where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2019-09-20 05:51:54  
Ladies in Racing-Bridget Stidolph

SAHorseracing recently took time out to find out more about Bridget Stidolph who is an awe-inspiring trainer as part of a series on prominent women in the horse racing industry.

We would like to commend Bridgets passion, sense of pride and drive in the horse racing game. 

What are the advantages of growing up in a family that’s involved in horse racing? 

My family does not come from a racing background though we did grow up on a farm, and the horse bug bit me very early on in life. Luckily my parents were very supportive of me and my horses and they travelled around the countryside so that I was able to compete in show jumping and eventing. I believe that an advantage of growing up in a family that is involved in racing is that they understand the life that you lead when you are involved and the time, hours, and dedication that you have to put in, as well as the sacrifices that you make for the game.

How long have you been aspiring to become a trainer?

Since about 2010

Under whom did you learn the trade?

Lisa Harris

What are the qualities or attributes that a trainer needs to have in order to be successful in this game?

The most essential – a love of horses and a love of the sport. Racing is an incredibly tough game that is filled with countless highs and lows. You have to be able to deal with the lows that you go through, learn from them, and be able to pick yourself up and carry on. It takes hard work, dedication and discipline to be successful. It teaches you to learn the value of being patient. Honesty, integrity and diplomacy are key elements that are needed when dealing with owners and people in general.

Having a solid and good team behind you is an essential tool in becoming a successful trainer. This includes the grooms, staff, assistants, owners as well as your family.

One of the pearls of wisdom that I learnt from my mentor Lisa was that in order to have a successful yard, you need to have a happy and peaceful yard. Happy grooms = happy horses = happy trainer = happy owners!

What I love about training is that you are constantly learning, and you need to have an open mind and the ability to change.
Racing is a very humbling sport and one thing that you learn is that you are never bigger than the game.

How many horses do you have at the moment?

50 horses in Zimbabwe and 8 horses in JHB

What are some of the best horses you have helped to train?
Earl Of Surrey – he was trained by Lisa Harris when I was her assistant. He won the Triple Crown, then went to SA where he won the Golden Horseshoe Casino Sprint. When he came back to Zim he won the OK Grand Challenge. He won a total of 21 races between Zim and SA.

Simona – She won the OK Grand Challenge back to back – the first horse and first filly to do that in the history of Zimbabwe. She won 10 races in total (9 with me) before retiring to stud. She was an exceptional filly that loved to work and race. She was an athlete that knew what her job was. She was Champion Older Horse as well as Horse of the Year in 2018/2019 season.
Duffi’s Call – she won the Triple Tiara then won the OK Grand Challenge as a three year old. She was Champion Three Year Old filly in 2016.

Mathematician – he won the last two legs of the Triple Crown, placed in both the Tankard and OK Grand Challenge as a Three Year Old, then won the Republic Cup (after nearly being scratched at the start when trying to resaddle him). He was Champion Three Year Old Colt as well as Horse of the year in 2016. He taught me a lot about thinking outside the box with horses. He was not the easiest horse to train as he was quite a tricky horse. By giving him a little time, pairing him up with Macchiato (who has retired in the yard), and giving him a friend in my old pony, he learnt to settle down. Dennis Evans who owned him is a very patient owner and allowed him the time that he needed.

What was your most memorable day in racing?

There have been a few.
My first race meeting when I had taken out my licence. The day did not start off well with a horse breaking down in the 2nd race. Print The Pounds then went and won the The Fillies Classic – this was my first winner and first feature race win.
Mathematician winning the Republic Cup as a three year old. Keagon De Melo was riding him and he got kicked going to the start. I was allowed a last minute change of jockeys and Morgan Nyamagwete got the ride. It took us a while to resaddle him at the start – he was very difficult and used to wind himself up on race day. We eventually got him saddled just in time, and got the jockey on as the runners were loading into the pens. Morgan rode a brilliant race and ended up winning by about two lengths. I got back to the trainer’s room, just in time to see the horses jump out the pens. I had Duffi’s Call in the same race (she ran 2nd), and when they came into the straight she took off. Morgan didn’t have a colour cap on his skull cap and for some reason I didn’t recognize the colours! He flew past Duffi’s Call to win the race! The trainers in the room were congratulating me for winning and I didn’t believe them until I went outside and all the grooms were shouting! Dennis and Gael Evans were on course that day which made the day even more special.

When Roman Discent won the Castle Tankard in 2018. He was rank outsider and I believe was at odds of about 66-1! Mathew Thackeray was riding him and rode a perfect race. It was an incredibly tight finish (Simona ran 2nd and Mathematician was 4th). The range of emotions that we all went through that afternoon – from complete shock to great excitement, then to a panic – while we were going to the parade ring what sounded like the objection buzzer was going (we then found out that it was a vuvuzela being blown!), then back to great excitement as the horse came into the parade ring. The owners were in complete shock and there was a lot of ‘how did he win that?’! (He was badly under sufferance in the race and in a sense was there to make up the numbers!)

What race do you aspire to win, both locally and nationally?

Locally – our ‘big 3’ – Castle Tankard, OK Grand Challenge and Republic Cup are always races that I aspire to win.
Having a contender in the Durban July has always been a dream of mine, likewise the Met & The Summer Cup.
Internationally – Dubai World Cup, Singapore and Royal Ascot!

Where is your favourite racetrack?

Borrowdale Park! Lester Piggott once said Borrowdale was the most beautiful track he had ever ridden on and all these years later I still agree with his sentiments.

What I love about racing at Borrowdale is the atmosphere and the vibe as well as the comradery between the trainers and the owners. It is the wonderful owners and trainers that have kept Borrowdale Park going through some incredibly tough times, and it is the passion that they all have that has kept us all here and in the game.

Have you ever felt prejudiced against in racing as a result of being a woman?

I believe that being a woman in racing, especially as a trainer, that we have an advantage when it comes to the horses. While racing is an incredibly tough game and you need to have broad shoulders and iron will. There is the compassionate side that is needed as well, and I feel that that is where we are able to come out tops.

Do you have a favourite sire at the moment? Have any young sires impressed you?

Gimmethegreenlight is one of my favourite sires. Master of my fate is another sire that has impressed me.
I am looking forward to seeing how the Futura and Legislate progeny perform.

What would you like to see changed in racing?

The safety of the jockeys, work riders, grooms and the horses is paramount to our industry. I feel that there is a need to have resident ambulances/medical staff at track on a daily basis.

Who, if anyone, has inspired you in racing?

Lisa Harris – I started working for her in 2006 and then took over the yard in 2015 from her. Lisa was an amazing trainer and horse woman. She taught me a lot, both with regards to the horses as well how to deal with the game, owners and life in general. She stood up for what she believed in as well as those that she believed in.

It was her belief in me that convinced me to carry on in her footsteps and to take out my trainers licence.
I believe that having a mentor in the industry is crucial to your growth and she has been my life long mentor!

What advice would give someone keen in getting involved in racing, either as a trainer or as an owner, especially females?

I would advise women getting involved in racing to always maintain their honesty & integrity within the industry, to remember that hard work, dedication & discipline are the name of the game and to not be discouraged when things are low!
Racing like any sport has its ups and downs. I find that horses thrive on a working routine, as well as a safe, comfortable and happy environment.

As women, we have the capacity to initiate change from a different view point and so I would advise new lady owners / trainers to always strive for more and to always reach for the stars.

The racing industry can be daunting and intimidating but in the words of Atticus, “She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on strongly, despite the fear.”


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