DORRIE SHAM is famously known in South African horseracing for being the driving force behind New Turf Carriers, along with her husband of 32 years, Mark Sham. However, in recent years Dorrie has made the bold move of initially teaming up with Barry Steenkamp in a training partnership, before venturing on her own at her Fairview stables. She started off with a mere 20 horses in November 2012 but owing to some continued success she now trains 52 horses, of which 18 are two-year olds. She has a great team behind her and together they have amassed a whopping 100 winners since going solo, just under a year ago. During September she won both feature races in PE and will be looking to add to that as she steps out TWO GUN KID to contest this Sunday’s Grade 3 Algoa Cup to be run over 2000m at Fairview. Dorrie Sham’s stables are proudly sponsored by HOLLYWOODBETS.NET who together with their sister publication, WINNING FORM, wish Dorrie and her committed team everything of the best in their future endeavours.
What is your name?
What is your star sign and birthdate?
I am a Scorpio born on 7 November 1960.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Vereeniging and grew up in Zambia until I was seven which is when we moved back to SA.
Where do you live?
On the sea in Seaview, Port Elizabeth.
Tell us about your family?
I have been married to Mark for 32 years. We have 3 sons, Michael, married to Shannon with grandson Carter (1), Matthew married to Alex with granddaughter Jaymi (1), Marcus and Kirsten.
Do you have a ‘nickname’?
Years ago Charlie Koster misheard my name and called me Doris. It has stuck and my kids call me that when they really want my attention. I think my grandkids will call me that!!!
I love seafood.
Cola tonic and lemonade. Amarula at a party!!
Neil Diamond, we went to see him live in the UK and then again in PE.
I watch most sports except wrestling but enjoy all types of horse related sports from reining (western – cowboy style riding), jumping, eventing and racing.
Favourite soccer team?
Have to say Man Utd. We have been to a few games at Old Trafford which was an amazing experience.
Favourite holiday destination?
We go to our family holiday flat in Ballito when we can get the time. I do love travelling as well.
Diana Gabaldon series.
What are you reading at the moment?
Just finished Frankel and now reading the Henry Cecil biography.
What is the characteristic you like most about yourself?
I am very soft and hate any arguments.
Where did you go to school?
Holy Rosary Convent in Vereeniging then to Forest High where I met Mark.
What tertiary qualification did you achieve?
I went straight into the big world.
What career path did you take after you completed your schooling?
I tried the corporate world but was soon back with horses.
Were any of your family involved, or interested, in horse racing?
My dad was a jockey in Zambia and always loved horses and racing. Mark’s dad also had a love of racing which he passed onto his sons.
How did it come about that you, and your husband Mark, started New Turf Carriers in 1995?
We had been involved in a transport company which closed. We got our first truck through Rennie Price who was trying to sell it in JHB and sent Denis Mills up with the truck. Denis arrived at our house in JHB on his way to auction it and we decided to take a chance and went from there.
There were already some well-established racehorse carriers in business then. Why did you decide to take them on?
We saw a gap in the market as the companies were not supporting PE and Colesberg so we concentrated there first.
How difficult or easy was it to establish your business?
Very hard work, we gave up a lot of free time.
What did you offer to clients that you felt was better than existing companies could offer?
Service, service, service. Our phones were never off. Many a dinner was left on the plate if we had a call for an emergency.
In your opinion what is the most difficult part of transporting racehorses?
Horses are not too much of a problem. Getting paid for work was the hardest. We established a very loyal core of clients that are still with us today.
Who was the first trainer you owned horses with before taking out your own trainer’s licence?
The late Arthur Faul and James Maree. Then we met Barry Steenkamp through the transport company and sent horses to PE.
Tell us about some of the better horses you owned with them?
Duke Of Opulent was our first winner, Pearl Lake, Lace Bouquet was Figgy’s first SA winner, Olympic Special (now one of our broodmares) and Foxhole.
You and Barry Steenkamp were joint trainers at one stage. How long did that last?
From April 2011 to November 2012.
How easy or difficult did you find it to be a joint trainer?
It was very easy with Barry as he was always there to give advice.
If asked if you thought it was a good idea to be a joint trainer what would you say?
A good way to start training as you have shared responsibility.
Which were some of the best horses that you and Barry trained?
Classic Lecture, El Riche, Desert Kite, Bob ‘N Weave, Torcida Split, Audit Report and Tic Tak Toe.
What was the best moment you experienced while training with Barry?
Bob ‘N Weave winning The Dahlia Plate. Bob and Torcida running 2nd and 3rd in Var Sprint in Cape Town.
In which year did you take out your trainer’s licence and how many horses did you start with?
In November 2012 with about 20 horses.
Have you ever felt that being a woman put you at a disadvantage with the men trainers?
Not at all. Women have different strengths to men.
How long did it take before you felt really secure about being a trainer?
I had no choice as I lost the coin toss between Mark and I so I had to write the test. Jokes aside I don’t think you ever know enough and have to keep learning.
Who were the people who gave you the most support when you decided to go on your own? agrHollywood was our first client. Len Sham, Martin Le Roux, Colin & Lyn Stonebridge, Ian Levitan, Larry & Lucille Wainstein.
Can you remember your first runner and winner on your own?
Tiger’s Charm ran 3rd and Senor Doba won on the first day.
Which were the best horses you trained when first starting out as a trainer?
Bob ‘N Weave and Lunar Lee. The Shark was plagued with problems and I wish we had had him earlier.
How many horses do you train now?
We have 52 at the moment which includes 18 two year olds. This the most we have had.
Tell us about the team which assists you?
Rocky Agrella and Mark with Alfred Maputi. 20 grooms and 3 ladies. Stef Miller in Kimberley with Michelle Horing and 15 grooms.
