Happy Birthday To A Legend

Can he finally win the Met on Saturday?

Karl Neisius and his best Met horse, Flaming Rock

Karl Neisius and his best Met horse, Flaming Rock

Veteran Cape jockey Karl Neisius turns 58 today and on Saturday he launches yet another bid to clinch an elusive first Met winner. South Africa’s highest ranked senior rider partners the Silvano gelding Power King for Dean Kannemeyer and after grabbing a second place as a starry-eyed youngster 37 years ago, nobody can ever suggest that Karl has not stuck doggedly to his guns.

Born into a life in the saddle, the complete horseman, and a part of the furniture in Cape racing, had his first Met ride aboard Terrance Millard’s Peacable Kingdom filly Fast Piece in 1978, when dead-heating with Arion (a son of Tajubena), behind the rocket, Politician.

Neisius, who has ridden over 3200 career winners, has won every top race in South Africa, bar the Met and the Gold Cup.

“I am still chasing the Met winner’s trophy and it has been a frustrating race for me, I suppose. Naturally I would love to win it. I have ridden some really very good horses and probably the best that I have been aboard is Flaming Rock, on whom I ran second twice (1992/3) after finishing fourth in 1991. In those days, unlike today, the conditions suited the lesser horses and Flaming Rock tried his heart out against the odds. I also went close when second on Grand Jete behind Polo Classic in 2002.”

Karl NeisiusNeisius will go to post on Saturday in the familiar black and yellow silks of Europe-based Khaya Stables. He won the 2014 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate in the same silks, on recently retired stallion prospect, Capetown Noir.

Without a hint of disrespect, we posed the inevitable question to Karl- when will he call it a day?

“I have no plans to retire and will ride for as long as I am fit and well. I have had the odd issue with my back over the years but otherwise I am fit,” he said.

Does advancing age play a factor in his mental approach to race-riding?

“I have never been scared and the dangers of race-riding have never bothered me. You know, you can just as easy fall down the stairs as you can fall off a horse!”


Karl Neisius – ‘No plans to retire’

On his prospects for Saturday and whether he felt there would be any pace in the race, Karl said that Power King had improved lengths with gelding.

“He only needs to improve 2 or 3 lengths further to come into the reckoning. There are some decent horses in the race, but races are not run on paper. While conditions on the day will play a role in the pace, I am sure they won’t canter. And Power King is versatile – so he can quicken off a modest pace, in need. He really has come well at the right time and must have an outside chance. It will be a good race and I’m looking as forward to it as the first time I rode in it.”

Karl has many years left to make up ground on that veteran of all legends, Stanley Amos. The former jockey, turned trainer, rode competitively until age 65.

Interestingly, when Karl rode that first Met place on Fast Piece, Stanley was close to Karl’s age today.

Oh, how we love reminiscing!

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