Eric 'Colt' Durant (1930 - 2001)
A Racing Legend in Trinidad and Tobago
The local horseracing fraternity reacted with a tinge of sadness to the announcement made by Eric Durant on Old Year's Day 1999, that he would not be renewing his trainer's licence for the year 2000, and would be passing over the baton to his protégé Chester Roberts.
A career spanning some 57 years of continuous involvement in racing was about to come to a close.
Eric Durant came to Trinidad in 1943 at age 13, and was associated with the Lionel Gittens owned Barbados bred gelding Nylon, trained by Joe Herrera, being responsible for the care and welfare of the horse, when victorious in the 1945 Derby Stakes at the Queen's Park Savannah The die was cast.
On August 15, 1959, Eric Durant then 29 was granted a Public Trainer's Licence by the Trinidad Turf Club. The roller coaster ride was about to begin and would continue merrily for the next 40 years.
Fondly known in his earlier days as 'Colt', and over the last decade or so, the 'Maestro of Marabella', the exploits Of Eric Durant need no expounding.
Involved in racing for 57 years, Durant first left his mark on the Turf when Nylon, as mentioned earlier, won the 1945 Trinidad Derby. Having obtained his Trainer's licence in 1959, he sent out his first winner Annapurna, owned by Merlin Samlalsinhg, with Challenor Jones aboard at Union Park. Ironically, the Samlalsingh's were to provide Durant with his '1,000'success in February 1981 with Erris, ridden by Venice Richards, also at Union Park.
Since records have been kept on Trainers from 1974, Eric Durant has topped the standings on eighteen occasions, bowing to his great friend and rival Joseph Heeded five times in twenty one years, and only recently since the centralisation of racing when winding down his stable.
Eric Durant has won every major event in Trinidad and Tobago at least once; indeed the records reveal an outstanding 211 Graded / Feature races success rate, which includes seven (7) Trinidad Derby winners - Decorum (1964), Pegasus Plus (1966), Royal Colours (1982), Royal Salute (1983), Bucks Nugget (1987), Flag Woman (1991), and Renegade (1993), eight Gold Cups, Twelve Cups (including 8 straight from 1971 - 1978) and three Official 'Horse of the Year', Ackstatic (1983), Conquest (1985) and Renegade (1993)
Divisional Champions since the advent of the Jetsam Awards in 1983 include - Champion 3 y.o. - Conquest (1985), Strange Music (1987), Have A Heart (I991), Renegade (1993) and Braveheart (1998), Champion 2 y.o. - Conquest (1985), Flashy Lass (1987) and Flag Woman (1990); Champion Creole Stayer - Royal Colours (I983), Baree Bahin (1987), Have A Heart (1992), Renegade (1993), Da Vinci (1994 and 1995), Broveheart (1998), Champion Imported Sprinter - Faites Vite (1983), Gone Prospecting (1993), Champion Imported Stayer - Ackstatic (1983), Sonata (1989), Night Princess (1990) and Panama Pete (1991).
Many champions have felt the magic Durant touch over the years, including the likes of Fil D'Sabreur, The Chiseller, the great 'all rounder' Quain (the Sian's Gold of the 70's), Quisical, Penny Opera, Inlaks, Qui Va La, Monaldo and Windy Hill; creoles the calibre of St. Peter, Arabesque, King Sailor, Jonathon, Noble Mark, Flying Colours, Kimafoutiesa, Mercurius and Royal Salute, among a host of other talented stars.
Durant has also had the singular honour of training the winner of the Easter Guineas and Barbados Derby on two occasions, with Tea Breeze (1964) and Kimafoutiesa (1988). He too, has ventured abroad to Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Venezuela returning home with the spoils on a few occasions, having won the Barbados Derby twice, Nation Stakes with Ackstatic in 1987, the Red Stripe Superstakes with Baree Bahin under Ranjit Kissoon in an upset victory in 1986, returning the following year placing second, and sending out six (seven sent, two scratched) representatives to the Clasico Del Caribe since 1977, when King Sailor finished a creditable 2-1/2 lengths 6th, and with his pair Royal Colours and Mercurius – 4th and 5th, respectively in 1982. In 1998 Braveheart earned a part of the Stakes when 6th to Evaristo, at Santa Rosa Park.
One race which has eluded the 'Maestro' has been the Cockspur Gold Cup. Though placed many times with horses such as Ubique, Empress Jo and Panama Pete. In his final year, Eric recorded I0 winners, his last being with Fruition on November 06, 1999, which was also the last horse he saddled on December 27.
Eric 'Colt' Durant has chalked up 1,865 1/2 successes during his 40 year career, and has crossed the '1,000,000' earnings mark I0 times from 1981 - 1987, 1991, 1993 and 1995. His horses have earned over $23M. In prize money for their owners.
A master of his profession, whose achievements will be hard to beat.
In January 2001, The Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority Inducted Eric Durant to the Racing Hall of Fame.
He passed away peacefully on Sunday 7th October 2001