When the Bass family raise their glasses to daughter Candice on her 47th birthday on Monday, it will be not only the recognition of a special day but also a celebration of her most successful season as a trainer.
The 2020/2021 campaign saw Bass-Robinson saddle 104 winners, an amazing increase on her 2019/2020 tally of 49. It moved her into fifth place in the national trainers log.
It was only in the 2016/2017 campaign that ill health resulted in legendary trainer Mike Bass handing over the reins of his stable to his daughter. This must have been quite a daunting task for the then 42 year-old, but there is no question she has done her dad proud.
Perhaps it all happened too quickly for Candice Bass-Robinson. Top trainers battle to win the Durban July — Vaughan Marshall is one who springs to mind — yet she immediately enjoyed success in the 2017 big race courtesy of four-year-old Marinaresco.
Immediately Bass-Robinson was a target for the media, not least because she was the first woman to win SA’s most famous race.
In an interview after the race, she made it clear training horses was no easy profession. “This is a very stressful and pressurised job. Clients spend a lot of money on their horses so it requires a certain amount of dedication and application in caring for the animals.
“There are no shortcuts in horse racing and the horses are not machines you fix when something goes wrong,” said Bass-Robinson, who is an accomplished show jumper, received provincial colours for athletics and played first-team hockey.
Bass-Robinson says she consults daily with her father. He enjoyed an outstanding career that included July victories with Trademark (2001), Dunford (2005) and recently deceased Pocket Power, who dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter in 2008.
Going into the final day of the season last Saturday, Bass-Robinson was on the 99 mark and must have worried that she would fall short of her first century of winners. She need not have worried as the stable landed a five-timer at Kenilworth.
The sudden death of Pocket Power will have upset his legion of fans, but the Bass stable will have been hardest hit as no horse has played a bigger part in the stable’s success over the past two decades.
Pocket Power was named Equus “horse of the year” three times (2007-2009) and he was the first horse to win four consecutive grade 1 races, winning both the Queen’s Plate and J&B Met three times.
Two other trainers who will look back on the 2020/2021 campaign with considerable pride are Paul Peter and Paul Matchett. Peter vaulted into second place in the national table with 155 winners, a big increase on his 2019/2020 total of 114.
Matchett, trainer of the talented three-year-old filly War Of Athena, made it into seventh place in the log with 74 winners compared with 46 in the previous season.
Eastern Cape trainers Alan Greeff and Gavin Smith continue to churn out the winners like Novak Djokovic captures tennis tournaments. Greeff ended the season with 143 successes, less than his 2019/2020 tally of 169 while Smith gained momentum, saddling 135 winners compared with 80 in the previous campaign.
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