Ladies in Racing-Wendy Whitehead

SA Horseracing recently took time out to find out more about the successful Wendy Whitehead 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 involved in the game?

I started in the horse racing game when I finished school, I did a bit of show jumping as a kid but wanted a career with horses, horse racing was the way to go. I had a few friends that were involved in racing, Gail Page, she worked for Alistair Gordon, now she works at Mauritzfontein Stud. Jaci Wickham also worked for Alistair Gordon she now trains Arabian racehorses in Abu Dhabi.
It was my dream to be like them as I was fascinated by the racing game, so my adventure started with Craig Ramsey at Golden Acres Stud where I learnt about the breeding side, then I went on to the pre training, he taught me how to ride work and that’s when the racing bug bit. I couldn’t wait to go to the races, I worked for him for about 2 years. My next adventure was Summerveld, I have been here for 32 years and love every minute of it, not one day goes by without being grateful to work in such a stunning place, every day is an adventure. I am truly blessed.

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

I don’t come from a horsey family

Under whom did you learn the trade?

I worked as a stable employee for Alan Snowy Reid for 2 years then Tony Furness as assistant Trainer for 11 years.
I was lucky enough to get a good break when he retired, I took over the yard from him with the most amazing clients

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

It’s a team work effort ,from the staff to the work riders, jockeys,to the vets, farriers, physiotherapists, Gold Circle track and stabling facilities. Without the valuable client/owner this won’t exist.

How many horses are you looking after at the moment?

What are some of the best horses you have helped to train or currently train?

I worked with some stunners, League Title, Peonie Princess, Wild Aster, Parisian Tango, Good Thing, City Edition, Chant De Nuit, Coffee Sheik, Lady Carter, Free State, Twice As Smart, Hard to Play; these are to name a few.

Your current highest rated horse?
Hard To Play 106

Plans for him/her?

He unfortunately has just had a colic op so plans are on hold for now

What was your most memorable day in racing?

Ah, there have been a few but I would say winning the Grade 2 Camillia Stakes in Johannesburg with Chant De Nuit was amazing, winning 5 races in a row with a horse called Kahalay was just amazing, a little fella called Good Thing won 13 races, Coffee Sheik won 8 including some features ,I still own him he’s happily retired leading babies. Hard to Play winning the Chapter Challege all good times

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

Locally July/Met would be amazing any Gr 1 will do though I am not fussy, just to race one of my horses overseas would be a great experience probably at Royal Ascot would top it off

Where is your favourite racetrack?

Hollywood bets Greyville, Turffontein

Tell us about the differences for you between the turf and poly?

I think you get a true result on the turf track, the poly is always indifferent as it runs according to the weather, it suits some horses and others it’s to quick for them

Being the holiday season and you were asking Santa for a gift, would you ask for anything particular in racing for the new year?

Bring back the public ,racing needs them, well done to Hollywoodbets I think they have great initiatives for the racing game and betting ie. there bonus of the pick 6, the vibe has picked up so much recently.

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

No ,I love giving the boys a run for their money honey

What do you think of the racecards number order being in barrier positions, yay or nay?

It takes some getting used to, I don’t mind it

Do you have a favourite sire at the moment?

Silvano is still producing the winners and Oratorio is doing very well

Has any young sires impressed you?

Yes ,Vercingetorix

What would you like to see changed in racing?

I would like the owners to get a bit more TLC especially when they have runners in big races ,it’s all about them

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

As a woman trainer you have to be a strong person ,good morals and a passion for horses. Its 24/7, you need to love what you do, there is no time for hobbies in this sport.
As a woman owner enjoy the ride there is nothing more exhilarating than shouting your horse home and leading it into the winners box.

Many Stables are sponsored by bookmakers yet many have the open bet, racing turnovers are falling, the open bet is one contributing factor, is it a concern for you?

In my opinion the open bet is a concern, as the funds from this does not find their way back into supporting racing ,where as if going through the tote it goes back into the stakes and funding racing.

Give us your a few Racing Wishes for Christmas, in point form?

Bring all the horses safely home from racing,
Stakes to increase in the New Year, it will attract more owners to the province, KZN racing to Boom which should enable the racing operators to keep costs to a minimal amount.


© 2009 All rights reserved.