Ashwin Reynolds, owner of Vodacom Durban July winner Kommetdieding, found himself sitting quietly for an hour at a time both yesterday and today trying to absorb what he had just achieved.
He is the first person of colour to own a July winner and his racing colours will now be displayed on the wall of honour in Hollywoodbets Greyville’s Classic Room alongside many of South African history’s most famous racing silks.
He said, “I was saying to myself ‘Do you really know what you did?’ It is breathtaking. I can’t explain it. You can buy a horse for R10 million or R55,000, it doesn’t matter, because this is what is is all about. I am really chuffed to be part of South African history.”
Reynolds lives a minute away from Kenilworth racecourse but grew up in Grassy Park on the Cape Flats and he continued, “From my heart I want to thank the people of the Cape Flats for shouting for this horse and I now hope people will be able to approach trainers to get into this game and enjoy it the way I am.”
Ashwin watched from home together with his wife Rene and sons Brandon and Aiden and said the neighbours must have believed “a Tsunami” had hit. The neighbours asked politely the next day whether something had happened as they were unaware of his association with racehorses.
Ashwin saw his horse lying third last early in the race and feared the worst. He said, “I thought I was going to have to pull my heart out of my ass”.
However, Kommetdieding steadily made up ground from then onward.
He continued, “Before he hit the straight I could see Gavin had made his move already. It was a wise decision to get a lead on the others.”
The ‘tremor’ in the Cape Flats and the clamour in his household then began.
“I didn’t stop shouting and my wife and sons were screaming at the top of their lungs!”
Ashwin was overcome with emotion when Kommetdieding crossed the line and candidly revealed the thoughts that went through his mind, “Everything just came back to me, I saw my late grandfather and my mother-in-law … I just couldn’t anymore so I dropped to the floor and broke down and cried.”
Ashwin’s father passed away when he was eight-years-old and he was brought up by his grandfather Titus Reynolds.
Titus in fact introduced him to horseracing.
He recalled, “He used to allow me to write down the results of the quinpot.”
His interest in the sport continued when he married into the Barnes family, who own Jamestown United football club and also love horseracing.
Ashwin made it one of his goals to own a racehorse by the age of 40.
He was duly invited into a syndicate by Ricky Agmit and acquired a ten percent share in a Dean Kannemeyer-trained horse called Noordhoek Ice, who won one race.
He described the excitement of that win and added, “Each and every win is a totally different type of excitement”.
He continued, “Owning horses is almost like a drug. You then just buy and buy.”
His first feature winner, also in a syndicate and trained by Kannemeyer, was African Warrior.
One day he was sitting at home when Harold Crawford phoned him from a Sale he was attending with his daughter and training partner Michelle Rix. Harold asked Ashwin if he could buy a horse for him.
“I replied yes but not for more than R80,000. I went around to their yard a few days later and they said to me, ‘Here’s your horse, we got him for R55,000.'”
Ashwin was taken aback and replied, “This horse?! You bought this ugly horse for me?!”
He continued, “But in the next two weeks he just bloomed and bloomed and continued to bloom.”
Ashwin gave the horse his name of Kommetdieding after being challenged to do so by a friend one day over a couple of drinks.
He explained, “It is Afrikaans slang among the Cape Flats coloured community and it means ‘Bring it on’ as in ‘I’m not scared, bring it on.'”
He admitted, “Such words said in English sound alright but using it in an Afrikaans sentence it sounds terrible. My Grandfather would have smacked me silly if he heard me using it, it was not the sort of language expected of us, and he is waiting to smack me silly in heaven!”
He added, “When I watch horses gallop they go ‘vrrrrr’ past me and all look the same. But Sihle Cele came to me one day and said ‘This horse reminds me of Edict Of Nantes’ and I then knew I had a good horse.”
Ashwin took 33/1 about him on his debut and said, “He actually started at 35/1 because everybody saw Crawford/Rix, Cele, Ashwin Reynolds …”
Kommetdieding won his first four races under Cele including the Grade 3 Politician Stakes and was favourite for the Grade 1 Cape Derby before being scratched for an overreach injury.
He was defeated twice by Linebacker in Durban before the July, although neither race panned out perfectly.
Ashwin traveled to Durban to watch his beloved horse in action and also attended the July Gallops. He said, “I must just thank Gold Circle and especially the PR lady Melinne and her team, they made us feel so important.”
Gavin Lerena, a twice South African champion jockey with a vast amount of big race experience, was called in to replace Cele for the July, although he had to lose 4kg to make the weight of 53kg.
Ashwin unfortunately could not attend the July due to lockdown and recalled, “Oom Harold was still determined to fly out for the race on his own but we were worried because of his failing eyesight, so I invited him to come and watch at my place. But he said, ‘I am never going to see a race like this again’, and I then said to him ‘Oom Harold you must go to the race.'”
The July victory was also tinged with sadness as a good friend of Ashwin’s, Jumat Cola, with whom he owned Bard Of Avon, who also won on July day, passed away on Friday night.
Ashwin dedicated the win to Jumat in a live interview on TV shortly after the race.
Ashwin began working at the age of 16 to support his family and was given his first job by well known horseracing owner Oswald Fouten. He later saved enough pounds during a two year stint in the UK working as a labourer to start his currently successful building and maintenance business.
Picture: Ashwin Reynolds, his wife Rene and sons Brandon and Aiden lead in Kommetdieding together with trainer Harold Crawford after he had won a Progress Plate at Kenilworth second time out on December 2 last year. Trainer Michelle Rix is in the background. (Crawford Rix Racing).