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Posted 2017-02-13 13:27:02            


SA Horseracing recently took time out to chat to Favour Stud’s Renate Du Plessis. One of the most enthusiastic and hard-working people in racing, Renate is going from strength to strength as a trainer, while the relatively young Favour Stud is already responsible for breeding such high class performers as My Emblem, Elevated, Smokey Affair and impressive recent debut winner Tribal Force.

How did you get involved with horses/racing? 
I have always loved horses from a young age, and training/teaching young horses have always been my passion. I got involved with the racing through the natural development and growth of Favour Stud. It looked the next best option for the horses that did not make the sale/couldn’t go to the sales at the time/ or which we did not get the price we wanted for the horses, so they could also have a chance on the track without being lost.
Are you from a horsey background?
Not at all, though the love for animals runs in the family
How did you get involved in training?
I’ve always loved training horses, and though more dressage/jumping/eventing back ground, it came naturally to apply that to the fitness and wellbeing of the race horses. So when applying for a trainers licence you had to be a registered assistant trainer under an already established trainer for at least 2 and a half years. Corne Spies, whom we met at one of the JHB sales, was so kind as to allow me to be an assistant trainer for him, and so we opened the satellite yard on the farm in Still bay. Everything else naturally progressed from there. 
How did you and Jannie get involved with Favour Stud?
That’s a funny story, since Jannie, who was still a draftsman for an architect in town,  and I had a riding school/training centre in Still Bay, we were still a young married couple, when Ernst and Engelize du Preez, the owners of Favour Stud, daughter started riding by us. They said they have this piece of property which is not being used, and that we could move the riding school there. In the meantime Riethuiskraal had a dispersal sale, where they decided to buy 6 mares. Well…it ended up not stopping by only 6 horses!
 Tell us a little bit about Favour Stud, how big it is, the layout etc.
The farm is about 300hec, we have 36 stable on the breeding side, with 4 stallion boxes in a small stallion barn, 2 horse walkers, 54 racing stables, with a 2200m natural sand track. There are various sizes paddock, 2 cottages where we entertain clients/guests, a function shed, and two other big sheds for farm equipment and feed.
How did you get involved with Harry Hall?
Harry Hall was bought as a yearling for Ernst du Preez at the National Sale in JHB. He was the owner’s favourite horse, and so naturally he was not gelded. He is a big, beautiful and athletic horse, and also the first horse to test our home made working track on the farm, as well as one of the first runners to ever run from the farm. He remains the owner’s favourite horse, and so we love and take care of him.
Would Favour Stud ever consider standing more stallions?
I do know that it has been a dream for the owners, but they do wish, if it had to happen, that it would be a very good stallion. I believe standing a stallion can really make or break a farm, especially if it is one that the farm owns, because any stallion needs the numbers to prove himself, so if you don’t get outside support, you have to support him yourself, which you know can be extremely risky.
How do you balance the training/breeding aspects of your life?
It is difficult sometimes, especially in the breeding season. I wake up with tears in my eyes most of the time, either from pure joy, destress, sadness, or just because my eyes are watering from the lack of sleep. But there is something about the pressure during these times that pushes you to do more, try harder, and stretch yourself to reach that new level of doing things even better.  We also have a small but very supportive team in place now, which are always willing to help and acts like the backbone for the farm. We try and train our staff each in his area, which is a big help, since they are all extra eyes for me, and they take pride in their responsibility. Jannie and I are also a strong team, and I believe we can handle almost anything together.
How many horses do you have in training –and who are your favourites?
I currently have 22 runners that I can enter. But this year is extremely exciting! I have received 26 young horses to train. This is by far the biggest string in the 3 years that I’ve been training. I will only be looking to run most of them as from April this year. Favourites are difficult…I adore Fly like the Wind. Such a lovely horse to work with. And then you have Imperial Velvet, must be the hardest trying horse out there. Our riders call him the ATM J I have at least 6 youngsters that have crept into my heart also so far including a horse called What a Winner- a very exciting youngster.
What is the best horse you have trained thus far?
Definitely Lielums…the gutsiest, hard as nails filly that put her heart on the line with every race. She would have won me many more races, but I suggested to her owners, Favour Stud (Ernst and Engelize du Preez)  that she rather retire so that she can start her breeding career. She had a perfect What a Winter colt in 2016, and is currently in foal to Querari. 
What is your favourite racecourse?
Definitely Fairview. The long straight gives even the slow starters a chance.
Do you have one big race in particular you would like to win?
Definitely the (Gr.1 L’Ormarins) Queens Plate in Cape Town. I think it is one of the most difficult races to win.
Have you ever felt at a disadvantage being a woman in racing?
It’s very hard to get noticed, or to count, and most importantly to get results in racing. It does sometimes feel that you get looked down upon, especially in the beginning. And it’s tough, because you need the horses, but you also need the jockeys to trust your horses and even more your opinion of your horses. But is it because I’m a women, could be, but could also be that my lack of experience, bad people skills and introverted nature, and saying things as I see them type of character. One can only speculate.
How many mares Favour Stud home is to and what sires do you guys like?
There are currently 72 mares on the farm (including boarding mares) I absolutely LOVE What a Winter!  Querari and Soft Falling Rain I also really like, and then Elusive Fort. I really think that he is under appreciated. I also really like the Visionaire babies.
What is your March Sale draft like? Any standouts?
There is a good balance to our draft for March. I believe we have something for everyone.  Any standouts? Lot 188 is a lovely strong Lateral colt out of the mare Cantari (IRE), Lot 198 a good looking Antonius Pius filly out of the Fort Wood mare Chat Room, and then a very well balanced Master of my Fate colt Lot 209 out of the stakes winning mare Crescent Lily. We also have a smartly bred Bold Silvano colt in Lot 226 out of the Rock of Gibraltar mare Ebtehaaj (AUS)

Who has inspired you in racing?
On the breeding side definitely John Slade. I love his extremely honest personality, and ‘What you see is what you get’ manner. His knowledge and experience is just remarkable, and I can always pick up the phone to ask for help, or even just a chat, and he would have a listening ear and always the best advice! On the racing side…Mike de Kock and Mike Bass. They are my hero’s. Mr. de Kock has all the attributes of a great trainer, and his down to earth manner, though very professional, makes anyone feel at ease when in his presence. I have great respect for him as a trainer, as well as what he has done for racing in South Africa by proving our countries stock in the international playing field. Mr Bass’s horsemanship is just inspiring. I always admire the way he looks at horses when at sales, and his training speaks for itself. Also a genuine trainer who’s horses spoke of his great work.  
What advice would you give a young person keen to get involved in racing?
Don’t dread the hard working days…they are the ones that mould you. Soak up as much as you can from the people who already made it. They have a lot of knowledge, and most of them don’t mind sharing it with you. You can never stop learning! Never stop asking questions.
What, if anything, would you like to see changed in SA horse-racing?
I would love to see the owning of a race horse to become more diversified in ownership, and for the overall stakes to increase so that it becomes more realistic compared to the cost of owning one. Not all owners are millionaires, and to try and sustain the few that are with ridiculously high stakes races only for the select few is a sad situation. And boring J You cannot reap more people in the industry if you only sowing one hectare all the time.