The familiar Peter name will be returning to race cards in the near future.
Tony Peter, erstwhile assistant to his champion trainer father Paul, has applied for a training licence and plans to run a moderate-size string out of Turffontein.
Leading owners such as Suzette Viljoen, Lawrence Wernars and Harry Willson have already promised horses to 28-year-old Tony – if he gets the go-ahead from the National Horseracing Authority this week.
Tony sat his training licence written exam on Monday morning and felt it “went well”.
The NHA board decides his fate on Wednesday and Tony hopes to immediately pick up the baton from his dad, who shocked the racing world by quitting just days after securing the 2021/22 champion trainer title in July.
‘All I know’
The young man said he was “more excited than nervous” about embarking on his new path.
“Training horses is all I know, having gone into my dad’s yard straight from school at the age of 16. I’m just keen to get started again,” he said.
Tony was a tennis prodigy while at Waterstone College in Kibler Park and played semi-professionally in Europe as a teenager. But tennis bursaries and scholarships to universities and academies in various parts of the world were not enough to turn the youngster’s head from his racing ambitions: “When the bug bites…” he murmurs.
Tony confesses to being “extremely grateful” for the backing of prominent owners, who he describes as “amazing, not putting any pressure on you, just wanting the horses to be well looked after”.
Such attitudes ultimately bring rewards.
He has 28 boxes booked at Turffontein and 18 horses lined up to start filling them.
“I want to start small and maybe later build up a bit. The key thing is to enjoy it, the horses, the owners, the competition … to do it for the love of the game.”
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Paul Peter was like a shooting star in the South African racing firmament – rising from near-obscurity to the very top in just a decade, before vanishing suddenly.
He packed it all in due to health concerns.
“Basically, my yard got too big,” explains Paul. “The financials were not working for me. I had unsustainable overheads, my debtors’ book was big and the stress took a severe toll on me.
“Everyone thinks if you’re number one you’re rolling in money, but it doesn’t always work like that.”
A sensible solution
The amiable champ said it wouldn’t have been fair to hand his son the entire operation as it stood at that time; the sensible solution was to liquidate.
All staff got severance packages and all accounts were settled. Tony has had five months to ponder a return to the game.
“I think he’ll be good for the industry; the young blood that it needs,” said Paul.
“He’s level-headed and not at all arrogant. And, to be honest, he did a lot of the work and played a big part in the success of my yard. He learnt a lot, also spending a time with the old master, Mr Ormond Ferraris.”
Paul said he would have no formal role in Tony’s stable but would be happy to give advice if asked.