From jockeys to racehorse owners, the global horse racing industry is often regarded as a man’s world. It is therefore unsurprising that the list of South Africa’s top racehorse trainers is almost exclusively male. However, one name stands apart from the rest – Candice Robinson, a rose amongst the thorns, sitting in fourth place on the country’s trainer log. Since taking over as Head Trainer at Bass Racing Stables last year, Candice has been steaming ahead of the competition, having already achieved 72 wins from 682 starts.
As the daughter of the legendary Thoroughbred trainer Mike Bass, Candice developed a passion for the animals at a young age. She claims that being able to enjoy horses is essential component of her job and when considering the amount of time spent in their company, one begins to understand why. Working with racehorses is a job that doesn’t stop, they need to be cared for and exercised seven days a week.
This includes everything from horses coming up lame on the day of a big race to late night calls should a horse fall ill. Bass Racing Stables currently has 130 horses in Cape Town and Candice manages the large staff contingent, including 60 grooms, who are responsible for their training and care.
However, according to Candice, the most stressful aspect of her job is the responsibility of meeting her clients’ expectations. Racehorse owners put a huge amount of trust in their trainers, from selecting a great horse at auction to preparing it to be a champion on the racetrack.
Thoroughbreds are usually purchased as yearlings (approximately 18 months of age) at auctions such as the National Yearling Sale held by Bloodstock South Africa, the sales arm of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA). The selection and purchase of a racehorse is often entrusted to a trainer and a horse with the right pedigree and physical attributes can command prices that reach into the millions.
“When a client invests in a million-rand horse they expect great things,” explains Candice. “However, predicting whether a young Thoroughbred has the ability to be a champion is no simple task.”
“It’s a bit like looking at a six-year-old child with gangly legs and saying that he’ll grow up to be a great athlete,” adds Mark Bass, Candice’s brother and the Marketing Manager at Bass Racing Stables.
Despite this, Candice definitely has a knack for choosing winners and earlier this year a Thoroughbred trained by her won the Grade 1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes run at the J&B Met – a sought-after feather for any trainer’s cap. This, only one year into her tenure at Bass Racing, proves that Candice is a lady who is doing big things in a man’s world. She joins a growing group of talented women who are challenging outdated industry prejudices including the likes of Michelle Payne who – after becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in its 155 year history – famously said, “Those who believe women aren’t strong enough to succeed can get stuffed, because we just beat the world.”