Further blow for South African racing as trainer Joey Ramsden is to quit

Joey Ramsden, one of the top trainers in South Africa for more than 20 years, is to close his Cape Town yard at the end of the month.

The news is another blow to the country’s racing industry, which is struggling in the face of falling betting revenues. South Africa will be left with only seven racecourses when Flamingo Park in Kimberley is shut down next month. 

Ramsden, 51, was allocated stables in Singapore in April and seemed set to train there but on Monday the Singapore Turf Club reported he had decided against the move.

It was widely assumed he would continue in South Africa – only last Saturday he ran horses in the big meeting at Turffontein – but on Wednesday afternoon he emailed his owners telling them of his decision to close his yard.

One of them forwarded the email to the Sporting Post racing paper. In it Ramsden, who has trained the winners of 26 Group 1 races including the 2016 Durban July with The Conglomerate, said: “Unfortunately we will not be able to take up the opportunity in Singapore and we’ve also made the decision to close down our South African operation.

“We’re taking a sabbatical as we both [himself and partner Stephanie Grentell] feel this is the right decision for ourselves and our family to take a step back for a while and reassess in the future. Goodhope Racing will be closing its doors on November 30.

“We thank you all for your understanding in what has been an extremely testing time and an extremely hard decision we’ve had to make. We need to reiterate this is not a knee-jerk reaction to any ‘news’ that’s been released, we simply needed to take the time to speak with our family, friends, staff and owners before we made anything public.”

Ramsden, stepson of former Yorkshire trainer Lynda Ramsden and son of her husband Jack, was hit hard by the decision of his main patron Markus Jooste to sell his horses after the Steinhoff financial scandal hit the headlines in December 2017. His numbers dropped alarmingly, as did the quality of his string, and he moved to a smaller yard.

He still managed to win big races, notably with Twist Of Fate, who won last season’s Cape Classic and KRA Guineas and finished third in the Durban July. However, he has struggled in the current season and has sent out only two winners.