ASHLEY AND ANDREW FORTUNE (WITH SEAN)
Ken Nicol: Ashley Fortune has had a somewhat fairy tale start to her training career, and has a fighting chance of a second feature race win when Rings And Things and Tsitsikamma Dance line up in the Grand Heritage at the Vaal on 13 October.
The 28 horse adventure was originally supposed to take place this Saturday, but has been postponed due to complications with the Vaal track.
The wife of legendary SA jockey Andrew Fortune had paid her dues as assistant trainer to highly successful Noelene Peech in Zimbabwe, before performing the same function with Joey Ramsden for 18 months after moving to this country in 2008.
Famously Ashley’s first winner was at Grade 3 Level, when Let It Rain took the Gold Bowl under stepson Aldo Domeyer in May. The stable’s winning strike rate since opening for business has constantly remained above the 20% mark, which is quite remarkable.
“It’s gone very well so far – way better than I expected to be honest. But we’ve got some good stock, and I think we’ve placed them well in races they can win,” she said.
The stable has really done well with former Cape-based horses bought from Central Route Trading dispersal sales, with Rings And Things and Mount Keith being prime examples.
The latter will be in action on Saturday in the WSB Heritage 1200 Handicap, which is now run at the Turffontein Inside track, and has to have a good shout with 52.5kg.
As Ashley says, “Cape Town form is the strongest, and we thought if we bought horses from there that were going close they could win a couple of races quickly up here. Thankfully we turned out to be right”.
With regard to the two stable hopes in the Grand Heritage, she had the following to say:
“Rings And Things is well and happy, and has done everything right so far. She is back to her best form, and bounces off her races. I was surprised the handicappers dropped her four points for finishing 0.5-lengths off Rose In Bloom last time, but I’m not complaining!”
Indeed the MR drop ruined the plan for Domeyer to ride, as he doesn’t get her amended weight of 54kg.
“Tsitsikamma Dance had an excellent prep run and we learnt a few things about him. He’s a big striding horse with a huge action, and the expected hot pace in this event will be right up his alley”.
As could be expected with the start she has had, she is enthusiastic about the training game.
“I love it. Every day I am learning something new, and while you have to take the ups with the downs, this is something I have always wanted, and long may it continue”.
Of course Andrew Fortune also has a large part to play, and Ashley is happy to give her husband credit with an excellent mixed metaphor.
“Andrew is the ringmaster, and conducts the orchestra. He’s been riding for as long as I’ve been alive, knows a lot about form and is excellent at placing the horses. We make a good team”.
With regard to the coming Gauteng Summer season, she has hopes for Cash Time after he was beaten under two lengths in the SA Derby in May.
“He will run in the Summer Cup, assuming everything goes to plan. We also have hopes for our two recent easy maiden winners Big Blue Marble and Dalai’s Promise. They are both eligible for the $500,000 races on Sun Met Day, and will be aimed in that direction”.
When pressed on her ambitions for the 2017/18 campaign she is cautious.
“We will take it as it comes, as we are still taking baby steps. But ideally I would like to reach the 50 winner mark for the season”.
With seven chalked up so far, this soft spoken but hugely determined lady is right on schedule.