Profile – Donavan Mansour

Donavan Mansour

Despite deciding to become a jockey fairly late (for a jockey) Donavan has wasted no time in establishing himself as a very promising young rider. Before being accepted as an apprentice in SA he had to spend a year in New Zealand and Donavan freely admits that this was a very worthwhile and satisfying experience. He is now getting top rides from Geoff Woodruff and Donavan’s career seems set to take off.

What is your name and age? Donavan Anthony Mansour, 26.

Where do you live? Bedfordview, JHB.

Tell us about your family? I am the son of Grant and Laura Mansour, my sisters are Samantha (accountant) and Monique (assistant to Weiho Marwing), my brother Diego (four years old) and Step mom, Carla. My family is extremely close and they are my biggest supporters. I am lucky to have the family I have and I hope I can bring my family up the same way…I better get a move on.

How did you become interested in horse racing? I had a catering company and helped my aunt Marcelle and Toby with the catering for the jockeys. Gavin Lerena and Randal Simons became my close friends and begged me to ride a horse at track. With my family pushing me to become a jockey and taking me for measurements when I was 14 and 15 years of age, I decided to give this, ‘horse riding a go…!’ Mr Matchett put me up on a horse, ‘Just stay on’ and away I went with Randal for my first horse ride. I don’t even know what pace I was supposed to go but I had a smile from ear to ear. Once I told my Uncle Keith he sat me down and pumped it into my head…’you will live a great life, give it a go!’

Who were the people in racing who had the biggest influence on you in your decision to make racing your career? Gavin Lerena and Randal Simons. My late grandfather, Maroun Mansour (the greatest man I know), Uncle Keith and my father (they own horses). Mr James Maree, he taught me how to ride and I would recommend anyone who wants to learn to go to Mr Maree.

Due to your age the jockey academy did not, at first accept you, so you went to New Zealand. Tell us how this all came about and about your experiences in New Zealand? New Zealand, the toughest year of my life…I missed my family terriblybut I had to do what I needed to do. New Zealand, when I look back was a great experience. The Kiwi people are true horseman and I could not have bought that experience. I lived in Matamata (farmlands), blink and you miss it…so you found yourself spending more time with the horses because it was a bit boring. Every gallop was done on times and most gallops were published in the newspaper, so I had to learn to time gallops and I believe that has helped me a lot with my pacing in a race. I was the stable apprentice so I had to go on the float with the horses and groom them for races. Muck out, feed, wash, groom and ride horses everyday…but I enjoyed that more than anything.

Do you think that coming into the game a little older than most apprentices gave you any advantage over your rivals? Well I did get to claim 4kg at the age of 24 so it did help me get winners quicker than I expected. I got to study sports management, which I have a diploma in and I know what it’s like to make a living by not being a jockey.

How well were you accepted by the other apprentices in SA due to the fact that you were older than them? The boys were a lot younger than me so I kept to myself more than anything. Luckily I got to meet Brandon Lerena in the academy and he is now my best friend. I did have a few privileges because of my age which did not go down too well with most the guys (don’t worry Derreck David I won’t give you away)…haha at least he is over it now.

Which trainers took you under their wing and encouraged you in the early days?  I have to say his name or I will be getting a phone call after he reads this-Lucky Houdalakis.  Seriously Mr Houdalakis kick started my career and was very good to me. I never even had to ride work for Mr Houdalakis (how times change).

When and where did you ride your first winner? 23 August 2008 at Turffontein, on Solar Voyager.

How many winners have you had to date? 112 winners.

Which do you consider to be the best horse you have won on to date? Galanthus.

You are now getting some nice rides from Geoff Woodruff. How did you become involved with him and is there any chance of your becoming stable jockey to his yard? Mr Woodruff is a great man and very loyal. He gave me a couple of rides and I managed to win on them and got to stay on them. I enjoy riding for Mr Woodruff, he has a great team and every horse you ride has a chance.

Which horse do you really like in the Woodruff stable? Forest is my boy and I also have a soft spot for The White Horse.

What chance is there that you will be riding in KZN during the winter season? If I was offered a job, I would love to start travelling again to KZN.

Which do you consider to be the best horse you have seen racing over the past season? Bold Silvano.

Is your family involved in racing in any way? My family own horses. Craig Peters (uncle), Sheldon Peters (cousin) and Billy Jacobson (cousin).

What is your ideal racing weight? 52 kg.

How easy is it for you to maintain your ideal weight? Fairly easy. I try to look after my weight as best as I can so I don’t have to waste.

What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game? The adrenalin that pumps through your body. The sound of the horses galloping. Individual pressure and success. The feeling a good horse gives you and achieving what you expect that horse to achieve.

How keen are you on the breeding side of horse racing? I am very keen on the breeding side of the sport. I used to love going to stud farms in New Zealand. If a horse gives me a good feel the first question I ask is, ‘what’s he/she by?’

Do you like to study pedigrees? Yes.

Which are your favourite stallions? Silvano, Black Mannaloushe and Jet Master.

Do you have any preference about riding in sprint races or in staying races? I prefer staying races.

Do you have a favourite racecourse in SA? I enjoy Greyville.

Do you ever advise friends or family to have a punt on a horse you really like? My family and friends never leave me out of a PA or Pick 6, so no need to tell them.

Which personalities in racing have had a big influence on your career and on your life? My late grandfather still has a big influence on my career, I know he is still shouting for me in every race, he phoned to congratulate me on every winner I rode and like my father, never misses a race.  I am a big Pierre Strydom fan. Gavin and Brandon Lerena always find the time to help me and keep me in line.

If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? Keep your name clean and your feet on the ground.

How do you like to spend your free time? Going out with friends, meeting new people, spending time with my family and lying on the couch watching Tellytrack and football.

Do you have a girl friend? Uuuummm…NO.

Apart from racing what else are you passionate about? Football and cooking.

If you could not be a jockey what else would you like to do with your life? I would have liked to play football.

How do you keep extra fit to give you an edge as a jockey? Gym.

What is your philosophy on the racing game? It is a tough industry; it does not wait for anyone. You have your highs and your lows and when you have your lows you need to pick yourself up before you get trampled on. I love the sport and could not imagine doing anything else.

If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Keep an open mind and accept criticism, even if you think the person is 95% wrong, there is still a remaining 5% that he is right.

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