KZN trainer left SA as he ‘feared for the safety of my kids’
Dylan Cunha says he is happy to be in a safe place after leaving danger-laden SA
Former Summerveld trainer Dylan Cunha — who has built up a string of 30 horses in the UK — says he left SA “for the safety of my kids and it hasn’t been a bad move”.
In an interview with the UK’s leading racing newspaper The Racing Post, Cunha voiced his opinion about the current state of affairs in his home nation.
“SA is a dangerous place. Racing is in dire straits and the industry itself is in financial trouble,” said the former KwaZulu-Natal trainer.
“Put it this way, I used to not sleep at night and we had security. The PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) took about a year to go and — fearing for my family’s safety — meant I dared not close my eyes.”
“People get shot and hijacked in SA. It’s a normal thing, but it’s not being reported how bad it is. Here in the UK I sleep like a baby with the window open.”
The same safety worries do not exist in Newmarket, home to the South African since the end of 2020, and with the training business he launched in 2022 on an upward trajectory, Cunha has found his perfect environment.
“When I go away and come back to Newmarket I feel like I’m coming home,” says the sprightly 43-year-old. “I’ve always thought this is the best place on earth and, hands down, it’s the best place in the world to train.”
Hearing his admiration for Newmarket, it is easy to understand why Cunha and wife Taryn chose to relocate to Suffolk, but it was with their two sons — Ayrton, aged seven and five-rear-old Jordan — in mind that they chose to leave SA.
In a post on the African Betting Clan website in August, Cunha pointed out that he considered his new enterprise had made a promising start. “It’s been a good year considering we started here with nothing but three of our own cheap horses to get going. We’ve had 10 winners this year from just 10 horses to race, a 19% strike rate for 2023.”
One of these victories came in a £100,000 Heritage Handicap at York at the famous Ebor festival.
The former SA trainer said “it would be great to get a bit more SA support. There are quite a few SA-owned horses racing here but none with us.
“We are the UK advert for SA — the better we do here, the better the horsemen in SA racing look. The local British support has been really good and we are up to 30 horses now with a good few who haven’t raced yet to step out.”
This extra support may come when people realise that Cunha made a bit of racing history when — at the age of 28 — he saddled Strategic News to win the 2007 grade 1 Summer Cup at Turffontein.
He took a short break from training after this and became an airline pilot for Mango Airways, but Covid put an end to his airline career. The decision was made to emigrate to the UK and their home now is Phantom House Stables.
Kyle Strydom, nephew to legendary jockey Piere Strydom, had his first ride at Lingfield in the UK in March and has been called up to partner a number of runners from the Cunha stable.
Strydom, 21, has joined the top stable of Roger Varian and is aware he faces a tough task to get established. “Basically, I’m starting from the back of the bus,” he quipped.
1st Race: (7) Silver Jubilee (2) Annewithan E (4) Play With Fire (3) Fairy Circle
2nd Race: (6) Global Thunder (3) Just Be Lekker (5) Moving In (1) National Star
3rd Race: (4) Shine In Memphis (12) Venetian Moonlight (1) Southern Style (9) Princess Lola
4th Race: (5) Pocket Watch (10) Guardia Regine (4) Halberdier (11) Majestic Palace
5th Race: (8) Livebythesword (6) Emblem Of War (4) Eiger Sanction (1) The Donelly
6th Race: (4) Storm Player (1) Second Breath (3) October Fair (7) Law Of Success
7th Race: (1) Home Of The Brave (6) Fushimi Inari (4) Now I Got You (3) Bob’s Your Uncle
8th Race: (8) Eiffel Tower (5) Napoleon (2) Sage King (11) Parker Getrix
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