UPCOMING RACEDAY MATCHEM STAKES DAY, Saturday 28 September

Francis Curruthers

Characters are plentiful in racing and Francis Carruthers is one of those larger-than-life people with a love affair with the sport. Like so many, the story goes far deeper than many would expect and the man behind Lesedi Nuclear Services is always a candid and entertaining chat. His interview after KEBONALESEDI at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth a few weeks back is evidence of the fun Carruthers is.

Born in Scotland, Carruthers knew from a young age that horseracing was a reality that he could not avoid. His father worked for The Earl of Rosebury, a successful and prolific owner of horses at the time, so popular he owned Sleeping Partner, the winner of the 1969 Epsom Oaks. That experience was naturally hard to shake off. That dovetailed into Carruthers attending meetings at Musselburgh with Geoffrey Gilby, a family friend. Gilby was a hotshot racing journalist in the UK and his selections were taken as gospel. That piqued interest even further when Gilby’s information often translated into winners and often a profitable day at the races.

Carruthers moved to South Africa in 1977 but he took time to dive into his passion of owning racehorses after the formation and establishment of his business. In the early 2000’s he purchased Fashion Guide who went into training with Greg Ennion. Recollections are hazy because success was hard to come by. If one can ride out the slow start to life as an owner and continue, that is often the recipe for success. In roughly 20 years, Carruthers’ love for the sport has snowballed and he is most thankful for the luck he has attracted.

His best memory was Illuminator, winner of the 2016 Investec CTS Million Dollar. This came as a total surprise because Illuminator was the cheapest horse at the sale which catered to qualify for the inaugural race of dreams. It was also the first horse that he owned without partners. Trained by Glen Puller, the morning in late January could not have been any worse. Globetrotting and multiple Gr1 winning jockey, Weichong Marwing, engaged to ride, pulled the plug before his flight from Johannesburg with a well-documented back injury which ultimately sank his legendary riding career. As a result, the hunt for a jockey was on. With a lack of options, the cheapest horse in the field had little-known apprentice Heavalon van der Hoven as the only choice left in the jockey room, who rode any work for Glen Puller, so a leap of faith was taken. Carruthers remembers the race so vividly. “This little-known horse for a little-known owner from a small yard running past the fancied, expensive big names is something that will live with me forever”.

With roughly 12 horses currently in training. Carruthers has most of his horses with Eric Sands. He also has interests in runners with Michelle Rix/Harold Crawford, Paul Reeves with Garth Puller, and Kelly Mitchley out of province. It would be great to see his renowned dark blue and silver silks more often so the public can be entertained by his superb personality in post-race interviews. His greatest dream in the sport is to own a winner of the LÓrmarins Kings Plate. Here is hoping that dream comes true.

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Vaughan Marshall

Vaughan Marshall saw it coming from a long way out. What he envisaged then, the racing community is seeing now.

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Hollywoodbets Durbanville, Saturday 28 September