Serge Seenyen

LOUIS Serge Seenyen is a highly successful businessman as well as a prominent Mauritian racehorse owner. He owns a clothing business, Soniawear Ltd, in Mauritius which includes amongst its customers high international labels such as Prada, Versace’ and D & G. Serge, a qualified Chartered Accountant, has his first runner in one of the ‘Big 3’ South African Grade 1 races at Turffontein, this Saturday.

His Silvano gelding, SILVER FLYER (last season’s Dingaans winner), contests the R2 million Sansui Summer Cup and the bookmakers have made him the ante-post favourite at 33/10. Trained by the maestro, Mike de Kock, he forms part of a seven-pronged attack and Serge is quietly confident of his chances, despite his wide draw. He also owns the decent stayer DUNRAVEN, who contests the Racing Association Handicap over 3200m, on the card.

 What is your name and age?  Louis Serge Seenyen. I am 62 years old.

What is your star sign and birthdate? I am a Gemini. Date of birth, 9th of June.

Where were you born? Mauritius.

Where do you live? In Grand Bay – Mauritius.

Tell us about your family?  Married, since April 1973, to my wife Danie. I have 3 daughters who graduated in Business Studies. Two of them are married with 2 kids each, which makes me a granddad of four.

Do you have a ‘nickname’? I have so many nicknames, which have changed over the years, depending on the different roles that I play, that I would not know where to begin.

Favourite food? I really enjoy Italian and French cuisine but I must say that my favourite type of food is Mauritian food. Whenever I am abroad I always long for a good typical Mauritian mixture.

Favourite drink? French red wine,  preferably St Emilion-Good ‘Cru’.

Favourite music?  I still appreciate the old school classics of Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. My youngest daughter is in the music industry so I try to stay in tune with the new modern music out there.

Favourite book? ‘Competing Against Time’ by George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout. These books talk about 10 years of research done by the authors about the innovative concepts of managing time in developing, producing and selling new products in the viciously competitive world of today.

What are you reading at the moment?  ‘In An Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street To Washington’ by Robert E. Rubin and Jacob Weisberg.

What is the characteristic you like most about yourself? I am very dedicated to whatever I do and always have been. I fix myself goals and go for it no matter what. We are all responsible for how our life turns out and so we have to make the most of it and achieve, or at least attempt to achieve, what we dream of. I believe that the harder the journey the more rewarding it is and the experience we acquire defines the people we become.

Favourite sport?  Horse racing of course!

Which is your favourite soccer team? Manchester United.

Favourite holiday destination?  Home sweet home or at best Italy.

What tertiary qualification did you achieve? I qualified as a Chartered Accountant of the UK in 1974.

You live in Mauritius which is like living on a permanent holiday resort. Tell us about the lifestyle there?  Life is enjoyable here in Mauritius. Everyday life makes it feel that you are not living on a holiday resort.

Have you always lived in Mauritius or did you move there after living somewhere else? Always Mauritius. To be honest, I cannot see myself living anywhere else.

Most people living in Mauritius are ‘racing mad’. Does this apply to you? Horseracing fascinates me and this interest has made it my hobby. An activity that relaxes me and clears my mind after work. Nothing more, nothing less.

You are in the clothing business. Most, if not all, Mauritians appear to be very fashion conscious. Tell us the name of your business and what do you specialize in? Soniawear Ltd, a company engaged in garment manufacturing. It was founded in 1984, named after my second daughter Sonia. A state of the art enterprise. It produces high-end knitted garments and is proud of including amongst its customers high international designer labels like Prada, Versace, Vivienne Westwood and D&G. We also produce and supply the SA market in brands like Aca Joe, Urban, Vertigo amongst others.

How did you first become involved in racing?  When kids, my father used to take us to the racecourse where we were attracted by children’s activities rather than by the racing itself.

Mention your most memorable moment in horseracing?  Undoubtedly the best moment has been the 2010 Dubai World Cup race, in which Mr Brock participated.

You and your wife own many horses in partnership. Is she also involved in your clothing business?  My wife still keeps remote contact with the business since her time is,  understandably, devoted to her grandchildren.

How big a role does she play in your partnership with the horses?  All the horses race in her name but she doesn’t really participate in other decisions.

Do you guys get outside assistance in choosing which horses to purchase? Of course we need to rely on the assessment and views of our friends who are more directly involved in breeding, sales etc…

Who was your first trainer and where was this? The late Jean Halbwachs in Mauritius.

Who is your favourite jockey in Mauritius, South Africa and overseas? Difficult to say since style differs as well as performance, depending on so many factors.

Are you a punter? Not anymore. I am lucky to be able to cover my costs with prize money.

Which is the best horse you have owned in Mauritius?  Mr Brock.

Which is the biggest race you have won in Mauritius?  I won The Air Mauritius Maiden Cup, the biggest feature race in Mauritius, 3 years in a row in 2006, 2007 and 2008 with To The Line, Ubusuku and Mr Brock respectively.

