Ken Nicol :Weiho Marwing has always done brilliantly with staying types, and added a second SA Derby to his pair of SA Oaks titles when Samurai Warrior emerged victorious at the conclusion of the dramatic events surrounding Saturday’s race.
It’s been a long journey since he was born in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs in 1972.
“We had no family connection with racing.
My older brother Weichong got into it earlier than me due to having friends in the game, and then of course decided to become a jockey.
“I was then gradually drawn in as well, and after finishing Matric in 1990, I went to work for Mr Ormond Ferraris as a stable employee.
“Mr Ferraris was a brilliant mentor, and is still a great source of advice. We still get on very well, and have regular chats.
“I then went work in New Zealand for a year or so before returning to Mr Ferraris and gaining experience before taking out my own training licence in 1995.”
He started off with 20 horses, mostly inherited from Patrick Kourie.
“Estefan was the best of them and got me off to a great start when she gave me a winner with my first runner. The fact Weichong rode her made it even more special.”
Mr Ebrahim Khan was Weiho’s early big owner, and horses like Royal Tours and Maiwand did well for him in the first few years.
Then things really hit their stride in the mid-2000s, when Kenny Geemooi was the main patron.
“Grand Emporium was a real star, and won the Gauteng Guineas of 2004, which was a Grade 1 then, giving me my first one, which you always remember. He also won the Daily News soon after in KZN, before going to Dubai, where he won the Godolphin Mile. He was a top, top horse.
“We were lucky enough to have Divine Jury soon after, and he won the Dingaans and SA Classic, and went on to be second in the Sheema Classic in Dubai.
“Zaitoon and the stayer Long Dollar were also around at that time. so it was a good period.”
A few quieter years followed before the emergence of Wylie Hall. This son of Redoute’s Choice won the SA Derby of 2013, and of course crossed the line first in the Vodacom July of 2014 before losing to Legislate on an objection.
“It was heart-breaking and a bitter pill to swallow, but these things happen. But I admit when the hooter went off after the Derby on Saturday I thought ‘why does this always happen to me’. Thankfully this time things ended well.”
Wylie Hall went on to add the Champions Challenge of 2015 to his Grade 1 tally.
He is of course now a highly promising freshman sire. Fittingly on a huge day for his former trainer he recorded his own maiden Grade 3 win on Saturday from only a handful of runners when talented juvenile colt Twilight Moon won the Protea Stakes.
Weiho has always done well in distance races, and none of his 10 Grade 1 victories has been scored over less than 1400m.
“I just enjoy Classic type horses and am drawn to them. It’s probably partly due to the training methods I learnt from Mr Ferraris. Stayers are also generally cheaper to buy than sprinters, and there are far more prestigious races over ground.”
And now there is Samurai Warrior.
“It’s great to have a new star, and we will probably have a go at the July, as with a current rating of 105 he will come in with a nice low weight.
“Nobody deserves this success more than owners Leon and Hester Potgieter. They had the useful miler Drumbold with me about 15 years ago, but this is their biggest win by far. They really love their horses.”
He has in recent times been joined by son Warwick (21) as an assistant, while Dylan Chinsammy is a great supporter of the yard in terms of ownership.
“It’s great having my son with me, and one day I’m sure he will take over. But that’s quite a few years in the future.”
Happily married to Cheridan for 25 years, they also have a daughter Kristen (24).