JOHAN VAN ECK
Trainer Johan van Eck, 71, passed away on Saturday in the Vaalpark hospital, Sasolburg. Van Eck, one of the great characters of the game, fell ill on Thursday and was admitted to hospital with kidney failure.
Van Eck’s friend Kelvin Haarhoff reported on Saturday morning: “Johan was on a ventilator to breathe and wouldn’t have been able to ever come off it.”
Tributes have been received from colleagues and friends from here and abroad and Celeste Whitmore, now resident in Australia, posted on Facebook: “Paul and I are both devastated to hear the news. Oom Johan and Paul did their ‘apprenticeship’ together in the yard of trainer Jim Polley, Paul starting 1976 and Johan in 1977.
“Their longstanding friendship and partnership is well documented lasting all these years, Paul still riding for Johan until we left for Aus. Johan still is and always be one of Paul’s closest friends, they were still in contact, having spoken just a couple of weeks ago.
“We wish we were there, but in our absence we send all our love and light to Johan, his family and friends.”
Jockey Jeff Lloyd posted from Brisbane: “One of my favourite men, we used to work for Jim Polley when I was an apprentice, RIP.”
Said Louis Goosen: “Johan was a legend to me, most people vastly underestimated his intelligence, which he found as a huge source of humour. He was my balancer – he supported me to the hilt, while tempering me, guiding me in a subtle manner. Vaal Unity was paramount and we achieved a hell of a lot through that when I was training at the Vaal.”
Mike de Kock said: “Johan was an old-school trainer who will be missed. He was well respected by his peers.” Similar sentiments were expressed by David Ferraris, James Goodman, Danny Gonsalves, Scott and Jean Kenny, Duncan McKenzie, Carl Burger and Malan du Toit.
Van Eck is survived by his son Henko, daughters Cornia and Niki. He was always a frank, straight up and non-nonsense man with a sharp sense of humour who told things like he saw them. – Turf Talk