Raymond Danielson has achieved the rare feat of winning the Gr 1 Champions Cup three years in succession aboard three different horses, the latest being THE APACHE on Gold Cup day this year. At 26 years of age he continues to blossom and attempts to land his sixth Grade 1 of his short career aboard THE APACHE in the Sansui Summer Cup to be run over 2000m at Turffontein at the end of the month. Raymond, now stable jockey to accomplished trainer Gavin Van Zyl, loves his profession and is hard working and takes criticism in his stride. Rest assured, the racing public can follow the youngster with confidence.
What is your name and age? My name is Raymond Danielson and I am 26 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Scorpio – 12 November 1985.
Where do you live? I currently live in Hillcrest, Durban.
Where was your birthplace? Port Elizabeth.
Tell us about your family? My mum is Rina (housewife), brother Morne’ resides in Vryheid (salesman) and my only sister Yolande’ is currently studying law. My dad passed away.
Do you or your family have a racing background? No. None of my family members had any racing background when I was introduced to the wonderful sport of racing.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? The punters at the track call me Stingray.
Favourite food? Anything with chicken.
Favourite drink? Iron Brew.
Favourite type of music? Not too particular but I enjoy John Legend and R. Kelly.
Favourite sport? I love watching and playing golf and soccer.
Favourite soccer team? Manchester United in England and Real Madrid in Spain. I continue to support Cristiano Ronaldo despite him leaving Man. United.
You obviously like speed so what car do you drive? Ha! Ha! Ha!. I drive an Audi A3 1.8. It’s not too fast but it gets me around!!!
As a young man do you have a steady girlfriend and do you have any marriage plans? Yes I do have a girlfriend. Her name is Tammy Dawson and I definitely have marriage plans.
How interested is your girlfriend in racing? She is very involved. She is an assistant trainer and she worked for Geoff Woodruff for 10 years. She is currently working for Mike De Kock. Yes, she loves racing.
Which holiday destination would you love to visit? I would love to go to the Maldives.
How did you become a jockey? I got very lucky. I knew nothing about racing and had never seen or touched a horse. My friend Vestus’ dad, Hannes Van Tonder, was an owner in Port Elizabeth and he introduced me to racing, taking my size into account. He took me to Arlington racecourse in Port Elizabeth and I loved it. The rest as they say is history. The moment I sat on a horse I knew this is what I wanted to become!!
When did you join the academy? 2002.
Tell us about your first winner? My first winner was for trainer Desmond Egdes on a horse called Coastward at Scottsville.
Who were your fellow apprentices at the academy and are you all still friends? My fellow apprentices in my year were Richard Fourie, Keanan Steyn, Muzi Yeni and Sam Freedman!! Yes – we are all still friends.
What is your optimum riding mass? I ride bottom weight at 52kg.
Have you modeled your riding style on any jockey you particularly admire or have you decided to do it ‘your‘ way? I like Piere Strydom’s style of riding but I like to do it my way.
How many graded winners have you had in your career? 5 Grade 1’s, 4 Grade 2’s and quite a bit of Grade 3’s and Listed races.
Which horse do you rate as the best you have ridden in your short career? THE APACHE.
You have struck up a fine relationship with Gavin van Zyl. Tell us about it? Mr. Van Zyl and I get along really well. I like the way he trains and he has a few very nice horses so I am hoping to keep this relationship going as long as I can.
How quickly are you able to assess a horse’s ability at track work?I think I am capable of telling straight away!!!
Being a jockey is no ordinary job and can be very tough. What motivates you to get up early every day, come shine or rain, to ride work? What motivates me is having a yard that I ride for and when there is an up and coming youngster that I ride every day.
What is the thing about being a jockey that you like least? I would say for me the early mornings. But it’s worth it!
Your Sansui Summer Cup ride THE APACHE produced a great comeback run in the Victory Moon Stakes recently and is drawn in pole position for the big day. What are your thoughts and how did he take that run? I was very pleased with that run. He carried 62kgs and gave the eventual winner SMANJEMANJE 11kgs that night. He now meets the latter on 6kgs better terms for a four length beating and my horse needed that run badly. The pace of the race was very slow and although I was just behind the winner, turning for home, it was a sprint to the wire which doesn’t suit my horse. I have spoken to Chesney Van Zyl, who has galloped him since and he has assured me that he took the run well and is raring to go. I am not in the slightest bit concerned with him having his second run in top company within fifteen days. This was always the plan. The entire stable and I are very confident of a big run from the son of Mogok.
Which horse do you make your main danger in the race? PIERRE JOURDAN.
What do you ride in the Dingaans and how do you rate your chance? I ride TANDRAGEE also for Mr. Van Zyl and he is a smart horse who comes here in search of a hat-trick. He is getting better with every outing and the long run-in over the mile will be right up his alley. He takes a steep rise in class on paper but I believe that he is up to it.
Which young horses do you think will pay to follow during the respective seasons in the country? SHADOWS IN THE SUN for Mr. Van Zyl, DEPARDIEU trained by Dean Kannemeyer, Mike De Kock’s recent debut winner MERHEE & FRONTINO GOLD, Sean Tarry’s WHITELINE FEVER & E-JET and Mike Azzie’s POTALA PALACE.
The battle between Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus for the champion jockey title really caught the racing public’s imagination. Has this inspired you to be even more competitive in the future? Yes I think it has inspired a few jockeys and it has made me want to be more competitive and, hopefully, one day I can be in that position!!
With a big carrot (R250 000) being offered by Klawervlei Stud to the SA champion jockey, will you be tempted to ride in as many centre’s as possible to chase the first prize? I love riding winners and if I get opportunities to ride elsewhere I will take it with both hands!!
How much time do you spend studying form? I enjoy studying the form and watch as much replays as I can. I love following racing throughout the country and often the world.
How inspirational is it for you as a jockey to see how successful people like Mike de Kock, Herman Brown (Jnr), Lucky Houdalakis, Patrick Shaw, David Ferraris, Kevin Shea, Piere Strydom, Weichong Marwing, Dougie Whyte, Glyn Schofield, Jeff Lloyd and others have been overseas? It is very inspirational and I look up to all of the trainers and jockeys that have had success overseas. Watching them have this success gives me the hunger to do the same.
How interested are you into what the trainers do at the stable? I don’t often go there but when I do I really enjoy it. I do ask questions when I want to know something. I take my hat off to the trainers because there is a lot of work done at the stables!!!
Which stallion’s progeny would you like to see in your stable? The late great Jet Master! His loss is a real tragedy to the breeding industry. My condolences go out to Pat and Henry Devine.
The highs of the game are fantastic but how do you cope with the lows? I like to learn from the lows and move on!!
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? It is not to put your hands down before the finish line.
The control of racing is now very strict. Is there anything more, in your opinion, that you think the authorities could or should do to make racing even straighter? I would not want to get involved-they know what they are doing.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Work hard and be patient.
What has been the most exciting and satisfactory day you have had as a jockey thus far? Most exciting day was when I had my first quartet of winners and when I had my first group 1 win (FOREST PATH in the SA Classic for Mike De Kock).