drill Hall Stakes and it will be a shock if he fails to make the first four.
Miyabi Gold: A 36-1 chance and the price looks right. Did finish fifth in 2019’s July under S’manga Khumalo and freshened up with a win over 2,000m in June. Easy to oppose against the likes of Rainbow Bridge, Belgarion and Vardy.
Silvano’s Pride: A 30-1 chance. Useful filly on her day and won over 1,400m in June. Won the Woolavington 2,000 a year ago to suggest she should stay 2,200m which she is trying for the first time. Hard to see her after in the footsteps of female winners Ipi Tombe and Igugu.
So the scene is set for the next chapter in the life of Justin Snaith, who is now reaping the rewards of learning the trade from of racing's best horsemen.
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