After riding a career first treble at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Monday, 17 year old apprentice Donald Geerthsen spent the Youth Day public holiday on Thursday with his head buried deep in his matric text books in preparation for the forthcoming exams.
The former Pretoria Boys High School pupil celebrates his 18th birthday on 22 September, and while focussed on the physics and maths and other mildly exciting subjects that will give him a certificate to fall back on one day, he told the Sporting Post that he was still on cloud nine after his milestone day on Monday.
Now sponsored by Stergio Poriazis’ P.A.G Cleaning Services, Donald won at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Enid’s Girl and Action Stations for Paul Lafferty, and Priceless Ruler for Dennis Drier.
Two of his three winners were 10-1 shots, so his super achievement definitely wasn’t a case of ‘armchair pointers’.
He explains that he went to races feeling he had some decent mounts on the day.
“I also hadn’t ridden a winner for about a month, so was very eager to get into the number 1 box. In the end, I was absolutely thrilled to get three! It’s a terrific feeling to thank the owners and trainers that support me, and it’s a personal confidence booster in a very competitive environment,” he adds.
Watch the 13 June raceday recap here:
We can sense that the extremely polite youngster has come on leaps and bounds in maturity and overall confidence, since we chatted to him on the occasion of his first winner at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in June last year. His seat has improved dramatically, too.
“It is all about opportunity and experience. One gets stronger and every race is a learning experience. I don’t think I have a particular ‘style’ but I’m working on improving and we get plenty of feedback and tutoring. I am really enjoying this wonderful career opportunity,” he says with an air of maturity.
And much on a par with his pursuit of a matriculation certificate this year, the 4kg-claimer says that hard work is the key.
“I try and get around and ride as much work as possible. I enjoy support from some top yards, including Mr Dennis Drier, Mr Humby – who gave me my first winner, Mr Mike Miller, Mr Lafferty, and the Badenhorst Kennedy stable. It makes a difference having the backing and I appreciate everybody’s help.”
Donald says that the emigration of Donovan Dillon to Australia means that there could also be more opportunities at the Humby yard.
We asked if he had read Paul Lafferty’s recently published best-seller, ‘Play The Laff’.
“Not yet as racing and studies take up a lot of my time. But I must say that Mr Lafferty is a really nice guy – very funny and always witty. He encourages me and I am very proud to have had 2 winners in my big treble for him,” adds Donald.
Asked if he had considered travelling, he says that he will be upping his game in respect of travelling after the exams.
“I have ridden a winner at the Vaal. I was fortunate to get an opportunity to ride at Fairview. Shew – they go fast on the polytrack! I would love to go back there as I will be a lot smarter this time. I haven’t ridden in the Cape yet. But will get my turn as my career progresses.”
As to life at the SA Jockey Academy, Donald says he has adjusted well and fits into the discipline and routine at one of the world’s most highly regarded jockey training institutions.
“Life is good and I enjoy my training. I have good friends, including Kyle Strydom and Gabriell Pieterse, and there is a lot of camaraderie and unity amongst the learners.”
Donald, who tells us how he got his first introduction to horses as a showjumper at the age of 7, has family in Pietermaritzburg, where he spends his off weekends – albeit lesser time these days as his schedule has gotten busier.
“I still get to see my Uncle James and Aunt Nicci Crawford, and my cousins Tye, Layla and Faye in Clarendon, but I have more rides these days – thankfully!”
Asked what he will be doing on Father’s Day on Sunday, Donald says that he won’t be getting to Pretoria to spend time with his Dad Klaus and Mom Jean.
“I sent Mom some cash, so that she can buy Dad something. It’s not much of a surprise if he reads this in the Sporting Post, before then. But it’s the thought that counts.”
Good luck with your matric slog, Donald!