After riding 6 winners on the Kenilworth card on Wednesday, 11 January, Aldo Domeyer joined a select band of jockeys by adding another Super Six on Saturday, 27 May 2017. The achievement included a very special double for the Bass yard, Mayfair Speculators and What A Winter, and underlined Aldo’s appointment as the Bass team’s first call jockey.
Mike Bass has an eye for horses, but he also has an eye for talent and hard work and it was telling that Aldo slotted in at Block T3, Koeberg Road fairly early on. Friendly and eager, but slightly self-conscious to begin with, it took Aldo a few years to really find his comfort zone. Not that he wasn’t where he belonged, but it seemed to take him a while to realise he really deserved to be there.
It is easy to forget the young rider was once told he didn’t have a future as a jockey and that he had to fight his way back into the jockey academy after months of hard slog in the work rider ranks.
The 2013 J&B Met on Martial Eagle should have been a coming of age and an arrival of sorts, but that was 4 years ago and while it did signal that he had the composure and BMT to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best, it was the subsequent hard work and dedication, the subtle fine tuning of his skills that has really marked his arrival as a serious contender. Gone the blonde hair, diamond earring and half defiant, half self-conscious young man and in his place a new, mature and relaxed professional who is getting comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps not a seasoned master just yet, but he is certainly getting there. Apart from the new-found confidence, the other qualities that immediately stand out are his genuine kindness and a profound gratitude for the opportunities life is offering him.
Aldo is very quick to pay tribute to all the support from the Plattner team. “I’ve been with the Plattner yard since my career started and I must say, Andre has been phenomenal. When he first took over, I didn’t know what to expect, but he asked me to stay on. Bit by bit we took the walk together and everything fell into place. He had all the faith in the world in me and that’s something money can’t buy. When he speaks to you in the parade ring, he gives you unparalleled confidence and you go out of the ring feeling like you can do anything. If you ever did make a mistake, it was OK and in that way less mistakes were made. I can’t thank him and Mrs Plattner enough for where they’ve taken me. When the opportunity at the Bass yard came up, Andre said they would probably approach me and if they did, I shouldn’t turn it down. I thought that was really noble,” he says gratefully.
In terms of getting the ‘big job’ at Team Bass-Robinson, he says, “It wasn’t really a big step to take. I’ve been there for years and basically it feels like I’m in my place. I was obviously a bit disappointed that I didn’t get it when it first became available, but everything happens for a reason. I feel more capable and fit now than I did at the time. I have had the opportunity to grow as a rider with Andre and the Plattner support. I feel more comfortable with myself and as a rider – not in the sense that I can relax,” he adds hastily, “but in terms of my self belief. I trust myself more and have more confidence that the decisions I make are the right ones more often than not.” Joking that it’s a skill a lot of people would envy, he smiles, “ You just have to have a bit of faith, I guess.”
Are things different with Candice in charge? “Not really. Mr Bass is still around, which is great. He has the world of confidence in Candice and obviously we trust his judgement. Everyone in Candice’s team believes in her and that confidence relays and as time goes by, one can see her growing in confidence and that’s something nice to feed off. She believes in the team, and the team believes in her and it has a snowball effect. Also she’s a natural horseman, which makes the job easier.”
Second Set of Six
From the 10 race card, Aldo had 9 rides (the other race being a work riders’ event) and of his 9 rides, he brought home 6 winners, a 2nd, a 3rd and a 4th. “With Gavin Lerena in the UK, I hinted to Greg Cheyne that he should have a go at the title and it was actually Greg that mentioned the 27th was coming up and that a lot of jockeys weren’t going to be around. He said ‘make sure you’re one step ahead when the day comes.’ So I pencilled it in as I had two strong rides in the juvenile features and thought I might as well try and make the most of it. The minute the noms came in, I got on the phone looking for the best rides. I did get a lot of favourites on the day, but at the same time the favourites don’t always win. I basically had a job to do and by God’s grace, it all worked out for me.”
Had he anticipated a good day at the office? “It was unexpected, but very welcome,” he says modestly. “To be honest, I was focussing on the two Nurseries as those were races we were aiming for before the winter season started, so it was nice that it worked out. It’s always easier when you’ve got good horses, but there have been a lot of viral infections in Milnerton and Candice did very well to work around that before it took hold in the yard,” he says admiringly.
The Day’s Haul
Aldo won the first on the day’s card aboard Weekend Warrior for the Greg Ennion yard. “He’s a horse I watched last time out and he’d put up a phenomenal time. I went to work him and was impressed with what I felt, so I was expecting a good run.”
He missed out by less than half a length in race 2 after the horse that finished 3rd carried him out on Time To Think and Aldo says, “I think I was a little unfortunate not to win that one as well, but I’m very happy Jason Smitsdorff had a winner, so I wouldn’t change the result even if you asked me!”
There was only a small field of 6 for the Listed Fillies Nursery and Aldo comments, “With a lot of the regular riders away, the pace was altered quite significantly. Magical Wonderland ran the 1200m a few seconds slower than on her last outing, so I had to change the way I was riding. It was risky going more handy, but I was confident I was on the best horse. I thought I’ll just have to get away from the rest and trust her to win from there and that’s what I did. She quickened aggressively, which I know she is capable of, and won impressively. She’s an exciting filly. She does need to strengthen up and improve to be a solid contender for the bigger races, but they can only start off in the right direction and she’s doing everything right so far.”
He was also full of praise for the Colts Nursery winner, Dutch Philip. “I often get scolded for spending a lot of time on his back, but he’s one of those horses that gets you up early in the morning. One builds a connection with all the horses you ride, but you develop a certain bond with some of them – it’s just something that happens. It’s nice to build a relationship like that with a horse and I have that with him. He’s one of those that just creeps into your heart. He does everything right and has a good nature – all the signs you look for in a horse.”
The double for What A Winter is also rather fun, particularly as Aldo rode What A Winter on his debut win. What does he think of the progeny so far? “I haven’t sat on a bad one yet!” he quips. Asked whether he thinks they will be sprinters like their sire or may go further, he answers, “They are quite versatile. The way they quicken, one doesn’t know yet whether they will go further than a mile, but the way they relax suggests they will.”
Following his Nursery triumphs, Aldo won the last 3 races on the card, finishing the afternoon with 5 in a row. Did he realise he’d won 6 in total? “I wasn’t even aware of that. Basically I was focussing on the features and wasn’t looking further than that. I thought anything else would be a bonus. I was obviously happy at the time, but the proper emotion kicks in a day or so afterwards. It just puts you in a really good space. Being able to ride horses like this and have days like this, it makes me feel grateful more than anything else.”
“There are a lot of people that helped me get where I am today. From Yogas Govender and Mrs Plattner to Andre Nel and Mr Marshall who picked me up when not many others would and especially my uncle who gave up his job during cold winters to get me to track when I was nothing but a young boy chasing a pie in the sky. Every now and then you have these moments that make you realise you’re living your dream.”
Were there any special messages from his father, Andrew Fortune? “My dad was very happy. He called me three days in a row to say well done. It’s a nice change from the lectures I used to get!” he laughs. “Of course he says ‘you got it from your father’”. Commenting on how proud Andrew is of his son, Aldo muses, “He says he hopes one day I can experience what he has as a father. Hopefully I’ll get there as well one day. As I finished the last race, the best part was knowing I could go and enjoy the following day with my son. It was the cherry on the cake. We went sand boarding in the dunes the next day, just the two of us, and it was awesome.”