Name some of the better horses you have in your yard right now that the punters can keep an eye on?
Two Gun Kid, Daffodil Day, Dark Reign and Chill Factor.
Do you have any younger horses that the punters could follow in the future?
Mod Barley, Play Boy and some lovely 2 year olds.
With the first race on the Poly track to be run on 25 October 2013, have you worked any horses on it to see how the track feels?
Yes, we work on it almost every day. Most of our horses have been on it already.
What do the jockeys and work riders say about the track?
They only have praise for it. Rocky says it feels like a “travelator” and you can hardly feel the horses touch the surface.
Do you think you have any horses that will be suited to it and if so, who are they?
So far all the horses look good on the track. Koenigsegg, Come Play and Play Boy look most at home.
The opening of the poly track takes place this Friday. You will be very busy with many runners so please tell us how you rate their chances?
It will be very exciting for all of us:
Race 1: EMPEROR SAGO (9) – He will be our first runner on the poly track. His runs have been disappointing but his work on the poly track is good and we will be looking for improvement.
Race 2: ZULTANITE (13) – Will be very green and will need the run.
Race 5: DAFFODIL DAY (1) – She is well and is holding form. She carries weight but is a runner.
Race 7: I GOT YOU BABE (2) – She is always a trier.
Race 7: BLOW ME A KISS (5) – She will need the run and has gate issues.
Race 8: ELEGANT TUNE (8) – She may find 1200m too sharp but her owners are here from the UK so we hope she gives them a surprise.
Race 8: COME PLAY (10) – She will need the run but is well.
Race 8: AMAROSA MONTANNA (15) – She is coming back to form and might run a place.
Race 9: DARK REIGN (1) – He will have blinkers on and I hope he is more keen at Fairview.
Race 9: KOENIGSEGG (8) – He is well and we feel he will enjoy the 2000m.
This weekend is the Betting World Algoa Cup. You have TWO GUN KID taking part. Tell us about him?
He is very well but does take a jump in class.
You also have a yard in Kimberley. Tell us about that yard, who runs it and which are some of the better horses you have there?
Stef Miller has full control there. Some nice horses there at the moment are Captivator, Captain Siderius and Vestal Virgin.
The Cape season is just around the corner. Do you have any horses that you think are good enough to compete there?
Looking to take Mod Barley, Two Gun Kid and Daffodil Day.
Breeding is a business on its own. How involved are you in breeding?
We have 5 mares of our own.
Which are the best horses you have bred?
Bob ‘N Weave, Torcida Split and Cashmere Mafia.
Are you still involved in breeding and, if so, where is your stud?
Our mares stand at Ascot Stud and Hemel ‘n Aarde Stud.
How many mares do you run and which stallions do you use?
5 mares. We have shares in Lecture and Bold Silvano. This year we are sending 3 to Antonius Pius.
What would you say is the biggest break you have had in racing to date?
That Barry allowed us to buy into his stable.
Do you have a stable jockey or who are the jockeys who give you the most help?
JP van der Merwe is stable jockey. Gift Funeka who is making a comeback. We have some very nice work riders who have been with us for 4/5 years.
How highly do you value the input jockeys give you about your horses work or how they go in races?
JP & Gift give very good feedback after races and work. JP comes most Fridays for morning work as well. We watch races very closely afterwards and make further decisions after that.
Obviously it is very important to keep new horses coming into the yard. Do you have help in selecting horses to buy?
We have a lot of contacts in other centres and get offered horses in training that way. Mark and I select babies together and also ask David Hepburn-Browns opinion. Rocky looks after the yard if we are away.
One of the big drawbacks to owning horses is the big cost involved. Have you found any way to keep the costs down?
Luckily we know the owners of New Turf Carriers so don’t pay for transport of horses!!!! We also bring in a lot of fodder, shoes etc. We manufacture our own shavings at Fairview.
Many trainers now have treadmills, hot walkers, swimming pools and the rest to give their horses every opportunity to reach their potential. Have you managed to acquire any of these ‘helps’ as yet?
We have a walker, massage machine, infrared lights and nebulizer. We also have access to the best “pool” in the world, MAITLAND BEACH.
Science is playing a bigger and bigger part in training. How have you managed to keep up with all the latest that goes into training and keeping horses better and better?
We read a lot and Google everything. Also not afraid to ask. Geoff Woodruff, Mike de Kock and Duncan McKenzie have been a great help.
It is very obvious that trainers must keep themselves in the public’s eye. Do you have or intend having a website?
Not really as we are mainly a family/friend yard.
As you grow will you think about having someone to do PR work for you?
I don’t think so. As in New Turf we prefer to keep in touch personally.
How have your views on being a trainer changed as you settle into your career?
I now understand the term “never enough hours in the day.”
You have not had long to build your racing record but how may winners have you had to date?
We had 68 winners while being assistant to Barry. Since the partnership and individual licence another 100.
Which is the biggest or most valuable race you have won to date?
Dahlia Plate. Last month we won both feature races in PE.
What are your ambitions for yourself in the racing game?
To keep enjoying the horses and to train “happy” horses.
You and Mark have been together for many years. Do you attribute your success to the strong marriage you have built with him?
Yes, very much so. Mark and I have been together since 1973 so have always been a team through good and bad.
Would you like to pay tribute to any loyal patrons that you have had in your yard?
We have an amazing group, Owen Heffer, Len & Lyn Sham, Martin Le Roux, Colin & Lyn Stonebridge, John Finlayson, Robin Strydom, Brad van der Riet, Larry & Lucille Wainstein, Stef Miller, Ian Levitan, Tommy Langley, Graham Cox and Dave Scott.
Gavin van Zyl
Chris van Niekerk