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SA Jockey Talent Pool Is Shallow

Top guys are world class - the rest are plain average

A former SA Champion rider says the jockey talent pool in South Africa has lacked genuine depth for some years now.

Top jockeys enjoy support from the good stables and get the best rides. And when a youngster falls behind, it is a vicious circle and whirlpool that is very difficult to escape from.

Andrew Fortune – expert opinion

“I don’t have the answers as to why standards should have deteriorated,” quips Andrew Fortune, one of the most charismatic and outspoken personalities in the game.

The Capetonian was crowned SA Champion in the 2008/9 season in one of the great comebacks of the game.

A man with superb hands and an in-built pace judgement computer, he is well equipped and entitled to an opinion.

“There is a niche group at the top and the rest are plain average – ordinary, to be honest. I saw it while I was riding and now I am seeing it through the eyes of my wife, Ashley, as the trainer. Why would you take an owner’s hard earned cash for months and work your butt off to get a horse fit – and then engage a jockey who is probably going to mess it all up in 60 seconds? So yes, it’s human nature and common sense – we all want the best doctor, best teacher for our kids, best football coach. Best always works. Full stop,” he adds.

Mike De Kock – good advice

“Mike de Kock always said that training racehorses is not rocket science. Ashley’s horses are fit, sound, well fed and loved. The jockey puts the cherry on the cake.”

When taxed on nominating his top current jockey, Andrew doesn’t hesitate. “Richard Fourie is the complete package. He has it all. And the key is he trusts a horse. If his mount wants to lead, he shows faith and trust and goes with it. The rest are always too busy behind him trying to find cover and perceived best position. When the jockey lacks confidence, the trainer’s instructions are echoing in his head. Not Richard. He plays them on the break. Very often he wins the race in the first 200m. Simple.”

Andrew adds that he has had long chats with his Cape Champion son Aldo Domeyer about it.

Cape Champion Aldo Domeyer (Pic – Chase Lebenberg Photography)

“Aldo is very good. He is hardworking and improving. He is keen to absorb advice – unlike his father! I have told him to wake up and watch Richard. Trust the horse. He is getting better all the time. He could have a national title in him yet!”

Piere Strydom’s ride on Norland at the Vaal on Tuesday came up.

“Piere is getting a bit long in the tooth but is a genius. He can win on them from anywhere. When I was riding, I actually asked him how he does it. And I don’t ever ask for advice – so you know how very good he must have been! Piere explained that confidence x-factor in your horse. He lets them find their feet and then they are in a rhythm. That means an advantage already. He wrote the textbook. And he is no spring chicken. But he is still top-class –  it helps that most of the youngsters aren’t too bloody good!”

He is quick to single out new SA Champion Lyle Hewitson and Luke Ferraris in the emerging generation.

Lyle Hewitson (photo: JC Photos)

Lyle Hewitson (photo: JC Photos)

“Lyle had a good grounding. His Dad Carl – a former jockey – mentored him early. He played polocrosse. He knew horses. He has a good brain too – that helps!”

We asked about Luke Ferraris, who has made such a top start, but has also been better supported than many other apprentices, thanks to his legendary Grandfather, Ormond.

“Believe me you can put an average guy on a good horse and he can still stuff it up. The difference is Luke is taking his chances and converting them into winners. He is still a baby, and the real test comes when you lose the allowance. But Luke also got that head start and he is taking the opportunities with both hands. He sits well, speaks well – I think he also has a good head on his shoulders.”

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26 comments on “SA Jockey Talent Pool Is Shallow

  1. Paul Karam says:

    These guys are what i call real CHAMPIONS! They love the sport and the horse.
    Loraine karam

  2. Judith says:

    Howabout comments from other top jockeys – old and new – about their favourites for “best jockey” in the country? Fortune is always contentious. What was notable here was who was left out. Personal beef?

  3. kenzo says:

    Richard, Muzi and Grant are the future, top class riders.

  4. Judith says:

    I posted something earlier, which has not popped up. so I will elaborate. Fortune’s comments are unfortunate (no pun intended). He is retired and the family has gone into training, which is great. Putting forward comments like this, however, (from a man who has done his time) is actually not acceptable. There are kids out there coming up in the ranks and he puts forward Fourie as the goal to strive for …? Please. What if you are not a Richard Fourie, what if you are a different man with a different take but really good?. Fourie is NOT the ultimate.Riding horses is not one track at all. Get options from other jockeys, young and old, and balance this article.

