Brendan Gaillard: A new trainer’s name appears in Thursday’s Vaal Computaform, that of Fabian Habib.
Stable employee and assistant trainer to Dominic Zaki from June 2005 to December 2016 and assistant trainer to Scott Kenny for little over a year (January 2017 to February 2018), Habib believes he has acquired sufficient knowledge from some excellent horsemen and is well-equipped to make a success of his training career.
“Uncle Dom (Zaki) was more than a trainer and a boss, he was a father figure. He has an excellent eye for a horse and taught me almost everything I know.” Habib is also grateful for the role Kenny has played. “Scott knows horses and he taught me new training methods.”
While father Joe and brothers Teddy and Joe Junior raced horses, Fabian Habib had no interest in horses to begin with. He was at Chefs School, where he would spend 10 months, until his dad suffered a stroke and lost his speech. That would require hours of rehabilitation, doctors’ appointments and physiotherapy all of which Fabian and mother Hakla spent at his father’s aid.
He accompanied his dad on a visit to Dominic Zaki’s stable at Walkerville Fruit Farm and young Fabian “fell in love with the horse. I got goosebumps touching, rubbing and interacting with the horses. My dad told me that day I was not meant to be a chef but to train horses.” Habib adds jokingly, “And he made me promise.”
Joe Senior, who had horses in training with Zaki, arranged that Fabian would join the yard as a stable employee before going on to become assistant trainer. “We had some good horses go through our hands. National Spirit, Eddington, Exhilaration but Talahatchie I remember as one of our best. He won the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes at Clairwood from draw 12.”
Fabian Habib was born on 9 September 1984, and grew up on the East Rand in Germiston and Boksburg. He is currently based in Meyersdal, Johannesburg South and trains out of the Vaal. “My wife Madonna is my pillar of strength. We’ll be married 11 years in December. We have two beautiful daughters. Montana is nine and Crystal is six.”
Habib is grateful for the support of his family and his in-laws. “Zack and Amal Nassif are my wife’s parents and mine through marriage, but they’re an inspiration to me and probably my biggest influence. They’ve always encouraged me to follow my dreams!”
Brothers-in-law George and Jonathan Nassif play an active role too. “They’re brothers to me, we’re all very close. Jonathan is the stable’s Racing Manager and Sebastian, who runs tomorrow, runs in his colours.”
Habib has four runners on tomorrow’s Vaal card and 32 horses in his stable. He adopts a very hands-on approach and currently has no assistant, but a head groom.
“Most of the horses in my yard are owned by the Nassifs and were in training with Mr. (Scott) Kenny. I have 11 unraced juveniles and recently acquired five yearlings who are yet to arrive at the yard. I must thank Pierre Botha, Jimmy Sarkis, Warren and Laegan Zackey, as well as William and Scott from Isizwe for their support. Without them and owners like the Nassifs you can’t achieve any success.”
And is Habib hungry for success? “Absolutely, make no mistake. I’m driven by my passion and dedication of both my family and my horses!”
Habib has no stable jockey at this point but is a firm believer that certain horses run for certain jockeys. “I’m a big fan of Piere Strydom and Gavin Lerena, and will try to use them as often as possible. But I like Ryan Munger and Raymond Danielson, I rate them highly. Gunter Wrogemann also plays an important role – he rides work and provides valuable feedback. So thanks to him too!”