David Nieuwenhuizen. Photo: Supplied
David Nieuwenhuizen. Photo: Supplied

David Nieuwenhuizen glad he was pressured to buy

By David Thiselton Time of article published Mar 23, 2021

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Underrated trainer David Nieuwenhuizen has become more and more prominent despite working largely with horses purchased in a lower price bracket but he might be willing to increase his sales budget after his Oratorio filly Gifted Gal won on debut over 1160m at Turffontein on Saturday in eyecatching style under Gavin Lerena.

In the process the Avontuur Throroughbred Farm broodmare Academia achieved the unusual feat of having a third debut winner, whilst her only other two runners to date both won early in their careers too.

Nieuwenhuizen said about Gifted Gal, "She showed a lot of promise from day one and myself and owners Stergio and Fred were confident of a big run. Gavin had ridden her work and was very happy to take the ride. I would have preferred to start her over 1000m but the only 1000m event available was going to be too close to the SA Fillies Nursery so we took the risk and ran her here."

The connections were confident she could beat the exposed horses on Saturday but the other risk they took was running her in a field which was full of unknown first-timers, one of whom was backed into favourite.

However, Gifted Gal, who was backed from 7/1 into 5/2, proved up to the task. After breaking well from a favourable high draw of ten she was up with the early pace before hitting the front 800m out. She quickened well at the 400m mark to keep the most fancied of the exposed horses, Hollywoodbound, at bay. She then dug down in the last 100 metres to repel the challenger Freed From Desire, although she did hang inward.

Nieuwenhuizen said, "She is a very sensible filly and I think that is what won her the race, although she was a bit green in the latter stages. We don't take everything out of them first time out and we leave a lot in reserve. She is sound and beautifully put together, her conformation is excellent, Pippa always breeds a good solid horse."

Nieuwenhuizen in fact thanked Mickelburgh profusely in the post-race interview.

Mickelburgh had been disappointed when Gifted Gal went through the ring unsold at the National Yearling Sales last year but she was not altogether surprised as she was the second lot and the venue was still relatively empty.

However, she was later having a cup of tea with Nieuwenhuizen as he had bought an Avontuur Var filly for R80,000.

Pippa then told him that as a proven good trainer it was time he risked buying more expensive, better bred horses as he would not always be able to rely on the cindarella-like stories of the R10,000 purchase Virgo's Babe, who won him the Grade 2 SA Fillies Nursery.

She suggested Gifted Gal as a good starting point.

David was reluctant but his wife Heather and daughter Nicole joined forces with Pippa in persuading him.

David recalled, "Pippa thought the filly would be nice blood for the yard and it is difficult to say no when three women are pressurising you! But now I thank them for doing so!"

David forked out R250,000, the most expensive horse he has ever bought, and then set about putting ownership together.

He said. "When they are better bred it is easier to put them together."

He approached Stergio Poriazis, who part-owns Nieuwenhuizen's Grade 3 winner Mill Queen among others.

Stergio said, "I am a very loyal patron of David's, I am very happy with him. He is honest and transparent and he told me he thought he had a special filly. I got a partner involved, Fred van Wyk. This mare obviously throws very forward fillies but let's see, we hope we have fun with her."

Pretoria-based Stergio entered horseracing as a punter roundabout 35 years ago as a 19 year-old and began owning horses five to six years ago. Mill Queen, who is by Querari and won the 2019 Grade 2 Starling Stakes, was not his first stakes winner as he also part-owned the Gavin Smith-trained Querari filly Joker, who won the 2017 Listed Dahlia Plate.

Fred van Wyk has been in ownership since 2007 but this is the first horse he has had with Nieuwenhuizen.

Academia's first foal, the Vaughan Marshall-trained Var colt Valedictorian, won his debut over 1000m at Kenilworth by 4,25 lengths and followed up by finishing a 2,20 length fourth in a Graduation Plate over 1000m won by subsequent Equus Champion Sprinter Kasimir with Speedpoint second. Unfortunately, Valedictorian was destined to only have one more run, an unplaced effort at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.

Academia's second foal, the Var colt Top Of The Class, was also trained by Marshall and beat the top class Twist Of Fate by half-a-length on his debut over 1000m at Durbanville. He failed to win another race, although he did finish third in a Listed race, and is now retired.

The respective third and fourth foals, the Marshall-trained Var colt Tutorial and the Lezeanne Forbes-trained Captain Of All filly Mind Set, both won third time out, although the former has been retired as a one-time winner.

Mickelburgh said, "I am delighted for David and the owners and hope Gifted Gal goes on."

Nieuwenhuizen was looking at a 1100m preparation run for Gifted Gal going into the SA Fillies Nursery on May 1 but said he was concerned because at this stage it looked like the race might not stand up.

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