    1. Editor says:

      The nice thing about phoning Andrew Fortune is that we are always given a frank, honest opinion – and he is always happy to have his name put to it.

      The story actually started out as a look at the Fortune Grand Heritage prospects and what it takes to win the race. The weights were then discussed – finding jockeys at 50kgs was one poser.

      That’s when we started discussing jockeys and the depth of the ranks.

      We dont apologise for the article or the content – getting various opinions may be a project to look at in the future.

      For now, it was interesting to get the Fortune view.

  5. Judith says:

    No apology sought. Just that when opinions are as contentious as Fortune’s often are, a balance helps, especially for the young ones coming up in the ranks. Andrew Fortune is not the arbiter of horsemanship – but he certainly is one of the loudest. The other jockeys out there need to know he isn’t the king, that jockeyship is not simple

    1. Editor says:

      Hundred percent – will work on a survey – get our readers involved
      Andrew’s name should have been Frank 🙂

  6. Editor says:

    Tarquin Norval (retired Stipe) said this on our FB Page:

    Interesting article, and the points of view expressed make for interesting debate. The young apprentices of today are not taught the basics of riding and have no stable management and “feel” for horses.:)

    Justin Snaith said this on our FB Page:

    Well said Tarquin …..when I’m in Natal I get the feeling apprentices are told to stay away from visiting trainers and focus on the local trainers for support but this is a naive way of thinking and so when these Same Appie’s become out of fashion to trainers and riding masters in Natal they look to venture or are just chucked out to other provinces they have no backing….. I have for years asked for apprentices to be allocated to us full time but riding masters just ignore us …I will never forget my first and last apprentice sent to us for reasons not said…….Bernard Faydherbe and at the same time an apprentice was sent to Basil Marcus for similar reasons ……Richard Fourie

  7. Ronny Nijimbere says:

    Riders are only as good as the horses they ride.. U can’t really expect miracles from Jockeys when the horses they ride are not that great.. Just check the winning percentages from last season and the margins from the so called top riders is not that much

  8. Leon Lotz says:

    Years back I trained a maiden mare for Oom Nic Claassen in Kimberley named Pasop. She was a 5 year old maiden in Kimberley,placed plenty but just could not win.a Jooste ods on favorite trained by late Peter Miller with the same Mr Fortune on top gave me 30/1 with Pasop with jockey Sipho Nlapo up,not rated by any one as a jockey.We went out trying and Oom Nic and myself had a proper bet.Needles to say we won going away by 10 lenths.Objection was lodged that Pasop bumped the Jooste horse, Sipho did not even came close to them ,objection was overuled offcause.The so called bad jockeys are the guys that make small trainers money and keep them in the game,Fanie Chambers,Deon Sampson,Evert Pheifer two name a few.I had Evert Pheifer and Sipho Nlapo on two of my fillies in the Woodland sprint on the Vaal running short head second and short head third to Apple Princess in the same race. Group races maybe a different story,but a jockey like Chambers has won both the Emerald cup races on one day at the Vaal.I agree they must just go out trying with confidence .Not every jockey can be Anton Marcus who is in my oppinion the best in the world,but most jockeys can win if the trainer has a good relationship with them and they also ride good horses

  9. Brian says:

    I once has the pleasure and privilege to speak to the late Bobby Sivewright with my old mate Jack. I asked him who he preferred riding Sea Cottage or Colorado King. He said he loved them both but the ‘King’, as he called him was the better horse because he knew where he wanted to be. He knew the pace better than Bobby so he dictated where he wanted to be.

    I also think that a jockey does make a different. If you put your money on Lerena, Delpech and back in the day, Jeff Lloyd, you knew you were getting a run for your money and even further back, Muis Roberts.

    I don’t believe it fair to knock Andrew Fortune for speaking his mind, HE’s RIGHT!

  10. Judith says:

    NO he is not right – he is only right because you agree with him.

    I personally cannot fight this battle – I have never ridden a horse in competition the way Fortune has. But I have never trained a horse, or been an actor or the head of some IT group. The fact that Fortune has ridden a horse into battle and has chosen to give his point of view as though it is the only correct one, is wrong. And should be questioned. The same way you might question the head of Apple or Jooste …

    1. Editor says:

      Why should it be questioned?

