Ladies in Racing – Fiona Ramsden

SA Horseracing recently took time out to find out more about the successful media personality Fiona Ramsden as part of a series on prominent women in the horse racing industry.

You come from a horse racing background in England, please tell us how did it all begin?

I was born into a racing and farming family so it was in my blood. My father trained both National Hunt and Flat horses. I was head over heels in love with horses and animals and rode from an early age. I did Pony Club, Show Jumping and Hunting. As I got older I was dead set on riding as a lady Amateur in England and started riding work for my father. When I left school I worked for various Trainers as a secretary, riding work every day and riding in Amateur Flat races. I worked over 4 years for Barry Hills at Manton and then Lambourn. Manton is a wonderful training centre and it was a privilege to work there, with top facilities and Gallop options. It was during my last job in England for Jack and Lynda Ramsden that I met Joey Ramsden. He had returned from a long stint in South Africa and was running a satellite yard for his father in England. When he decided to return to South Africa to Train I joined him, that was back in 1995. We were a team at Goodhope Racing until 2016 when Joey and I parted.

How did you get involved in the South African media landscape?
During my time with Goodhope Racing I was offered some work with Telly Track doing the Trainer Interviews for Under Starters Orders, interviewing sponsors for feature races and some fashion interviews on course on the big days. I guess I was doing a good job as in 2016 Grant Knowles offered me the job of presenting for his show Breeding To Win. This was a great opportunity for me and I thoroughly enjoy this role and the team I work with. Later on Grant offered me more work with Telly Track as a race day presenter, which I have enjoyed over the last two years. My main role is to interview the Trainers in the parade ring prior to races and hopefully give the public some useful information. I also give my opinion on the looks of the horses. I leave the betting side to Grant and Stan. They are both great to work with. It’s nice to still be involved in the industry with the horses and people I have known since arriving in South Africa.

Did presenting come naturally to you?
I think so (laughing). I was self taught but Grant and Stan helped me a lot with the race day presenting. I used to get nervous and make lots of notes but I’m far more relaxed now. I’m interviewing people I know and usually know the subject so the notes have become less and hopefully my interviews more natural. I like to make my guest feel at ease as well, it’s sometimes nerve wracking for them.

How do you balance life as a mother with the weekend scheduling of racing and the generally long hours?
I sometimes feel like I am juggling too many balls and they are out of control. Thankfully my girls (Holly 13 and Zara 10) have grown up with racing and attending race meetings at the weekend but I do my best to make sure they get to parties and their sporting events. Their social life is greater than mine.

Tell us about a typical racing week in your current schedule
On Monday I get the run down for Sundays Breeding To Win show so I make appointments for the week ahead. We travel out to various farms and sometimes more local. Shoots vary but we do 2 or 3 a week sometimes. Tuesday or Wednesday is mid-week racing and I try and do some prep for that. I like to plan which Trainers I am going to chat to and my questions. I still like to ride when I can. Then it’s Weekend Racing. In between I am running round with my children to and from school, extra mural activities, parties etc. My youngest is riding so lots of shows as well and that’s usually on a Sunday. What is down time?

What are your favourite race days to be involved with? and why?
Queen’s Plate is definitely my favourite in this country. Such an elegant race meeting and of course great racing.
In England I love them all but Epsom Derby, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham.
I have been lucky enough to go to France a few times and the Arc De Triomphe is a great day.

You have an eye for spotting a decent horse in the paddock, name any that stands out for you in the Cape Racing scene
That’s a tough one, there are plenty of good looking horses out there. One World from the Vaughan Marshall stable is a good looking horse by Captain Al and always catches the eye.

What should a punter look for when picking a horse in the parade ring?
A good coat, bright eye and toned muscles (no big bellies). I don’t mind horses being on their toes but not over doing it in the parade ring.

Cape Racing presenters seems to have a very good rapport with their trainers, is it difficult to get them on TV as often as you do?
I am lucky, they have all been very accommodating when I ask them and it is often but from their side its part of the sport. As sportsmen they must expect to be interviewed and share their information, the public love it.
I try and be extra nice to them and add a bit of banter so I haven’t had any problems. I think they like me (Ha Ha)

Which trainers do you feel are the most transparent in their pre-race comments?
Justin Snaith is great. Being the top trainer I usually try and get him early in the day and he certainly gives the punters every chance. But to be honest most of the Trainers are good. I get our other top Trainers early in the day as well and they are all helpful. Candice, Brett, Vaughan and so on.

You are one of the anchors of the Breeding To Win Show, how much of background work goes into the presentation of the show?
We have our main sponsors to look after and make sure they are getting their mileage on the show. Grant gives us a running order for every show. I will research anything I’m not sure of, I try and look up Stallions if we are promoting them and Sales Catalogues. We work a lot with Breeders and their sales drafts.

Racing is in a serious decline at the moment pick one area that you feel one can improve
I think we could promote racing better. It can be done, recently at the Matcham meeting at Durbanville we had a good crowd. A potjie completion and a market and there was a good vibe on course.

Do you feel that ladies have a larger role to play in racing than they already do?
Behind every man is a good women! All the ladies I know in racing put a lot into it, from Owners, Lady Trainers, Assistant Trainers, Trainers Wives, Jockey’s wives, Media. I just wish we had some lady jockeys, we have in the past and they have been more than capable of taking on the boys.
Gaynor Rupert is certainly showing what the ladies are made of, winning the owner of the year and with her exquisite Stud and race day.

Who would you rate as the top race horse in the country at the moment?
Do It Again

Who would rate as potentially the best three year old in the country?
It is difficult to say at this stage – Got The Greenlight was champion 2 Year Old and is probably rated the best 3 year Old at this stage but Silver Operator looks to have a bright future to me. We will know more after the Guineas

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