April 2018



A bible takes pride of place on the desk of Michael Tillett. It contains the rules of the Jockey Club of South Africa and is studied as religiously as any clergyman would peruse the scriptures.” So ran an article on former Chairman of the WC Stipendiary Board, Mike Tillett, who we are sad to report, passed away recently at his home in Knysna.

It is rare for regulatory officials to be remembered with fondness by turf goers, but Mike certainly proved the exception to the rule. Firm, but fair, he was respected by all who knew him. As someone who dedicated his life to racing and racing control, it would be remiss not to doff our hat at his passing.

About Mike 

Michael Edward Tillett was born in Johannesburg on 14 April 1939 and grew up in Swaziland where his father worked as the Chief Electrician at Havelock Asbestos Mines.

Mike fell in love with horses after befriending a local horsey family, learning to ride at the age of 6 and dreaming of becoming a professional jockey. Unfortunately a car accident at the age of 14 damaged his right leg very badly and despite numerous surgeries, it was finally amputated above the knee when he was 18. However, he adapted to his prosthesis resolutely and without complaint and courageously refused to let it compromise or slow him down one bit.

Horses remained Mike’s passion. He spent many years on Trevor Tatham’s Springfield Stud in Mooi River, learning about breeding. However, racing was his real learning about breeding. However, racing was his real passion, so he left Mooi River for Zimbabwe to work for Bill Wakefield and gain training experience under Major Jack Perry. It was in Zimbabwe that he met Beryl and the couple were later married in Johannesburg.

Mike then spent a stint working for Havelock Mines but, desperately unhappy being away from his horses, took up a Stud Manager position at Hector Lawrence’s Devon Stud back in Mooi River. He persuaded Hector to let him apply for a Trainer’s license and for four years the pair were a successful team, enjoying particular success with a horse named Thunderball.

Intending to apply for a private trainer’s license, Mike approached Jock Sproule, but because training offers an insecure income, he chose responsibility to his family over his love of training and did not go through with it. Instead, Jock Sproule offered Mike the position of Stipendiary Steward, and thus started his career of 25 years with the Jockey Club of South Africa.

When one cares deeply for something, you want to see it done properly and it is here that Mike truly found his calling. His diligence and dedication saw Mike promoted to Chairman of the Johannesburg Stipendiary Board in 1976, the youngest Chairman ever appointed. He was transferred to Cape Town in 1983 as Chairman of the Western Cape where he worked for 13 years before being medically boarded after a serious heart attack in 1996.

Mike and his wife Beryl retired to Knysna, where Mike spent his time fishing and playing golf. After a long struggle with cancer, Mike passed away on 14 April 2018, his 79th birthday.


Survived by Beryl, his beloved wife of 57 years and two daughters, Kim and son-in-law Shaun; Kelly and son in-law Ivan and 4 grandchildren, Tyrone, Courtney, Tanna & Cameron, who are based in Florida, USA, Mike’s family describe him as ‘a true gentleman’. “He was very much an outdoorsman, loved the country, and was a farmer at heart. He loved animals, and particularly his dog of 15 years (a Weimeraner x Poodle) called Pavlova whom he said could read and write. He didn’t enjoy cities and hated too much noise. He loved just sitting quietly in the garden looking at the view.”

“He was an avid golfer, playing 3 times a week. He insisted on walking the full 18 holes, never allowing him or his party to be left behind other players, and had a great saying when he hit a good shot, it was “straight as a frozen snake”. He also loved his fishing and he and his fishing partner, George, would go through the Knysna Heads, the most dangerous harbour entrance in the world, in a tiny boat in which George had a balance problem and Mike had one leg and they never wore life jackets. He always said he had 9 lives but we think he used most of them on that tiny boat!”

“As a father, he was very strict but we knew how proud he was of his daughters and never failed to express his love for us. Because of his dedication to racing, he missed a lot of the school and sporting events which he was always very sad about, but towards the end of his life, had some of the best holidays with his children and grandchildren in Florida, to make up for lost time.”


For 25 years, Mike gave unstintingly of his time, energy and focus to racing and is universally remembered by colleagues and peers as a Stipendiary Steward par excellence.

Long-time secretary Brenda Bouwer remembers ‘He had such all round knowledge and really understood racing. On race days, he knew the card inside out, he used to walk the course and if he had any worries, he would chat to the jockeys.”

One of the things Mike is remembered for is watching racing from the head-on tower. “Even though it was a climb, he never missed going up the head on tower and watching the race through his binoculars and would then come back and watch the patrol film.” He did this on every race day, for every race. “He always came to races smartly dressed and always wore his jockey club badge and insisted that all of us had to wear ours, even though the racecourse staff knew us all. He was a stickler for all things being done properly.”

