It is appropriate that in women’s month this August, a member of the fairer sex is the success story in trainer ranks for the recently completed 2019/2020 season.  Ashley Fortune’s ninth-place finish in the national log is nothing short of remarkable when one considers that she did not feature in the top 30 for the 2018/2019 campaign.

Formerly an assistant to Noelene Peech in Zimbabwe before joining Joey Ramsden’s yard, Fortune is following in the footsteps of some big-name female trainers. In an early interview, she said: “Lady trainers have a great record in this country. I have read of the likes of Anne Upton, Jean Heming and Eileen Bestel. We have at least 15 current fairer sex conditioners making a living in what is largely a man’s world.”

No question that the big moment for Fortune’s Vaal-based stable came on Met day at Kenilworth at the beginning of February when three-year-old Invidia won the R5m CTS Sprint. The horse was ridden by Aldo Domeyer, son of former champion jockey Andrew Fortune, who married Ashley in September 2016.

At the time, this column described Andrew Fortune’s post-race celebration as “comparable to a footballer scoring a last-minute winner in an FA Cup Final at Wembley”. He had every reason to be excited — the first prize was R250,000.

Other winners for the stable last season included Validus (at Scottsville in July), Winter Smoke (at Greyville in July), Red Ten, Captain Hindsight and Before The Dawn. The most recent winner — tipped by Business Day — was the Elusive Fort filly Encryption, who won at Turffontein last Saturday.

Fortune has stated that “horses are my life and this is all I ever wanted to do since my school days”. No doubt the likes of the late Jean Heming would be proud that she has made the top 10 among trainers.

Interestingly, the same six trainers who occupied the first six places in the final log in 2018/2019 filled the top six positions last term. The only change is that Brett Crawford moved from fourth to third place, Paul Peter from sixth to fifth and Alan Greeff went to sixth from fifth.

The other notable achievement last season was that of Johan Janse van Vuuren who shot up from 16th place in 2018/2019 to 10th position last term. He saddled 58 winners from 425 runners for stake earnings of more than R5.3m. That is far off Sean Tarry’s total of R17.1m, but Van Vuuren’s time with five-time champion Geoff Woodruff is now bearing fruit.

Another Gauteng trainer who will look back on last season with pride is St John Gray. His Randjesfontein operation sent out 49 winners, moving him into 14th place in the national log from 22nd in 2018/2019.

Ronnie’s Candy provided Gray with a grade 1 winner when winning the Empress Club Stakes in the hands of Piere Strydom, but a good number of his winners were bred at his own stud in KwaZulu-Natal.

Former top jockey Garth Puller, a lot more forthcoming with the media as a trainer than in his riding days, enjoyed a successful campaign and his 44 winners moved him from 30th place in 2018/2019 to 18th last term.

Despite saddling 61 winners, Yvette Bremner, never afraid to raid Gauteng with her better horses, slipped from eighth place to 15th, yet she is another female trainer who can hold her head high.

Activists for women’s rights would be proud that four members of the fairer sex — Candice Bass-Robinson, Fortune, Bremner and Candice Dawson — are making their voices heard in the sport of horseracing.

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