Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

SA Tourism can only hope the shock statement from racehorse trainer Lezanne Forbes does not go viral: “I don’t want to get out of racing — I want to get out of this country.”

Sadly, 35-year-old Forbes is the latest victim of the riots in KwaZulu-Natal and their devastating effect on the province.

Interviewed by the International Racing Club, Forbes said, “Hearing gunshots and people screaming within walking distance of my home was the last straw. My son, five-year-old Zachary, and three-year-old daughter, Madison, deserve to be brought up in a safe, civilised society.”

One of the worst outcomes of the riots was the loss of jobs and Forbes said she was sad that her decision would affect her stable staff. “I’ve had to lay off 22 members of staff whose families relied on me for an income.”

On her future overseas, Forbes said she was considering offers coming from the UK and Ireland.

To say that Forbes has endured tough times is an understatement. Four years ago she lost her jockey husband, Alec, to pneumonia. However, despite this loss, Forbes, whose husband rode her first winner at Scottsville in February 2014, more than held her own against more established stables in KwaZulu-Natal.

In the 2020/2021 season, Forbes sent out 26 winners from her 38-strong string of horses. The highlight was her juvenile filly, Maryah, winning the grade 2 Debutante Stakes at Greyville on Gold Cup day at the end of July.

A daughter of Querari bred at Connemara Stud, Maryah races in the colours of Suzette Viljoen and the winning purse of R109,375 will have helped in her successful late push to secure the champion owner title.

Forbes added: “Yes, the stable has grown and the winners have come, but at the same time feed, transport and wages have doubled while stakes have halved due to Covid-19. I’ve had to choose between my children, who need me now more than ever, and racing on in a volatile time with no improvements in sight.

“Running a stable is all-consuming — you do it wholeheartedly or don’t do it at all.”

At least Forbes can say she bowed out of SA racing in style. Her last runner, Origami, came up trumps by winning the fifth race at Greyville on Monday in the hands of former champion, Warren Kennedy.

Four-year-old Origami, a son of What A Winter co-owned by Viljoen, will join a new stable, having won four races from 13 starts.

In July, Business Day highlighted the “jockey drain”, with Luke Ferraris now in Hong Kong and set to make his debut there on September 5, Callan Murray in Australia, Diego De Gouveia in Mauritius and Lyle Hewitson jetting off shortly to Japan.

The sport has now lost three trainers in 2021 — Forbes, Mathew de Kock and Gary Alexander. The latter two have relocated to Australia.

If comments on social media are any guide, Forbes has done wonderfully well with the tough cards she has been dealt in her young life. It’s a safe bet she will continue to succeed in her fresh start in a new country.

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