Passion for racing developed in young days
YOGAS Govender started his racing career in 2001, joining Glen Kotzen in Cape Town as a stable employee. He tried office work for a while, but the racing bug would not let go.
He talked his way into a stable employee job (by offering to work for free) and spent four years absorbing everything he could.
He then spent six months in the US with Michael Dickinson.
From that point onwards, Govender has blossomed into one of the top trainers.
He was with Kotzen for five years, during which time he was awarded his assistant trainer’s licence.
He then left and joined Dickinson in Maryland to gain further experience.
On his return, Govender joined Brett Crawford as an assistant trainer in Cape Town from 2006 to 2009.
He later became an interim trainer at Plattner Racing for three months.
“I continued in the industry with Plattner Racing for about five years. We enjoyed a very successful period, having won close to 350 races including groups 1,2,3 and listed races and numerous other group placings.
“In 2015, I made the bold step to go on my own as a trainer and am enjoying it,” said Govender, who added that racehorse training was an extremely difficult industry and one’s success was determined by the clientele, together with the support from within the industry.
He is almost universally well liked and was probably summed up best on the podium of the 2013 J&B Met when Stan Elley called him “one of the nicest people in racing”.
Govender’s father was a keen race-goer and the young boy developed a passion for racing in his young days.
He recorded the big races of his childhood on video and watched them regularly.
Govender was an avid fan of Bush Telegraph and was working behind the bar at Greyville Racecourse when Royal Chalice won the July.
His first meeting as a fullyfledged trainer was on September 19, 2009, and his first winner arrived four days later when Viking Lizzy broke his maiden run by four lengths at a midweek meeting at Durbanville.
Shortly after, Danish Silver landed the Michaelmas Handicap at Greyville on October 9, 2009, and Govender had his first feature race winner.
Govender prefers to train his horses than talk about his exploits. He has always prided himself on his strike rate.
“Michael Dickinson taught me that anyone can train a racehorse, but it’s consistency that makes a trainer.
“If you look at my stats in the first 10 months, I had a 50% winning place rate percentage. I reached 100 winners in 20 months.”
Govender says: “We’d been placed at group level and our win and place percentages were always good, but at the end of the day, it’s the group 1’s that keep you awake at night.
“Until you’ve had one, you constantly ask yourself ‘Am I doing it right?’ ”
He got his answer in January 2013 when the long-shot 7-year-old Martial Eagle with a rookie jockey won the J&B Met.
It’s a story that will be retold for years to come.
It came about almost by chance, as Dennis Drier’s charge had merely stopped at the Rondeberg facility en route to being retired.
However, with the restorative properties of the West Coast and the care that was lavished on him, the old soldier seemed to find a new lease of life and on Drier’s recommendation to “try him in the wet, he might like it”.
Govender decided to give him a chance. He justified their faith and ran a cracker, finishing just over two lengths off Variety Club. Despite never being tried beyond 1 600m, they took the bold move and supplemented him for the Met.
In one of the best finishes at Greyville recently, 3-yearold gelding Filippo produced a late and well-judged finish to nab free-running Billy Silver on the line.
It’s often near impossible to overhaul Richard Fourie on a strong, front-running type – he had Billy Silver going great guns through the 200m-mark, but Filippo managed it under a good ride from in-form jockey Gunter Wrogemann.
“Horse racing is going through a very tough period with dwindling pools, and on-course attendance has not been what it used to be in the gold old days.
“Racing has to compete with other forms of gambling, especially casinos, but when you see the huge crowds at the J&B Met, the Durban July, the Post Merchants and other bigger races, you feel good,” quipped Govender.
Trainer Yogas Govender with one of his winning horses.