Candice Bass-Robinson: making big strides

BIG CHANCE. Candice Bass-Robinson with one of her three Sun Met runners, Horizon. She has a strong chance of winning the
Cape’s premier race

BIG CHANCE. Candice Bass-Robinson with one of her three Sun Met runners, Horizon. She has a strong chance of winning the Cape’s premier race

Of the 142 licensed trainers in South Africa, fewer than 10% are women and three of them are in the top 20 on the South African trainers’ log.

Candice Bass-Robinson has only had her trainer’s licence for 18 months but has already won the country’s premier race, the Vodacom Durban July.

And she is hoping to add a second of the country’s big four in horseracing to her résumé at Kenilworth today when she sends out stable star Marinaresco, talented but slightly off-form Horizon and high-class mare Nightingale.

The 43-year-old blonde’s hopes are not unfounded because Marinaresco – her first Durban July winner – is 9-2 second favourite and his run in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate this month was eye-catching, showing he could peak on just the right day for the Met.

The distance, 1 600m, of that race was 400m too short for him but he did much better than expected, finishing like a bullet, less than a length behind winner Legal Eagle.

He’s not the biggest but is all heart and today’s distance will be right up his alley. So he has many racing fans banking on him giving his trainer yet another Grade 1 race.

Nightingale, Robinson’s first Grade 1 winner, in the R1 million Klawervlei Majorca Stakes on Met Day last year, is a strong back-up to Marinaresco. Most horses come to form at the same time every year and she is primed to run another cracking race.

You can be sure both will be in her Pick 6 today. And if Robinson has a winner today, it will be the 150th of her career. Robinson is former champion trainer Mike Bass’ daughter so has been around horses all her life.

A competitive dressage rider who also follows the international circuit and has travelled extensively to see shows, she has what is known as “horse sense”, that innate ability to commune with equines and know what a horse requires to be comfortable and content.

Nowadays, her warmblood dressage horses have become just part of the herd, of which she is alpha mare.

Robinson might have taken over a ready-made and strong string when her dad retired due to poor health, but she still had to make a go of it and has managed that flawlessly with what he describes as “a natural synergy to horses, patience and attention to detail”.

Bass involved every member of his family in the business – Robinson, who spent her 20s in sales, became her dad’s assistant about 16 years ago – and not much changed when she took over.

Her dad still haunts the stables, giving sage advice and support, while her brother Mark is the stable’s PRO, racing manager and horse trader. Mum, Carol, is also active in the stable and her husband Connell and 10-yearold son Nicholas support her career and racing.

She has a string in Durban in the care of long-time assistant, Madagascan Robert Fayd’Herbe – his experience is probably her best hope of winning the last two of the big four, the Gauteng Sansui Summer Cup and the Premier’s Champions Challenge in Joburg.

In Cape Town, she also has the support of assistants Trevor Taylor and Melissa Arnold. Head grooms Dalibunga Rabityana, Mziwanele Matyeni and Lulamile Eighteen supervise a staff of more than 60 grooms and work riders.

Belinda Haytread, Robinson’s best friend and the woman who adopted three-time Met winner Pocket Power when he retired, is also an integral part of the operation.

“My objective is to continue winning races and keep my results up but, in the long term, I’d like to grow the stable a bit as well,” said Robinson, who has about 150 racehorses in her care.

“It’s not always easy, especially in this market, but I need to find good horses every year.”

However, she has loyal owners, like Marsh Shirtliff, in whose silks Pocket Power ran in and who races Marinaresco in partnership with her dad and Bryn Ressell – another longtime patron – among others.

Given her day starts before sunrise and normally ends at sunset, she does not have much time for a personal life, but is an avid reader, preferring a good crime novel to watching television. To relax, she cooks.

“I love food,” says Robinson, who enjoys the easy listening music channels on the radio and Frank Sinatra when she is at home.

“In fact, my only telly time is Masterchef Australia.”


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