Changing the face of horse racing
South Africa’s leading – and for years, only – female horse trainer Candice Bass-Robinson has two studs in The Sun Met on 1 February 2020 at Kenilworth Racecourse
The daughter of top South African trainer Mike Bass, Candice Bass-Robinson grew up bearing an insatiable love for horses. As soon as she was old enough, she began helping her father train them, breaking down barriers in the male-dominated industry.
"It's not easy for people coming into the industry, especially women. There is always the perception out there that women are not as strong as men. It's changing slowly. If you understand horses and can train them, there should be no question of whether you are a man or a woman." says Bass-Robinson
In August 2016, she took over the reins as head trainer at Bass Racing, which has produced such stars as the iconic Pocket Power, Dunford, River Jetez, Bunter Barlow, and Trademark. She made history when she became the first female trainer to win the Vodacom Durban July in 2017 with Marinaresco and rose to occupy a spot among the top 10 female trainers in the world. Bass-Robinson has two horses in The Sun Met 2020, Majestic Mozart and More Magic, ridden by jockeys Keagan de Melo and Gregory Cheyne respectively.
"I'm quite a competitive person by nature. I want to win and be the best. I don't just want to be another person training horses. But it's a very tough industry. There's a lot of pressure and it's an extremely stressful career. It's extremely competitive. It's one of the most competitive industries. It involves long hours and getting up early in the morning. And it's not just about training horses. There's also the marketing side. I also have a child at school. But I somehow manage to cope with it all."
Candice Bass Robinson, picture by Chase Liebenberg photography
A vision to change the industry
As for the changing face of horse racing, Bass-Robinson is concerned that there's not enough new blood. She'd also like to see the kind of attention and fanfare The Sun Met generates spilling over into other events throughout the year.
"The industry needs new faces, both as trainers and owners. And we need to find ways of getting people to the races again. The Sun Met is a big day for all of us. It's a lovely event, but we need to build on that and attract people throughout the year."
"There isn't a feeling that can replicate leading your horse into the winner's box. I can't explain what that does to people. People who have horses enjoy a thrill they don't necessarily find in their business worlds or the rest of their lives. That's what hooks people. They are not in it to make money, because that won't happen. It's the passion and the thrill."
And it's a thrill she believes anybody can experience, not only the wealthy.
"You could have 50 people in a syndicate owning a horse together and they could all spend just a little money every month, and enjoy the same thrill as the person investing millions in one horse. Whether you have 1% or 100% of a horse, it's still your horse that wins."
So whether it's a day out at The Sun Met or just heading out to the track on any other day in the year, Bass-Robinson's message is simple.
"Get to the track, or get a horse. If you've never done so, you'll never know the feeling."
Catch Candice Bass-Robinson's horses, Majestic Mozart and More Magic, racing for the R3 million main prize at The Sun Met on 1 February 2020 at Kenilworth Racecourse.