      ‘A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries’ – Will Rogers

  11. Judith says:

    Questioning is the core of any democracy. Fortune – and Trump and Boris and all the populists – delivers his viewpoint as though it is the only one. I, as a lover of democracy and debate, MUST question it. You, as the editor, and someone who respects Fortune, must also question. My argument way back is that his critique of ALL jockeys (and yes, he did criticize all jockeys by omission (Marcus, Lerana etc) begs the question: is Fortune the greatest jockey who ever lived? When he finds fault, can we not question his viewpoint? What gives his viewpoint credence above others?

    1. Editor says:

      Judith, you are labouring on this one.
      Let’s agree to disagree and move on

  12. Judith says:

    I understand you are drawing a line – you have every right to do so. But I, as a mother, who might have a son/daughter who wants to be a jockey, and has to witness the ugliness that goes on – whether older jockeys condemn the new ones, or trainers (Justin Snaith’s comment on the failure of ‘riding masters’ to respond to certain requests) who have their own issues, I am left with the question: you wonder about the future of racing in South Africa – if jockeys are not nurtured, encouraged, if young jockeys have to read the opinion of retired jockeys on their failures – what hope for the future of racing in this country? Can we have viable racing without jockeys? ( An orchestra without a conductor?) No, we can not.

  13. Dick Adcock says:

    Fortune’s article is rather stating the obvious. The jockeys named are some of the best around, whereby they get the majority of rides from the country’s top stables. There are a lot of under rated jockeys however, who do an excellent job for good but lesser stables. Warren Kennedy, Karl Zechner and Keagan De Melo come to mind in this regard.

  14. gavin says:

    the jockies in south africa are weak at the moment… the candyman is right …

  15. Brian says:

    Judith, the reason I say Andrew is right is because he has ‘ridden into battle’ as you put it and done so with success. He also has the benefit of hindsight, experience and with that comes wisdom.
    He probably is equally concerned about the state of horse racing. It’s how he makes his living unlike you or I. If prospective jockeys read his comment and decide this is not for me it probably wasn’t in the first place and they’ve been done a favour.
    Every jockey current, champion or otherwise has had failures, and successes and if young jockeys are reading about their ‘failures’ and if they really want to be up there, they’ll take note of the opinion of a former champion jockey and do something about it or even seek his counsel.

    Maybe Mr. Veale wanted to prove a point yesterday in the sixth. Who knows but I bet Andrew will be the first to pat him on the back after that win

  16. Rian says:

    Must agree with Judith as her comments are always well thought out and to the point
    Just have a look at Mr Fortunes stats through the years and it tells its own story( sorry)
    Good luck to the emerging young stars and im extremely happy when they out smart our so called worlds best.

  17. Rian says:

    What about Marcus unplaced rides, would he pat his back as well from one champion to another
    But then again if you comment on Marcus bad rides the ED gets hot and bothered

    1. Editor says:

      We love the passion!

  18. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Rian, when the dealer spins 32 and you have bet 33 it must be a bad spin…

    Here is a trick study the form and work out when Marcus is under the odds… generally 55% of the time, then structure a bet to beat him, make some ash and then pat him on the back.

    The top 10 Jocks are mostly under the odds because of their perceived superiority. yes they do win more often than the next tier but the below average returns means you will lose in the long term.

  19. Rian says:

    Nothing to do with roulette or roll the dice, its the Passion
    Felt really good watching Chelmsford last night and Haley Turner take on the stars like Crowley, Moore, Kirby, Morris dirt champ and beat them proving there is hope for anybody who works hard to have success
    Have always enjoyed your comments

  20. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Rian, to remain sane you need to find your angle and go for it. If it does not work make adjustments.

    I also currently prefer UK racing from a punters perspective – even though the bookies odds here are a little below the UK counterparts there is still better value than on local racing – its partly because of the small market we are in and the high takeouts from the TAB side which means bookies have more room for larger margins (less competition)

    As for moaning when Superman misses the places with an odds on well that does not often happen. He and Richard Fourie have by far the highest % of rides in the first 3.

    We should be trying to get stats like what % strike rate on favourites – the UK presenters churn these out like clockwork – i have a sneaky feeling our top 5 guys as a % would be a little ahead of the UK guys – again simply because they are big fish in a little pond – ala Hong Kong

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