How many winners have you had in Mauritius?  I have never counted them.

How did you become involved with trainer Mike de Kock? When Anthony Delpech won the Maiden Cup in 2008 with Mr Brock, he advised me to send him to race in Dubai. I got in touch with MDK who gladly accepted to take the charge. Anyway Mr Brock was previously from MDK’s yard in SA.

Which was the first horse you owned with Mike? Mr Brock.

You won the Abu Dhabi Championship with Mr Brock, over 2200m, with Kevin Shea riding him. Was that the biggest race you had won as an owner up until then? The biggest race has been the Maiden Cup in Mauritius.

You then sent Mr Brock to race in France. How successful was he there?  Mr Brock was sent to France more for spelling rather than to race. Anyway he participated in a few races, so that he would not totally lose his racing fitness, before flying him back to Dubai.

Do you still own Mr Brock and what are your plans for him? Mr Brock has retired from racing and is now in Durban doing showjumping.

Another very successful horse to race in your colours is DUNRAVEN, also with Mike de Kock. How did you acquire him and what is his next mission? I chose Dunraven from the catalogue and entrusted Alistair Gordon to do the bidding. His mission is to continue racing in SA.

Much of his success has come over staying trips. When you bought him were you hoping that this would be the case?  Yes, it was hoped he would race in staying races.

Will you eventually take Dunraven to Mauritius to race him there? No.

The 2012-2013 season is underway. Do you have many, or any, really promising youngsters we will see racing in your colours? Electric Jet, owned in partnership with MDK, has won his first outing and is likely to do well for the season. Ice Haven, a colt by Parade Leader, and Princess Gem, by Captain Al, both 2 years old, will start racing at the beginning of next year. They are with Mitch Wiese in PE.

Which of your horses, racing in your colours, do you think will pay to follow?  Electric Jet and Princess Gem.

SILVER FLYER’s victory in last year’s Dingaans announced your arrival on the South African stage. Tell us about that win and was it your choice to get former Mauritian champion jockey Glen Hatt to ride him?  It was so exciting and thrilling to win a first group race in SA. We didn’t expect that win because Silver Flyer was still very coltish and was reluctant to do any track work in the morning. We were agreeably surprised with the nice win in the Dingaans and thought that he didn’t really need gelding at that point. Mike took the decision of putting Glen on the horse.

How did your relationship with Hatt materialize? Hatt was already a long time friend when he was in Mauritius.

How did you acquire SILVER FLYER and what price did you purchase him for? I must most heartily thank Alistair Gordon who bought the horse and offered it to me at a purchase price of R200,000.

You obviously thought highly of him as he went to Mike de Kock. What was Mike’s early opinion of him? We all thought that he had some potential.

The son of Silvano was gelded in June and has had two cracking comeback runs. He takes his place in this weekend’s Sansui Summer Cup and he is the current favourite. What do you make of his chance of landing the first prize? The bookies make him favourite because the market thinks he is a potential winner and now all will depend on the circumstances of the race.

He will again enjoy the services of International jockey, Kevin Shea, but has drawn badly at stallgate 15. Are you concerned about the barrier? This will be the 3rd time Kevin Shea will partner him and he will note from his performances that he has always been doing well from bad draws. Insha’Allah!

Which horse do you make your biggest danger in the race? Mujaarib.

Is this your first runner in one of the ‘big 3’ South African Grade 1 races?  Yes. Silver Flyer was on the list for this year’s July but had to be pulled out because he was not ready after his gelding.

His form shows that he loves yielding conditions and with the forecast being for plenty of rain leading up to the Summer Cup, does this make you more confident? Not really.

He flopped badly in the Derby in April. What do you attribute that poor performance to?  In December he went to Kenilworth to compete in the Cape Guineas. On his way back he had a bout of colic and was, fortunately, saved by some of MDK’s connections on the trip back. He then spent a week in hospital to recover. He was also getting more coltish and his performance in the Derby convinced us that he had to be gelded.

Excluding that Derby run, he has never gone beyond nine furlongs, how confident are you that he will stay this trip, assuming the race is run in heavy conditions?  All the jockey’s, who have won on him, believe that he has ten furlongs under his belt. Let’s hope.

How supportive are the people in Mauritius about SILVER FLYER?  Apart from a few, the people in Mauritius are much more concerned with the Mauritian races than the races overseas.

Will there be mixed emotions as your favourite jockey Glen Hatt will be aboard one of your main rivals in the race? Not really, my attention will be focused on Kevin Shea and Silver Flyer.

Who allocated the jockey for SILVER FLYER? Maestro De Kock is left with the choice.

From what you have seen and experienced do you think racing is ‘straight’?  All things being equal, we have to accept that it is straight, otherwise we will not enjoy it.

The saying is “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman”. Does this apply to…Serge Seenyen?  The saying rather reads ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’. In fact that role has been fully discharged by my wife. This is why I will soon be having a 40 year career. – sportingpost.co.za.

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