Ladies in Racing-Candice Dawson

SA Horseracing recently took time out to find out more about the successful Candice Dawson, as part of a series on prominent women in the horse racing industry.

How did you hear about the sport of horseracing and when can you first remember wanting to become a trainer?
I heard about racing through my dad when I was about 6 years old. Back then at 4AM I was given the option of either being his caddy or watching his horses at the track at Summerveld. Being horsie girls myself and my sisters obviously decided to get out of bed early to watch his horses instead of carrying his heavy bag around.

What are the advantages of growing up in a family that’s involved in horse racing? (if applicable)
The only person in my family who was involved in racing was my dad who owned two horses with Herman Brown. My mother absolutely loved horses too but in all disciplines. It wasn't the conventional upbringing into racing but it worked.

How long have you been aspiring to become a trainer?
Since the day I arrived at Geoff Woodruff's yard in 1999 and saw how these athletes could achieve

Under whom did you learn the trade?
I started with Michael Airey who was the first to open my eyes to the game and then moved onto Geoff Woodruff which obviously got the pulse racing with regard to understanding what a horse could achieve and the levels they could reach under any circumstances. I did a stint with Kumaran Naidoo who allowed me free reign to fly his flag in Johannesburg with the main motto being "two people can't train one horse" which showed me I could achieve on my own.

What are the qualities or attributes that a trainer needs to have in order to be successful in this game?
Be open minded and disciplined. Understand that everybody is different and most importantly, ATTENTION TO DETAIL. You never stop learning.

How many horses do you have at the moment?

What are some of the best horses you have helped to train or currently train?
From the start of my career I have been very fortunate to have been involved with a number of champions which I am very grateful for. The likes of Jet Master, El Picha, Eventuail and Promisefrommyheart. In the recent years I dealt with Royal Zulu Warrior and I hope a few in my string have a chance to achieve great things.

Your current highest rated horse?
Infamous Fox is rated 122.

Plans for him/her?
As seen in his form he is best suited to Turffontein Inside course and Greyville which limits our options. So we will look to keep him ticking over and hopefully winning along the way to a possible crack at the 2020 Vodacom Durban July. He has won on the day twice in a row so he deserves a shot at greatness.

What was your most memorable day in racing?
It has to have been July Day 2018 when I saddled a double. Infamous Fox won the Thukela Handicap under sufferance and Givinitsum won the Million Rand KZN Sales Race. It was Jeff Lloyd's last winner in South Africa and that made me proud. He was always a favourite of ours growing up.

Do you raid other provinces and how difficult is it, both logistically and competing against supposed better company whilst still balancing the cost to travel vs income for the owner?
We learned a big lesson last year when we split a small string and realized that travelling can be a great expense. It didn't go well in Cape Town but the education was valuable. I learned that you need a better class of horse to raid features but fortunately I have had some success with good horses like Infamous Fox who has won in Cape Town and Durban. I do enjoy raiding when the programme suits and I have the horse to do it.

What race do you aspire to win, both locally and nationally?
The July stands out as the greatest race in South Africa. And then make my owners and family happy in every other race I have a horse run in.

Where is your favourite racetrack?
Wherever we have a winner

Have you ever felt prejudiced against in racing as a result of being a woman?.
Although at times it makes you question your career path I don't see a prejudice against woman. The questioning has a lot to do with how you think and that can happen to anybody. There are many great female trainers worldwide. My male counterparts treat me with respect in the trainers' lounges countrywide and I have great respect for them too. It comes down to the training of the horse and not whats in your pants.

Do you have a favourite sire at the moment? Have any young sires impressed you?
Vercingetorix, Captain Of All and Master Of My Fate (with the Jet Master and Promisefrommyheart connection) impress me. A sire I believe could reach great heights is The Assayer. Support him. He wont disappoint with the right mares.

Which sire/sires have you invested most in at the sales this past year?
Master Of My Fate and Captain Of All. I have some nice Twice Over babies too. And Soft Falling Rain babies. What a pity he is no longer with us.

What would you like to see changed in racing?
Where do I start? The first step I believe is to work together and be on the same page like the Springboks.

Who, if anyone, has inspired you in racing?
Lindsay and Kathryn Ralphs gave me this break and I am eternally grateful. They are a wonderful family and support me in whatever I do. They are like family. Without them I wouldn't be in this position. Lindsay is a successful businessman who must have serious decisions to make on a daily basis without thinking about his horses who he cares so much about. But he always has the time of day to speak to me when I need to speak to him and talk about his horses. He is a wonderful man. His daughter Kathryn is my business partner and great friend. She came up with the idea of going on our own. We go back a long way. She helps with admin and chatting to owners and has been a huge part of our success. She helps with agendas I'm not good at. My sister Tammy is my assistant and we work so well together. She is a natural horsewoman and a great judge having worked for Mike de Kock and Geoff Woodruff for so many years. She was part of 10 champion trainer titles between them both. I am lucky to have them all.

What advice would give a someone keen in getting involved in racing, either as a trainer or as an owner, especially females?
Be passionate. Be brave. Be bold. Be your best. Don't be a sore loser

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