South Africa’s champion racehorse trainer Paul Peter has quit the game for personal and emotional reasons and on medical advice.
“I have to consider that as much as I love my racing and my horses, I have to be realistic and consider the implications for my family and my personal health,” said the 50-year-old on Friday morning.
Peter clinched his first championship title at the close of the 2021/22 season at the end of July, having set a record number of 221 winners. He won the prestigious Gold Cup at Greyville with 7-1 shot Shangani on the last day of the season.
He gave no hint of thoughts of retirement in an interview with The Citizen in early August.
The news broke in a shock announcement from the National Horseracing Authority on Thursday evening, which said Peter was handing in his training licence but provided no detail.
Peter explained things further in an exclusive interview with Sporting Post racing paper on Friday, saying: “I have enjoyed great support from my sons, my wife and my broader family network. I achieved what I set out to do 12 years ago, and I want to thank everybody in horseracing, including the punting public, for the support and kindness.
In his statement, he asked the racing industry to respect his and his family’s privacy.
“I don’t have a bad word to say about anybody, and I hope that my owners and horses go on to great things. For now, it is time to change direction and to take a step back.”
The Peter barns at Turffontein house 190 horses, all of which will have to find new trainers. Peter’s son Tony, his assistant, has declined the chance to take over the operation.
The extended Peter family of Joburg was always besotted with racing and horses. But it was Paul who stepped back from the family’s paint business, Hyperpaints, to get hands-on with the game. In his 30s, he became an assistant trainer to James Maree, a wise old hand revered in the industry.
In 2010, Peter went on his own, with boxes at the Vaal and then at Turffontein. From the outset, hard work, patience and love of horses marked him out for success. He was also very media-friendly and transparent in assessing his horses’ chances.
His first patrons were his family, brothers Gerrard, Johnny and Dominic, and nephews Joel and Jade – a collective that remains the backbone of the yard. An inexpensive R65,000 purchase, Magico, became an omen of great things to come when he pulled the trainer’s first win out of a hat on Durban July day in 2010.
From there it was a steady climb to the top. A major boost along the way was when veteran Turffontein trainer Ormond Ferraris retired and some of his best horses transferred to Peter – including super filly Summer Pudding, who went on to land the Triple Tiara and was the best horse he handled in an all-to-brief career.
Also in his statement, Peter said: “I am not a delegator by nature, and my yard has grown exponentially.”