IF you’re a trainer, you will know that owners, cash, and owners with cash are in short supply these days. A lack of solid support is threatening to sink several of the small stables. A good number of South African trainers are using websites and social media to market themselves and it works, to an extent, but extreme times are calling for innovative new marketing methods.
Trainer Tobie Spies and son Corne, these days a consultant to the stable, used National Heritage Day (24 September), or ‘Braai Day’ as it has become known, to launch an ownership drive. They employed their full mailing list and WhatsApp database to invite one and all to see their 25 plus new ‘babies’ in their Vaal stables – and laid it on with a lamb on the spit, drinks on the house, a duo of musicians singing everything from ‘Loslappie’ to ‘Rivers of Babylon’, prizes from a sponsor and a big-screen TV showing the day’s races on Tellytrack.
“We have very good stock this year, ‘babies’ bought at various sales including two by Querari, others by Potala Palace, Captain Of All, Vercingetorix and Judpot. Most of them are not fully syndicated and we devised ‘all-in’ prices to sell the shares in blocks of 5% and up. There are syndication companies doing similar, it seems to be working and we really focused in on our target market of owners, tried to get them to our function and if you look at the turnout it was worthwhile.”
We were there, we saw, we enjoyed and we were impressed with the turnout – there must have been 80 people enjoying the afternoon, all of then ‘ordinary folk’ – a cross-section of middle-class South Africans with just a few rand to spare and a love for horses.
We were invited, we enjoyed it and we were impressed with the visitors – there must have been 80 people who rocked up for the afternoon, all of then ‘ordinary folk’ – a cross-section of middle-class South Africans with just a few rand to spare and a love for horses.
About 50 people congregated in the makeshift bar and TV room to watch Race 1, in which Tobie Spies saddled Perfac for owner Dave Makins, back in the yard after a 20-year absence.
“Shucks, if this one can win it’ll be great for us here at the home base with all these people here,” Corne hoped.
Perfac obliged. She won going away to great cheers from her supporters, some of whom were swallowing lumps in seeing see the reunion of Mr Spies senior and Mr Makins in the winner’s box.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than to have trained this winner for my long-time friend,” said Tobie.
“The late Leon Erasmus was my trainer for the last few decades, but I am pleased to be back,” said Makins, who won the Queen’s Plate and two Bloodline Millions with Tobie way back when.
Makins spends three months per year abroad, but remains one of South Africa’s biggest owner/breeders.
Corne had put up a white display board and he scribbled the names of the available young horse with the shares taken, and by whom, next to the names, quite a novel idea because it created some competition between interested owners without putting straight pressure on them.
Of course, after three glasses of Robertson Winery’s ‘dooswyn’ – the red blend that tastes better after every glass – we were also happily on the board for 5% of a Veringetorix colt from Klawervlei’s Farm Sale – R2,000 we had no problem parting with to part with to support this yard, and racing in our own little way.
It’s no longer a matter of what trainers do to attract new patrons. It’s that they do. Spies racing also launched their new website, www.spiesracing.co.za at this function – and they’re hoping that traffic through the site will bring in new blood.
“For every ten new patrons we find, there may be one big player with the means to inject big investments in our stable and racing,” said Corne Spies.
One has to have a measure of faith in the popular old saying from the movie, “Field Of Dreams”: ‘If You Build It, The Will Come!’. It is time for all of us to build, with plenty of novelty and heart.