When Ashwin Reynolds first clapped eyes on his new racehorse he thought it was “the ugliest horse I’d ever seen”. The unprepossessing beast had cost him R55,000 of his earnings as a hard-working building contractor.
On Saturday 3 July 2021 that horse won the R2-million Vodacom Durban July and Ashwin Reynolds became the first horse owner of colour to win Africa’s most famous race.
The story began when veteran Cape Town trainer Harold Crawford asked Reynolds – a small-time co-owner of horses in his yard – if he could buy him a nag on the 2019 Klawervlei Yearling Sale. Reynolds agreed – as long as the price was less than R80,000.
“Harold Crawford picked him out on the sale but, honestly, he was not an impressive colt,” said building contractor Reynolds this week, as he oversaw his team re-roofing a building in Wynberg.
Other bidders at that Klawervlei sale were also unimpressed: R55,000 is ultra-cheap for a thoroughbred from a top stud farm.
“But, after two or three weeks he started maturing and eventually became very good-looking,” added Reynolds.
The proud new owner came up with a masterstroke of a name, Kommetdieding, from the Cape Flats patois kom met die ding, which means “bring it on, we’re ready”.
Crawford, 68, a trainer on the Cape racing scene for 45 years, had suffered a stroke in early 2019 and his daughter Michelle Rix became a joint trainer in the yard. Together they built up the inexpensive son of Elusive Fort into a serious racehorse.
Kommetdieding won his first four races in a row at Kenilworth, culminating in a stunning victory in the Grade 3 Politician Stakes in January 2021.
The phone rang. Big-time racing people wanted to buy this speedy youngster. “The offers were in the millions,” declared Reynolds. “I’m a staunch believer and I asked God whether I should accept. Then I thought this horse is actually a godsend itself – and I turned them down.”
That meant a Durban July dream was on and, after a break, the three-year-old was shipped to KwaZulu-Natal.
In two runs at Greyville, the KZN Guineas and the Daily News 2000, Kommetdieding finished third to fellow Cape raider Linebacker – but he qualified for the Durban July line-up.
Kom met die ding, Ashwin Reynolds might have muttered quietly to himself. Along with other owners, he was prohibited from attending the big race due to the Covid Level 4 lockdown, so he watched on TV from his home in Claremont.
The day before the race, Reynolds’s close friend and horse co-owner Jumat Cola passed away – shocking many in the racing community.
Come Durban July day at Greyville and a horse called Bard Of Avon, co-owned by Reynolds and Cola, won Race 2 on the programme. A good omen on a sad day?
Starting from the widest No 18 stall at the barrier, Kommetdieding and jockey Gavin Lerena worked their way through the galloping field and won in brilliant style before the empty grandstands. In second place: Linebacker.
“When the horses came into the straight, and I saw he was moving up, I just said ‘Jumat, bring it home!’,” said Reynolds after the race.
Reynolds, now 48, was born in Grassy Park on the Cape Flats and got an early intro to racing through his grandfather, who made the kid write down racing results from the radio while he took on a Saturday afternoon nap. “Heaven help me if I got that wrong!”
Further racing interest was stirred when he worked for an electrical contractor who owned horses; then he married into a racing-mad family. There was no escape, so he vowed to own a horse by age 40 – which he did, with a 10% share in winning colt Noordhoek Ice.
“After that, it was like a drug, owning horses,” laughed Reynolds. He currently has 17 of them in partnerships and three on his own.
How will he spend his million-rand prizemoney?
“Ag, I’ll plough it into my business. If I could buy vaccines, I’d buy them for all my people.
“My wife says I can tell the public what I’ll do with my half of the money – but not what she’ll do with hers!” he chuckled.