It would be fair to say that Brandon Morgenrood has had a checkered career in racing. Having sat out a five year suspension that started off as a life ban, and having also had issues with substance abuse, the 34-year-old has come back a much wiser and more mature person. Taking the opportunity to revive his career with both hands, Brandon has struck up a profitable association especially with the Yogas Govender stable and is frequently seen booting home winners in the Mrs Sabine Plattner silks. Although restricted by his riding weight of around 57 kgs, he is also a regular visitor to the winner’s enclosure in Port Elizabeth, and by the time this appears in print Brandon will have embarked on a new venture as he has secured the job as stable jockey to trainer Alain Pedrau in Mauritius. This in itself says a lot about how far Brandon has come since his return to full-time race riding in September 2009, and we are sure that his career will continue to blossom, wherever it may take him.
What is your name and age? Brandon Christopher Peter Morgenrood and I am 34 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? My star sign is Libra and I was born on 4th of October.
Where were you born? I was born in Cape Town.
Where do you live? I grew up in Durbanville and I currently live in Sunningdale.
Tell us about your family? I am engaged to Amanda Velthuysen and we have a son Cruz-Slade.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? I have two nicknames. I am known as Smorgs in the racing industry and I am called Tonto by my baseball mates.
Favourite food? My favourite is chicken curry or any curry, really. Rumour has it that I make the best curry in Cape Town.
Favourite drink? Since I stopped drinking alcohol seven months ago I would have to say lime n’ soda or kola tonic and lemonade.
Favourite music? Trance music. Tesco is one of my favourite DJ’s.
Favourite sport? Clearly horse racing with surfing and moto x being next best.
Favourite soccer team? There is only one team – Man U.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Jeffreys Bay for obvious reasons.
Are any of your family members involved in racing in any way? My family is very supportive of my career and hardly miss a meeting. They are my biggest supporters.
When did you start your apprenticeship? I started my apprenticeship in 1992.
Who were your fellow apprentices with you in the academy? I was with Barend Vorster, Deryl Daniels, Piet Botha and Donovan Yeo.
Who were the trainers who took a particular interest in you as an apprentice? I rode mainly for Dennis Bosch as well as for Glen Kotzen, Joey Ramsden and Jean Heming.
How much riding did you do in KZN before going to Cape Town? I rode in KZN for one and a half years before breaking my back and being hospitalized for four months. Upon my return I rode in Natal for another year during which time I won the Apprentice Challenge. I then returned to the Cape to ride for two years.
How many winners have you had in your career thus far? I guess I have won about 500 races in the years I have been riding.
How many Graded and Listed winners have you had in your career? I have probably won most of the small features in the Cape and PE.
Which is the best horse you have been associated with? Three horses come to mind. They are Bad Influence, who I won 15 races on, Royal Wish and Ghostly Galleon.
In 2001 and 2002 you went through a patch after falling foul of the NHA. As a warning to any other jockeys who could face the same temptations would you tell us how you became involved with these people? With regards to my notorious past and the incident which lead to me being suspended for 5 years this is what happened. I was approached by Greg Cheyne who introduced me to Mark Lifman and Yuri “The Russian”. They in turn forced me to pull up a horse by threatening my life as well as that of my family’s. Remembering that I was only 19 years old at the time it can be imagined how terrifying this was for me.
How long were you out of racing for while you appealed your sentence and eventually won your way back into the saddle? My initial sentence was a life-ban, which after numerous appeals, was reduced to five years. This meant that I was not able to ride any work or enter a racecourse or racing facility during the entire sentence.
While this struggle was taking place did you consider going into another line of business? Due to the above restrictions imposed on me I had to consider entering another line of business. All I knew was racing and I was banned from being anywhere near it. I did, however, work at Riethuiskraal Stud Farm for a while. I broke in babies etc. I also tried my hand at the family business but horses are in my blood and I returned to racing as soon as I could.
It has been well – documented that you have tested positive for a prohibited substance. How much of an inspiration has Andrew Fortune and his amazing life story been to you? It is true that Andrew Fortune and I have been down the same path regarding substance abuse. We have attended N.A. meetings together and we enjoy sharing our stories with each other as well as giving advice to others.
What lessons did you learn from this unfortunate time in your life? Lessons learnt: Keep your friends near and your enemies even closer. I have also learnt to appreciate my family and loved ones as they are the people who will be there through good and bad times.
Some of those involved in your troubles back then, are still at large and continue their criminal activities. Have they ever tried to intimidate you since? No. I have not been approached by them since.
When did you get back to riding full time? I started full time riding in September 2009.
Who were the trainers who gave you rides when you started riding again? Joey Ramsden has always been a great supporter of the underdog and gave me most of my rides at this time. Glen Kotzen also played a big role in my comeback.
Were you generally well accepted by the racing fraternity when you started riding again? In general I felt accepted but I also realized that I had a cloud hanging over my head and it was up to me to work hard and prove to everyone how dedicated I was to make a success of my career.
What is your ideal riding mass and are you coping maintaining it? My natural weight should be 60kgs. Whilst riding I try to maintain a riding weight of 57kgs.
You appear to have worked really hard and conscientiously to work your way back as a top jockey. You are getting really good rides from the Plattner yard and trainer Yogas Govender. How did this association come about? I met Yogas when he worked for Glen Kotzen. When I started riding work back in Cape Town it was only natural that I include his yard in my working week. I have had a successful relationship with the Plattner yard. Between Yogas, the horses I ride and my riding it all just seemed to click into place-hence all the winners.
You have ridden a lot of good sorts in the Plattner yard. Which horses would you rate as horses to follow from that stable? The Plattner yard has a lot of youngsters that will shortly be coming through the ranks. They will keep Yogas as one of the top trainers in Cape Town. I would say that the horses to follow would be: More Of Me, Bad Winter, Premium Wood and a filly I really like-Lady Daylight.
What are your short and long term ambitions? Short term: I am going to Mauritius for their racing season and I will be riding for Alain Pedrau. Long term: I want to ride for as long as my body will allow. I would like to finish as one of the top 3 riders in Cape Town.
Do you have any suggestions as to how more interest could be generated into racing especially amongst the younger generation? In my opinion racing should be better advertised and they should target schools in the hope of finding the next champion jockey. Schools often have career days-the jockey club and jockeys should attend to answer questions the youngsters are sure to have.