Gregorowski Makes a Comeback

"Now it is all down to me, I am putting my shoulder to the wheel and going all out this time"

Making a comeback to the riding ranks at the relatively tender age of 24 may sound unusual , but Graham Gregorowski says he is now mentally stronger and feeling a lot more motivated than he was in the heady days of 2007. The young Gregorowski attributes his revitalised approach to his career to a growth phase spent with amongst others, leading South African trainer Mike de Kock overseas, and the strategic support of key people.

The then 21 year old Gregorowski disappeared off the radar screens of our riding ranks  in July 2007 when he decided, after no small measure of agonising, to pack his bags and leave the SA Jockey Academy in Summerveld KwaZulu-Natal. He says he had taken plenty of advice but his head just ‘wasn’t right’: “ I had some great friends at the Academy. Keagan Latham, now riding so succesfully in Ireland, Jarred Samuel, Karl Zechner and Jessica Goslett were extremely supportive. But it was something I had to do for myself,” he says sensibly. He rode 63 winners in his apprenticeship and had a great start as he commenced his riding with the powerful Sabine Plattner operation. He also had good support from Ivan Moore and Alastair Gordon until the Academy sent him down to PE to ride for his uncle, Mitch Wiese for a year. It was in this time that he rode the winner of South Africa’s longest race, the 3600m Listed P E Gold Cup,a horse called Alibama. He describes that win in 2006 as the highight of his short career.

How did he get involved in horseracing? The young Graham was always destined to earn a living at some level of the sport of kings as he had been around racehorses before he could walk. His father, Jacobus Gregorowski, was an ex-jockey and with his passionate uncle Mitch Wiese, a succesful trainer in Port Elizabeth, he got plenty of exposure to stable life and the intoxicating atmosphere that draws so many of us in.

After he left the Academy in 2007 he decided to travel and broaden his horizons overseas. He was very fortunate to land a job with the ‘best man to work for in racing’, Mike de Kock, and was based in England and in Dubai. After over a year ‘learning plenty’ with De Kock, he was homesick and came back to Durban to work for Kom Naidoo. He spent six months with Naidoo before landing a plum job with American trainer Jerry Barton in Saudi Arabia. He also spent another season in Dubai working for Barton, before returning to South Africa. He joined the high-riding Glen Kotzen sattelite yard in Summerveld under the guidance of the vastly talented Frikkie Greyling – himself a student of the De Kock school- and Gregorowski says that the great atmosphere in the yard and the support of Greyling and his sponsor, Nobin Kariem, saw him applying to get his licence back.

“ This game is so much about confidence and I needed to have real people support and  encourage me and tell me to go for it. Nobin Kariem, my sponsor, who owns a security company called M I 7, sat me down and motivated me to get going again.

Jockey Derryl Daniels has also been a good friend and pillar of support. He is a guy who is now reaping the benefits of hard work and everybody can see the amount of winners he is riding. He is living proof of self-belief and he knows what it is like to be on the other side of the fence too. Frikkie Greyling has also opened doors for me and given me a lot of confidence. I am now feeling motivated and ready and am working hard to get fit,” he said.

He has been given eight months to complete his apprenticeship and will be riding work at Summerveld, assisting Greyling and freelancing. He currently goes to scale at 54kg. “ I have so many people to thank but now it is all down to me. I am putting my shoulder to the wheel and going all out this time,” he said with a determined smile. Good luck Graham.

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