Johan Janse van Vuuren is not a fan of attention and does not give personal interviews. He will talk about his horses, not himself.
But the trainer could not hide his delight and pride at his three-race victory in the Allied Steelrode-On a Mission Charity Mile at Turffontein last Saturday.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling like this,” he declared on television after welcoming his main race winner Bingwa to the winner’s circle. “I’m smiling more now than I’ve been in a month.”
That month was spent preparing horses for this day – in the manner of the best trainers, focusing on a prestigious meeting.
He had four runners in the Charity Mile and went 1-2, with his consistent Argentinian import Puerto Munson finishing second behind Bingwa.
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Bingwa successfully defended his Charity Mile crown, winning the race in 2021 while under the care of Dora Shem, who has since retired from training.
“He’s a super horse for training, he was very, very easy. I took it over from Shams and it came to me in fantastic condition,” said Janse van Vuuren.
“I thought it was a very competitive field this year. Bingwa has been working great for the past three weeks. I was very, very confident when I got one draw, not necessarily to win, but that I would be very close.
“Puerto Munzana… well, I knew I had him in a huge space.”
Bingwa was ridden by Gavin Lerena, who echoed Janse van Vuuren’s sentiments.
“He’s a great horse to work with,” said the former champion jockey. “He came with Dory Sham; she did a great job with him, but Johan took the reins wonderfully.
“This horse is just getting better. His first running back was two months ago and he’s just perfecting his work.
“All awards should go to Johan. He was confident in this race. He said he was going to run once or twice, he doesn’t know which way – it’s a great workout…”
Janse van Vuuren, 40, has held his training license for ten years and has been ranked among the top ten conditioners in the country in recent years, not afraid to travel the country looking for opportunities for his horses.
Janse van Vuuren is man of the match
Immediately after leaving school, Vereeniging-born Janse van Vuuren began working as a water carrier for Vaal trainer Mike Riley, later moving to the yard of maestro Geoff Woodruff, who he credits with teaching him a lot about racing.
Among the horses he learned to rope with were superstars Jet Master, El Picha and Yard-Arm.
After 13 years with Woodruff, he struck out on his own and received invaluable support from prolific owner Laurens Vernars, as well as fellow loyal patrons Harry Wilson and Jaap van der Wendel. The winners did not make themselves wait.
The Charity Mile proved to be a highlight of the youngster’s career, with Janse van Vuuren claiming four races at the 2016 meeting, including the main race with the Wernars-owned New Predator.
A personal profile article in The Citizen after that red day may have been the last such interview he gave, in which he admitted that he was very superstitious and afraid of losing his chances with the wrong word.
There was no wrong word before Saturday’s events, with the stable celebrating wins in Races 2 and 3 with Southern Skies and Bon Vivant respectively – both owned by Vernars – before turning heads in the Charity Mile.
You could say that Janse van Vuuren was “man of the match”.
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