Winning July horse owner dared to be different
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THE reality that his horse won Africa’s most prestigious horse race only kicked in with Ashwin Reynolds earlier this week, when he got a call from legendary golfer and accomplished horse breeder, Gary Player.
Reynolds’ horse, Kommetdieding, ridden expertly by jockey Gavin Lerena from a wide starting position, won the Vodacom Durban July at the Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse, last week.
His phone rang off the hook and more than a thousand congratulatory WhatsApp messages were received after Kommetdieding, a 3-year-old colt, galloped to victory.
Reynolds, 48, from Claremont in Cape Town became an instant celebrity and added the latest chapter to his rags to riches life story.
“I asked my wife Rene what happened, she said I broke a 125-year-old duck.”
Rene was referring to Reynolds becoming the first person of colour to own a July winner.
“Now I know what it means to be a celebrity. I’m a guy who likes to get on with life, quietly. I don’t want to be a celebrity anymore,” he said with a chuckle.
After the call from Gary Player, Reynolds realised the enormity of his achievement.
“It sank in,” he said.
Another major point of conversation was his horse’s unique name.
He said Kommetdieding was Cape Flats speak.
“‘The phrase ’kom met die ding’ is Afrikaans for ’bring it on, I’m not scared’,” Reynolds said.
Presently, Reynolds part-owns 17 other horses. Kommetdieding is the only horse he owns outright.
He acquired the horse, which is trained by Michelle Rix and her father Harold Crawford, at a yearling sale in 2019.
Crawford attended and bought Kommetdieding.
“Harold asked me if he could buy me a horse at the sale. I said he could, but he shouldn’t spend more than R80 000.
“He paid R55 000 for Kommetdieding,” Reynolds said.
When Reynolds saw the horse, he nearly fell on his back, because “it looked like an ugly duckling”.
Once he committed to the horse and paid for it, it started to fill out and morphed into a beautiful swan.
On how the horse got named, Reynolds said he was at the Algoa Cup in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) with friends.
Afterwards they were having a few drinks at a pub when one of his friends dared him to name it Kommetdieding. Not one to back down from a challenge, Reynolds called Rix late that night about the horse’s name.
Rix obliged and the name was registered with the authorities.
However, Rene was “livid”.
“This is what happens when you drink,” Rene snapped at him.
“The deed is done,” he responded.
Reynolds said people from the Cape Flats loved the name, while others struggled to wrap their tongues around its pronunciation.
Winning the race was a “phenomenal achievement”, as he always desired gracing the parade ring as a horse owner in the July.
“It is rare for someone to spend as little as R55 000 on a horse that goes on to win a big race like the July.
“People who have been donkey years in the horse racing game don’t even get the opportunity to have a runner in some of the country’s other big races,” he said.
Reynolds praised Rix for having the horse in peak mental and physical condition for the July, especially as it was injured months before the race.
Due to lockdown protocols, he watched the race at home with a few friends and some family.
Before the start, he was anxious, and after the first 100m of the race Kommetdieding was third from the end of the field. It added to his anxiety.
But with 800m to go, Lerena started to move towards the front and when Kommetdieding hit the home straght, Reynolds was in full voice until the horse passed the finish post.
He said the celebrations ran until 3am.
“I’m just happy and I broke an omen and more people of colour can follow my achievement,” he said.
Reynolds dedicated the win to his friend and fellow horse-owner Jumat Cola, who died from Covid-19, a day before the race, and Titus, his grandfather.
His father died when he was nine, and Reynolds is the eldest among five siblings.
Although he had aspirations of one day putting on the white shoes worn by naval officers, he was forced to drop out of school after completing Grade 9. His first job was as a labourer in an electrical company.
Having put in the hard yards, worked in the UK as an artisan for a few years, Reynolds saved enough money to start his own construction company that handles government projects in the Western Cape.
‘We were a poor family living in Grassy Park. When we had chops and eggs on Friday, we knew mom got paid.
“But we were a close knit family, always together in good and bad times. If you have family around you, you are never poor,” he said.