“The rule book was his bible, but he was very fair as well in dealing with matters. He had a very good relationship with the club and all the stewards and executives. He would always ask people’s opinions before making decisions – he was very thorough. He absolutely loved his job and everything he did was for racing.”

David McGillivray

David McGillivray first met Mike in 1987 while cutting his teeth as a young Stipe PE. Mike took David under his wing, teaching and mentoring him and remaining a lifelong support. If you wanted to know anything in racing, if you were concerned about a rule or anything you wanted an opinion on, he was the ‘go to’ man. We had such good guys in those days, Mike Tillett, Dudley Feldman and people like that, but Mike was just a star. An absolute star.”


Dudley Feldman

Dudley Feldman was one of Mike’s closest friends and worked with him since the 70’s. “In my opinion, he is, was,” he corrects himself, “the best Stipendiary Steward I ever worked with. I’ve never come across a man who was as fair as he was and his integrity was full to the brim. There are few people in the world like that and I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of them. Rudy Diener was another one,” he notes. “Mike’s heart was totally in horse racing and the regulation of it. He was one of those that did his best and succeeded in giving everyone a fair run for their money. He was a giant of a man in the racing industry. I certainly am going to miss him.”

Gavin Hunter

Gavin Hunter, former Deputy Chairman in Cape Town and who worked side by side with Mike since 1994, paid tribute by saying, “I think it would be generally agreed by anybody who knew him and worked with him, that he was probably the number one chairman of the Stipendiary board there has ever been. He was a champion of equine rights, a champion of the rules of the Jockey Club, and a champion of management in general. Unlike a lot of people, he would inspect the course prior to racing, especially on big race days. He was meticulous. He was incredibly fair and made sure that any malpractice was stamped out, but at the same time never bore grudges. I don’t think there will ever be anybody like him.”

Gavin issued the following statement on behalf of the NHA: “Mike Tillett was of the great servants to horse racing and his commitment, integrity, due diligence and fairness with regard to his handling of all matters are remembered by all who worked with him over the many years where he was a tireless representative of the industry that he loved. He will always be regarded by those who knew him with the total respect that he deserved.”




The ICRAV conference is an international meeting of the heads of both racing laboratories and of veterinary services within horseracing. It is represented by almost all racing jurisdictions and is held every second year. During March 2018 it was held at the Mayden racetrack and conference complex in Dubai, with 170 attendees and 194 presentations. Schalk de Kock, Magda Rösemann (NHA Laboratory) and Eugene Reynders (NHA veterinarian) were in attendance.

Prior to the conference we attended a theoretical and hands-on laboratory practical training session presented by the Association of Official Racing Chemists. This included modern analysis techniques such as those used for large proteins and hair analysis as well as confirmation.

At the conference we presented 4 posters on research conducted at our Laboratory. These studies are presently being prepared for submission as full papers. These posters attracted a lot of keen interest from our peers from other racing laboratories.

Discussions took place with other scientists and veterinarians, who face similar scientific and regulatory issues in laboratories and challenges in the racing industries.

While the NHA laboratory is a relatively small operation compared to most countries, we could stand proud when it came to the best use of our instrumentation, research, development quality, advancement of our screening and confirmation methodologies and protocols.

While there are significant challenges in the detection of new substances available for abuse in horse racing, there are also new solutions which provide for detection and screening methodologies.





In a previous newsletter we reported on the visit of Stud Book staff to Summerhill Stud. The timing of this visit during February 2018 was significant as while there, we were met by the staff of the Equine Research Centre of the University of Pretoria. This team spends the first few months of every year travelling between stud farms to formally identify, certify and microchip the approximate 3000 thoroughbred foals born during the previous year.

