Summer racing in South Africa is dominated by events at Kenilworth racecourse in the Western Cape and culminates with the running of the R2.5 Million J&B Metropolitan Stakes on Met Day on the last Saturday of January.
Trainer Joey Ramsden took the first brig prize of the Cape season, the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes, won by Bravura for owners Ingrid and Marcus Jooste and Veronica Foulkes. Although not unaccustomed to success, Ramsden has had a subsequent purple patch that made him a common visitor to the winner’s enclosure.
Now 43, the son of Jack Ramsden has been training in Cape Town for two decades, yet he retains just a hint of his English roots. He is based at the Milnerton training facility where he has some 120 horses under his care. He describes the team that work for him as “a great mix of dedicated individuals”, which includes four assistant trainers, five foremen and a number of grooms. Ramsden and jockey Glen Hatt have had a long-term association, while Anton Marcus, rides the horses of leading South African owner Marcus Jooste, who has moved a number of very good individuals to the Ramsden yard over the past few years.
Probably the best horse to have been conditioned by Ramsden to date was Winter Solstice, who was Horse of the Year in 2005 having won five of eight starts that season, three at Grade 1 level.
Early in October, Ramsden won the Grade 3 Matchem Stakes over 1400m at the Durbanville course with the Jooste-owned Variety Club, a three-year-old son of Var, who followed that win with victory in the Grade 2 Selangor Cup in November before an impressive win in the Cape Guineas in December.
In the Queen’s Plate early in January he faced a strong field of older horses and was narrowly beaten into second place by the only other three-year-old in the race Gimmethegreenlight, an Australian-bred colt by More Than Ready.
In the same way that Variety Club has dominated the three-year-old colts’ ranks, Princess Victoria has been the pre-eminent filly, twice beating the Ramsden-trained filly Trinity House into second place.
Other good horses to have kept Ramsden in the headlines over the years include the Champion filly Tara’s Touch, Gold Cup winner Major Bluff and the Grade 1 winner Ivory Trail. And nobody present will forget an afternoon in late February 2008 when he saddled six winners at Kenilworth.
Marcus Jooste has given him the nod of approval and joins a group of good owners in the yard but Ramsden was quick to make the point that owners want winners in the present and that past laurels are not enough.
“One can quickly become forgotten,” he says and is working hard on maintaining the form that has seen him rise to fourth spot on the national trainers’ table at the time of writing and to the very top of the list for the Western Cape.
The winter season will see him move part of the string to Durban and there is no doubt that in the near future this amiable and well-liked figure will find himself holding aloft yet another winning memento.