The champion no one wanted

2014-12-15 06:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Louis The King’s success story almost never happened. Put on the KZN yearling sale at the Suncoast Casino in the week of the 2011 Vodacom Durban July, the colt was shunned by horse buyers – he didn’t attract a single bid.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg trainer Geoff Woodruff arrived at Suncoast to give a few tickets for the July to a friend. As he got out of his car and walked across the car park, he met Louis’ dejected breeder, Phillip Kahan, leaving the sale.

“Tell me,” said Kahan, pointing to Louis’ photo in the sales catalogue, “what’s wrong with this horse?”

Woodruff looked, saw that the colt’s father had been a very good racehorse and asked: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” said Kahan, “I love him.”

A canny Woodruff asked what Kahan wanted for the horse and was surprised to find it was a bargain basement price of R60?000.

“An average sale price is R250?000 to R300?000. Even if Louis was going for R100?000, I wouldn’t have bought him, but R60?000?” says Woodruff.

So he shook hands on the deal in the car park for a horse he hadn’t even laid eyes on.

“I trusted Phil’s instincts. I’ve know him for a long time and he’s never let me down, so I didn’t have a worry,” says Woodruff (58). But he did take a peek at Louis afterwards and saw “a nice horse – plain, unassuming and modest”.

In fact, there was nothing to suggest Louis was champion material. Woodruff thought he would do what he could for the horse to “amount to something”.

By May 2012, Louis had turned into a “nice little horse, but still nothing to catch the eye”. He had his first race over 1?400m as a three-year-old in November last year and Woodruff was “pleasantly surprised” to see him win. He then entered Louis in a 1?700m race.

“He absolutely bolted. He was full of running. I thought then this horse had something,” says Woodruff.

After two more good races, Woodruff primed Louis for the Sascoc Triple Crown in March this year at Joburg’s Turffontein Racecourse. A Triple Crown comprises three races of varying distances for three-year-olds. Winning all three is considered a racehorse’s greatest accomplishment – only ­Horse Chestnut managed to do this in South Africa in 1999.

The first race was the 1?600m Gauteng Guineas on a rain-soaked track. Louis steamed to a win, leaving the other horses trailing behind. He had a narrow win in the 1?800m SA Classic on March?29 and in the 2?450m SA Derby on April 26, he pulled clear of the frontrunner as they left the other horses straggling behind.

Louis’ win in the Sansui Summer Cup two weeks ago has brought his total earnings to a staggering R6.8?million.

“He has repaid my faith in him many times over,” says the five-time champion trainer. “In fact, he has repaid it 100 times more than the price I agreed to pay for him in that car park.”

Louis the King's wins

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.