We met the team as they arrived to conduct this process on 98 thoroughbred foals born at Summerhill Stud during 2017. During this process the foals are preliminarily identified by the identity of the mother (mare) that weans the foal. These foals are then micro-chipped (microchip insertion in a neck muscle) and blood is collected. The subsequent DNA profiling, DNA and parentage testing of the blood which is conducted at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria is directed to confirm parentage. It is critical that identity of the Sire and Dam of each foal is correctly confirmed. During this stud farm visit an image of the markings and colours of the foal is also recorded. While such information was previously recorded in a handwritten format on paper, this year this was done, for the first time, by means of digital capturing on a tablet device with an electronic pen. For this purpose customised software was designed by the Equine Research Centre and during this year it was employed for the identification of two thirds of all foals born during 2017 (the so called 2017 foals). This new digital mechanism and the digital image that is obtained provide many advantages and is more convenient for the NHA and the breeders. During 2018 the NHA Stud Book will make the most of this enhancement to ensure that passports for 2017 foals can be generated and issued in record time. This development, together with a new passport design that includes revised features, is very important to ensure that the NHA provides accurate movement control records for best possible compliance to African horse sickness vaccination restrictions  



Second Year Apprentice Luke Ferraris, son of trainerDavid Ferraris and Grandson of legendary trainer Ormond Ferraris has had an incredible start to his race riding career. Luke started race riding on the 3rd December 2017, while he was still a first year apprentice, which is no mean feat considering that most apprentices only start race riding towards the end of the second year of their apprenticeship.

In the following five months Luke had just over 20 rides and then at the Vaal racecourse on Tuesday 24 April, he won Races 1 and 9, to ride not only his first winner as an apprentice jockey, but also his first double. Luke won the 1st race aboard VIVIR and the 9th race aboard COOL DREAM, both trained by his grandfather Ormond Ferraris! Luke was very humble and thankful for the opportunity to ride these two winners saying “I’m extremely grateful to my Grandfather and the owners for allowing me to ride these two horses, for without them riding my first winner and double wouldn’t have been possible!”

Not stopping there, just 8 days and 10 rides later, Luke had his 1st winner in KZN, winning Race 3 at Scottsville racecourse on Wednesday 2 May, aboard TO WOO trained Michael Roberts. The future is definitely bright for this young apprentice with South African Jockey Academy Principal, Graham Bailey, saying “Luke’s love for horses and horseracing is infectious, he has grown up immersed in the sport of horse racing and is living his dream.

The Academy is proud of Luke and his early success and we wish him all the success and many more winners for the rest of his apprenticeship!”




In a world of perfection and fierce competition, it is such a pleasure and joy for Shumbashaba to behold the Special Olympics movement where the underlying philosophy, “participation is greater than competition”, is refreshing.

Shumbashaba has been privileged once again when asked by Special Olympics S.A. (SOSA) to plan, organise and host the Special Olympics National Equestrian Event at Shumbashaba on Saturday the 7th April to select two equestrian athletes – one male and one female – to join the team of athletes representing South Africa at the World Summer Games due to be held in Abu Dhabi in March next year.

In the spirit of sportsmanship, Shumbashaba were delighted to witness 29 riders participate in this event, all of whom were rewarded a medal at the end of the day. The names of the top male and female riders from each division were then placed in a “female hat” and a “male hat” with one drawn from each.

Whilst every rider is a champion, the two riders to advance to the World Summer Games are Annatjie de Villiers and Rowan Bishop, both competitors from the North West Province.

Congratulations to Rowan, Annetjie and all the athletes from the different sporting codes. Our hearts and best wishes go with you to the World Games next year and may your oath, “let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt”, guide you all.



The National Horseracing Authority would like to wish all our Stakeholders born in May a

very Happy Birthday.

May life lead you to great happiness, success and hope that all your wishes come




With the colder winter weather come coughs, colds and the flu, plus for some of us, winter weight gain. It’s therefore an important time to make sure you stay on top of your diet and keep yourself well nourished. Sticking to a healthy diet won’t prevent you from picking up winter illnesses, but it can help maintain your immune system to better protect you. And should you fall ill, a nutritious diet can help speed up your recovery. In winter, it can seem harder to stick to heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The range of seasonal fruit and vegetables declines atthis time of year, and the weather can make getting out and about less appealing. However, while daylight may be in short supply, there are still ways that you can look after your diet and your heart health. Here, we share our tips on how to get through a cold winter’s day.

How to fight flu

• Wash your hands often to get rid of germs.

• Keep your distance from those who have flu.

• Get enough sleep for immune system health, it helps fight off bacteria and germs.

• Eat well and take essential vitamins and nutrients

that supports the immune system.

• Exercise to enhance your immune system, boost

alertness, mood and decrease stress



Mr Malan du Toit, famous for his affinity with the Thoroughbred Racehorse, undertook a training

workshop with the KZN starting team on the 7th April 2018.

The workshop was well received by the Handlers, Starters and other members of the racing industry.

Malan focused on the basic re-fitting of saddles and adjusting of bridles, when required, at the start as well as how to prepare horses entering the starting stalls as per their grading.

We are hoping that regular workshops will be held in the future as this one proved to be invaluable.