What is it that makes the Derby and Investec such a good fit?
Paradoxically, it is the fact that we are so opposite. We are not a blue-blooded British organisation and our origins come out of South Africa. However, from Investec’s perspective, it is an opportunity in a million. Our care and love of the Derby will help us rebuild the Derby into the greatest race in the world, with all the pride, feeling and emotion that makes an event of this calibre so important to the British people and our racing calendar.
You can see evidence of this in the recent attendance figures and the international demand for this incredible day and event. From the Derby’s point of view, they could not have wished for a more passionate, dedicated and proud sponsor. We are a likely couple and good fit.
Could you see Investec continuing this sponsorship beyond the initial five-year term that ends in 2013?
Investec are not short term in their approach, and certainly when it comes to our brand, we commit, in a sense, in perpetuity. We associate with the best and will do everything in our power to maintain and continue the sponsorship beyond the initial five-year term. Sadly, this event will grow to a point where it will become a trophy event. At that point we may not be able to afford this extraordinary racing extravaganza.
In various forms, Investec has sponsored football (Spurs), rugby and cricket as well as the Derby and Oaks. What do these sports have in common that benefits Investec?
We will take on sponsorships only where we can build our brand, reputation and credibility over time. When you talk of the Autumn Series in rugby, Tottenham Hotspur in football, Lord’s in cricket and the Investec Derby at Epsom, we are mixing with the best.
How did your fascination with horseracing start?
About 30 years ago my brother emigrated from South Africa and prior to his departure he advised me that he had invested in a single horse, the liability of which I would have to take over. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Subsequently, I have been privileged to meet some wonderful people and have had some incredible horses and winners. As you all know, this comes with a huge amount of disappointment as well.
I have had many successes in Singapore with my friend Patrick Shaw, many more in South Africa with a selection of trainers, especially Michael De Kock. And most memorably with William Haggas in the form of Count Dubois, Dupont, King’s Apostle, Kalk Bay and many others. William remains a thorough gentleman and a friend, tolerating my madness week in and week out, ably assisted by his wife, Maureen. Winning is wonderful but winning with horses that you have bred is indescribably exciting. It is almost as if they are your very own.
How heavily involved in racing are you, both here and in your native South Africa?
I would say that I am reasonably involved in racing, breeding and administration, both here and in South Africa. In South Africa I am involved in a stud farm which includes approximately 250 mares and 11 stallions, including Count Dubois, Dupont and King’s Apostle. My family think I am a little bit crazy, but they indulge me and actually support my hobby as long as I stay out of their hair.
In how many countries are you registered as an owner?
I am registered in South Africa, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UAE and America. All my horses excite me.
“Our care and love of the Derby will help us rebuild it into the greatest race in the world”
King’s Apostle, Count Dubois and Dupont have won top European races and now stand at stud in South Africa. Would you like to stand a stallion in Europe?
Standing a stallion in Europe would be too difficult for me; it takes a lot of time, influence and money to prove a stallion. I would rather focus my limited time on the proven stallions we currently have.
How did you transform South African racing with your involvement in your company Phumelela?
Phumelela was born out of the merger between various racing clubs that existed in South Africa at the time. There was a team of executive and non-executive directors that worked on the corporatisation of racing, of which I was a member. It was a great privilege to be involved and I learnt a lot.
What is the answer for British racing in its current parlous financial state? Could the South African model work here?
I would encourage the UK to follow the South African model, which is very similar to that in Australia. Only then will the UK realise its maximum potential and restore UK racing to its rightful position as a world leader.
We need to apply a little ‘out of the box’ thinking, look to the future and simplify the entire racing structure. This would mean the clubs, racetracks, the intellectual property, television rights and so on falling under one highly motivated corporate structure, which operates primarily for the benefit of its shareholders, with racing entrenched in the constitution. Until we do that, we will not maximise our value and our potential global positioning as the greatest breeding and racing destination in the world.
What is the big difference between racing in Britain and the rest of the world?
Prize-money, which in the UK is pitiful. If you are lucky enough to own a good horse, its value would be enhanced by the huge amount of buyers that swamp our shores in search of beautifully bred equine stock.
Can you explain what racing gives you that you don’t get out of your professional life?
In the words of my late friend Laurie Jaffee, the great South African owner/breeder whom many people will remember: “One needs a ‘counter-irritant’ in life.”
Who is your racing hero, either here or in South Africa?
I have been touched by so many wonderful people through racing that there are just too many for me to recall all of them. But overall I would say the late Laurie Jaffee, and a dear friend and trainer in Singapore, Patrick Shaw. Patrick has been a close friend and advisor for the last 30 years. In my mind he is one of the great trainers of our time, as evidenced by the performance of horses like Rocket Man and many other Group winners around the world.
Where horses are concerned, I need not look further than the likes of Giant’s Causeway (the iron horse), Galileo and even Fantastic Light. With regards to stallions, I am absolutely mesmerised by anything to do with Kingmambo and Nureyev.
Are you a supporter of the Horsemen’s Tariff?
Yes. However, once we have a serious and corporatised structure in the UK we will get all these tariffs and levies right. I would not support anything that does not ultimately aim at putting racing in the UK under one roof.
Is there too much racing in the UK?
Absolutely – and without doubt when you consider the amount of prize-money available. I know I sound like a broken record but we will achieve a win-win for all stakeholders only after we have the structure right, the resulting appropriate programming and the eradication of competition between clubs and independent operators.
You must have an ambition as an owner/breeder – what is it?
I don’t think I have to think too hard about that one as a sponsor of the great Investec Derby.
Has the Queen, as owner of the hot favourite Carlton House, achieved more in promoting the Investec Derby than any advertising agency could have done?
Her Majesty’s involvement with the sport of horseracing brings honour, lustre and prominence to the entire global industry whether breeding or racing. What we would all be delighted to see is Her Majesty as a deserved winner of the greatest race in the world. From Investec’s point of view, this would be a fantastic moment. We could not wish for a better outcome.
BERNARD KANTOR: CLOSE UP AND… PERSONAL
When I was young I wanted to be… old
I get irritated by… stupidity
My worst habit is… not listening to my trainers
I like to relax by… rising early and walking the streets of London in search of coffee and watching the city wake up
My favourite film/actor is… Secretariat
BERNARD KANTOR: CLOSE UP AND… PROFESSIONAL
My favourite racecourse is… Epsom, followed by Ascot, Greyville in South Africa and Kranji in Singapore
British racing can attract more fans by… listening
My most exciting moment in racing was… watching Sea The Stars winning the 2009 Investec Derby
I feel the pressure when… they are lining up
The best horse I have seen is… Nureyev – to this day he brings tears to my eyes