IRC Q&A: Blaine Hamilton
A soldier from ‘The Last Outpost’ and well-known and popular in South African racing, Durbanite Blaine Hamilton is taking it easy these days after a splendid career highlighted by being a Jockeys Agent for some of the best, and a successful Bookmaker.
He’s a graduate of the George Campbell Technical School and a qualified electrician, but the lure of the Sport Of Kings promised more, and when he met former jockey and now trainer, Gavin van Zyl at a social tennis tournament, his life changed. He became Van Zyl’s agent and took him to second in the Natal championship to Michael Roberts. Later he joined Jeff Lloyd, a partnership that yielded two championships for ‘The Guv’ and also saw Lloyd setting a new record for number of winners in a season (203 in 1987). This was followed by long spells with both Felix Coetzee (‘incredible work ethic’) and Douglas Whyte, who just narrowly lost a title race to Piere Strydom before he left to pursue what became a glittering career. He also worked for a good spell with internationally successful rider Glyn Schofield, before turning to bookmaking in the late 1980s, a lucrative and high-turnover period for the industry.
Blaine was the first bookmaker to open for business in the middle of Durban City, where his Smith Street establishment grew from four terminals to 36 and then to 70 in the bustling city centre. He sold this concern after 33 years in bookmaking and is now semi-retired and having fun with other business interests and owning shares in horses, including most of the International Racing Club’s top runners.
Here is our Q & A with Blaine Hamilton:
1. Full name? Blaine William Hamilton
2. Date of Birth? 20/5/1955
3. Favourite food? Swordfish
4. Superstitions? None
5. Fav Holiday Destination? Love the beach, so Mauritius
6. Which: BMW or Merc? Merc
7. Who inspires you the most? Nelson Mandela
8. Big night out or quiet night in? Generally a quiet night in.
9. Most memorable moment in racing? Felix Coetzee invited me to Hong Kong for Silent Witness’ record-breaking number of wins attempt in 2005. I was a part of the group leading him in.
10. If you could pick your occupation: Trainer, bookmaker, businessman or jockey’s agent? I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done, especially being a Jockey’s Agent
11. What annoys you the most? Punters who blame jockeys, or accuse them of pulling up horses.
12. What’s your party trick? I do the occasional Cockney accent.
13. Biggest influence on your career? My dad, also Gavin van Zyl, Jeff Lloyd and Felix Coetzee, all took me to another level.
14. Funniest person you have ever met? Aaron McIlroy, Durban comedian. He’s a scream on stage and in real life.
15. Best horse ever owned? I’ve had a few five-time winners. Connell’s Courier the best so far, but I have shares in a few promising one now – Cleaver Greene, Captain Bombshell, Conquer The Enemy and Climate Control.
16. Strict whip rules or no whip at all? Strict whip rules.
17. What is your biggest phobia? Heights.
18. Most embarrassing moment? I was just out of school when I enjoyed a chance to play cricket for Durban Tech against a Port Elizabeth team featuring Graeme Pollock, the prince of batsmen. We had a strong side, but they were much stronger. I was on the bowlers’ list and when my chance came to bowl to Pollock I was asked, ‘do you really want to do this?’. I said, ‘Yes, I couldn’t sleep last night, I have an opportunity to bowl to a world great.’ So I did. I approached, delivered and Graeme stepped up and hit me majestically high in the direction of long off, where Bruce Grove was fielding. I shouted, ‘Caaatch!’, but when the ball got to Bruce it was still rising and may have gone over the grandstand. The other players were laughing, asking me to go ‘Feeeetch’ the ball!
19. Colts or fillies? Colts.
20. One thing to make racing better for everyone? We need high prize monies, more sponsors. This will get more owners to buy horses, improve things for breeders and the horse population will improve. Hollywoodbets are doing so much for racing in South Africa, we need more money, more big sponsors.
21. Biggest gamble landed? I won a lot of cash on my horse, Connell’s Courier, ridden by Warren Kennedy. He was trained by the late Cyril Naidoo, who had the favourite in the race ridden by Gavin van Zyl, But the weekend before the race Gavin had galloped Connell’s Courier and he told me that my horse was superior to the favourite. On race day we backed Connells Courier from 12-1 to 3-1. Gavin went hammer and tongs on the favourite, but we caught them right on the line in a photo finish. The stipes called Gavin in, as they’d known we were friends, but after studying the patrol film they agreed that he’d given the favourite every chance of winning.
22. Durban July or Cape Met? July.
23. Golf handicap? 16.
24. Proudest Achievement? My three children and three grand-children.
25. Economy or business class? Economy.
26. Your star sign? Taurus.
27. Single or taken? Single.
28. Bath or shower? Bath.
29. Read or Netflix? Netflix.
30. Would you rather ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Don’t mind either.
Nominate someone for our Q&A next?
Nominate two horses to follow for the rest of this season.
Thunderstruck and Cleaver Greene.
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