I often get asked here in Singapore or by friends back home who read this weekly article, why I did not stay home if I am so passionate and proud of the South African product, writes Gareth Pepper.
Although I am not a fan of airing dirty laundry, maybe a few facts will shed some light on the reasons why I am where I am.
I did get my inspiration from the recent Mike De Kock interview with Mr James on Winning Ways recently.
I have known Mr De Kock for many years, as my father Brett had the odd share in a horse with him from around the time I was born and it was his superstar Horse Chestnut and his efforts with him that was one of the reasons that made up my mind that I was going to be a part of this beautiful industry, in any way possible, for the rest of my life!
I was very lucky to have been given some airtime by Charl Pretorius when still working for Robin Bruss.
I was a contributor on Freeracer and I had the confidence and belief in myself that so many 20 year old’s have!
Charl was the first person that gave me a chance in the broadcasting world. His weekly podcasts were my first introduction to what I now do full time and without Charl and his constant support, I would have probably given it up quicker than I had started.
Charl is one of my favourite people in racing and I will always be grateful to him for taking a chance on me. Love him or hate him, he has that no nonsense approach to racing and I feel his efforts often go sadly unnoticed.
Step in Neil Pretorius.
After gaining more confidence, I decided to approach the man In charge of Tellytrack at the time. It was probably the constant visits coupled with a great deal of begging and pleading that Neil finally gave me the thumbs up to try my hand at presenting.
I quickly found my voice, gained confidence and was given more shifts. I enjoyed it immensely.
Laff was a huge source of help and Inspiration and in Studio, as we all know, Shaheen Shaw is the viewers best friend, so I soaked up as much help and advice from him and he was always a great help.
After sussing me out and getting to know me, Nico not only became a great sounding board and help, but a great friend too!
Things were going well and I was flying along. I was oozing confidence and loving every second of it. Flying around the country, covering races on July Day and the likes I was a seriously happy presenter. Unfortunately Neil and his family were the victims of crime in Joburg and he understandably made the call to move back to the Cape.
New management was put into place and one manager in particular bowled me a bouncer that knocked me right off of my feet.
Me and several other presenters lost many shifts and it was apparent to us who the preferred ones were. (No fault of theirs, the scheduling of presenters was ultimately left to the new manager).
After riding the storm, taking a huge financial knock which resulted in me having to rent the outside room at my Dad’s place and having to re-evaluate my whole career, I knew I had to adapt.
I decided to try my hand at social media management and owner management and this proved to be successful.
After a very trying time, things looked bright and a few opportunities opened up in the Cape. I was there every other week and I loved it so much I decided to make the move.
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to work with Brett Crawford and he too was a massive help to me and my career. Brett, as you are aware, is a top class trainer and I still follow him and his yard very closely. He is a great man and his honesty and advice still rings clear in the back of my mind today.
Things were going well in the Cape and I quickly found myself working and mixing in the circles of various role players and professionals in the industry. Phumelela’s Steven Karam was kind enough to afford me a wonderful opportunity at Kenilworth Racing and when things were full steam ahead, I was the happiest I had been for a very long time.
Now as we all know racing is full of its many cliques, But if you give it time and people get to know you, you often become close to like- minded individuals and they become friends. This happened and I was also reunited with many friends from years past who had made the move to the gorgeous Mother City.
There was one individual, who I shall name the Pied Piper, who knew everyone and was seemingly liked by all.
The Piper was quick to throw some work and tasks my way and the more I helped and delivered results, the more he seemed to edge closer.
What I soon discovered though, is that if you did not move to the Piper’s beat or even dared listening to any other tune, he would make things very tough for you.
I have always been my own person and the constant bullying and mind games eventually became enough for me. I refused to take any part in the games and was quickly shunned. Not by one or two people, but by many.
It quickly became apparent the Piper had many individuals under his spell and I was on the verge of giving up on my dream industry and any opportunities I had left.
Life is remarkable and as this was all unfolding, I received a call from the Singapore Turf Club and as they say, the rest is history.
At the end of it all, I still follow the racing intently, have lifelong friends because of this beautiful sport and will be forever grateful to many individuals named and not named in this short piece who had a big impact on my short career.
Where to next you may ask?
Well I am not even close to finished in Singapore.
I am loving it here and I have a renewed vigour and energy when it comes to my work. I have not been this happy for a long time and I still have many goals to achieve here. Most importantly though, I am still and always will be proudly South African!