Bass-Robinson beats the boys

GIRL POWER: Candice Bass-Robinson with Marinaresco in the winner’s box after the Durban July. The Cape Town trainer, who trained three of the first six past the post, also became the first woman to saddle the winner in the continent’s biggest horse race.

THEY say Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels. Someone who sometimes must feel she’s doing the same thing is Candice Bass-Robinson, who last Saturday became the first woman trainer to saddle a July winner.

She has certainly stepped right into the saddle of her father, racing’s legendary trainer, Mike Bass, who retired last season. This year’s Vodacom Durban July, Africa’s most famous horse race, was one for the history books when the smallest horse, Marinaresco, carrying the heaviest weight and the tallest jockey, Bernard Fayd’Herbe, stormed to victory for Bass-Robinson, who is in her debut season under her own name as a fully-fledged horse trainer.

In her response to being the first woman trainer to saddle a July winner, she said: “They are saying I am the first. I wouldn’t know, but according to the general opinion out there I am. I think it’s quite nice for us ladies for a change.” Despite her mother being sick with food poisoning and falling on her way to the winner’s enclosure, Bass-Robinson took the long and nerve-wracking day in her stride.

When asked what got her interested in following her father’s footsteps and in an industry predominantly male, her response was that as she “grew up in racing” she had always been involved and was also an avid horse rider. Her brother, Mark, is marketing and race manager but Candice is head trainer at Mike Bass Stables.

“I never feel inferior to my colleagues. I feel I can do the job as well as any of the men out there. “It is very much a male-dominated industry but I just have to go about things in my way, stand my ground and hope the results speak for themselves,” Bass-Robinson said. She said it’s a very difficult career to get into – and not only for women.

“There are some very successful women horse trainers out there already but you do need to have contacts in the industry.” Bass-Robinson also said it was very difficult to start from scratch in these times as it is imperative to have the backing of good clients in your stable – and that takes a lot of time to build.

Mike Bass Stables employs about 65 grooms, two of whom are assistant trainers. They also have trainee grooms who are apprenticed to the employed grooms.

“There used to be a grooms’ school on the premises to teach grooms how to ride and be a stable-hand plus some schooling but that is no longer in place in Cape Town,” the 42 year old said. She says that she has a great team behind her and puts her success down to three things, dedication, hard work and a passion for horses.

“Honesty and integrity are also two very important musts, as well as being able to get along with other staff members,” she said. The stable has 140 horses and Candice loves many of them for different reasons.

Marinaresco is definitely one of her favourites and she says he always tries his best, he never lets them down and is probably the smallest horse in their yard.

“He is a very honest horse and never lets you down. He has been a pleasure to train and has made us incredibly proud,” Bass-Robinson said.