A member of South Africa’s born free generation but not yet old enough to vote, this apprentice is learning his trade at the world class SA Jockey Academy. He has struck all the right chords early on and looks the real deal. 17 year old Kensington born Callan Murray is a star pupil and a popular and promising rider. With 11 winners to his name in no time, the fresh faced motorsport fanatic has the world at his feet and there are many that have observed that he has the stamp of a young Garth Puller.
What is your name?
Callan Rosser Murray
What is your star sign and birthdate?
Virgo and 24th of August
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Born in and grew up in Kensington Johannesburg
What High School did you attend?
Reddam House until Grade 9 and then I joined the South African Jockey Academy in Grade 10 and am currently doing Grade 12
Tell us about your family?
I have a relatively small and close immediate family with my Mom, Dad and older Sister. My immediate and extended family are very supportive of my racing.
Do you have a ‘nickname’?
Not any that I am aware of but a lot of my friends call me ‘Cal’
Horseracing and all types of Motorsport
Hobbies and pastimes?
Before coming to the Jockey Academy I used to ride Motocross and did this throughout my childhood
Which characteristic about yourself do you like the most?
My easy going personality and ability to talk to all types of people, which I believe helps me communicate with trainers.
Is there anything the public don’t know about Callan Murray that they may be interested in?
Not really, I’m a pretty open person.
How did you land up at the SA Jockey Academy and in what year are you in?
A family friend told me to apply and I’m currently in my 3rd year of my apprenticeship.
Sketch a typical day at the Academy.
We wake up at 4h00 and ride work from 4h30 till 9h30. Breakfast is at 10h00 and after that school starts at 10h20 and lunch time is at 13h00.
We finish school at 15h30 and stable duties are until 16h00 followed by gym until 17h00.
Dinner is from 17h30 to 18h00. Prep is from 18h30 to 19h30 and we have free until lights out at 21h00.
It’s a hectic schedule that we have to get used to but it prepares us well for the discipline to become jockeys.
Are you academically orientated ?
Yes I’m very focused on my academics at the academy as it is important to me to do well in my Matric year.
I got my Academic Achievement Badges in Grade 10 and received the Honours Blazer for Academic achievement last year in Grade 11 while at the Academy.
Tell us about the lifestyle at the academy and what are the obstacles that you face?
The lifestyle at the Academy is busy but good and I feel that I have adapted to it and have no problems atall.
Who are your riding masters?
Mr. Jupp and Mr O’Donoghue since I joined the Academy and from early this year I have also received riding instruction Mr. Coetzee and Mr. Curtis.
Do you feel that you are being properly prepared for such a testing career in terms of the counselling and life skills support that you are being given?
Yes I have received all the support required from the Academy and my family.
Being a jockey is tough and testing, but being an Apprentice is just as tough as it is a complete change of lifestyle. We also ride work and race ride like the senior jockeys but we also have gym, school, riding lessons and stable duties to fit in during the day. I’m completing my Matric this year so my school pressures are also significant but I’m managing it!
Which senior jockey do you model yourself on and why?
I would say Pierre Strydom and Brandon Lerena. I really like their riding styles and admire their dedication to the profession and to the sport of horseracing.
Tell us about your very first ride.
My first ride was Captain Lars for Mr. De Kock. It was extremely exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I rode a good race and ran fifth. The horse did improve after this by winning three in a row after I rode him. I also had another runner on the same day, Two Tone Rocka for Miss Whitehead and finished third.
How many winners have you ridden so far?
To date I have ridden 11 winners
What is your riding weight and do you have a problem with diet?
I am fortunate that I can ride bottom weight at 46Kgs and do not have any problems with my diet or maintaining my weight.
Tell us about your first winner?
My first winner was my third ride at my second race meeting at Clairwood aboard Tenessee Strategy for Mr. Laird in the colours of Mr.and Mrs Jooste, which made it even more special for me. It was a 1000m sprint and it all happened very fast, but he went to the front and stayed there until the finish. It was a thrill!
Have you won an apprentice race and tell us how these races are approached by the guys.
Yes I won on Dizzy Feet for Mr. Kotzen at Scottsville. We all treat the Apprentice Races just like any other race and we are all trying to win.
How do you feel about the ‘new’ Greyville?
I think long term it will be good for racing to have both tracks at Greyville. All apprentices enjoy riding at Greyville as the races are very exciting. It is a very different type of racecourse that tests all of ones skills.
You rode in the apprentice race at Greyville on Saturday. It was quite a rough race by the look of it.How did you come out of it?
I was drawn wide on Mr President for Mr Campbell. I jumped out and managed to place my horse near the back of the field, I moved out to the outside at the top of the straight for a clear run and he stayed on for 6th place. I saw a lot of scrimmaging going on in the straight on the inside part of the course but can’t really comment on it too much as I was out of te trouble on the outside and was concentrating on trying to get my ride to quicken up.
Describe a race and how do the established jockeys treat you?
One has to really concentrate during races as everything happens very quickly. I do get a lot assistance and advice from the Senior Jockeys.
Are you a senior jockey’s kit boy or assistant?
Yes for MJ Odendaal and he teaches me a lot and helps me with my race rides.
When the riding instructions you have been given happen to unravel and go wrong in a race, what attitude do you adopt?
I always listen to the instructions I’m given by the trainer. But races are dynamic and things go wrong. If it goes wrong I give them my feedback and apologise if it is due to an error by me.
I also appreciate all the feedback trainers give me as it allows me to keep on improving.
Do you provide family and friends with tips?
No as I’m not a betting person at all.
Which trainers have given you the most opportunities so far?
Mr. Glen Kotzen and Mr Robbie Hill, but I have been very fortunate to receive many opportunities from all of the trainers and I’m grateful for all the support I have received. We can’t progress without the opportunities of race riding.
Have you been called in by the Stipes for anything?
Yes for causing interference and I received a warning. The feedback from the Stipendiary Stewards is important for me as they highlight my errors and this allows me to correct them and to develop my riding.
Do you believe that besides riding winners, a jockey should market and project himself properly?
Definitely! Being a jockey is like running your own business and you have to sell and market yourself properly.
The Champions Season has just begun. If you had a choice of which horse you would like to ride during the season, who would it be?
I think that Legislate for Mr. Snaith will make a big impact on Champions Season. He won the KRA Guineas so well on Saturday and would be a horse I would love to ride this Champions Season.
How many times a week do you ride work?
I ride work six days a week, like most of my fellow apprentices. But I have chosen to ride additional work on Sunday for Mr. Hill and any other trainers who need my help, so I effectively ride work 7 days a week. I believe it will pay dividends in the long run.
Riding work and races obviously keeps you very fit. Do you do anything extra to keep yourself super fit?
We have gym sessions four times a week at the Academy under the guidance of our Biokineticist Miss Sneyd and then we also do a lot of work on the Equisizer with the Riding Masters.
Racing is a physically and mentally tough game. Do you find that obnoxious and rude people affect you?
There are tests and distractions in all facets of life. II don’t let it affect me at all and continue to try and focus on my riding.
You appear to have plenty of confidence and come across well in front of the camera.Is that rehearsed or have you been coached?
I am very fortunate. My family and upbringing as well as my schooling from an early age have given me the confidence and skills to project myself. Public speaking comes quite naturally to me due to my personality and overall confidence and I enjoy being interviewed on camera.
Where does Callan Murray see himself in ten years from now?
I would really love to be riding overseas in Hong Kong or Dubai, and making a good name for myself.
This is such a wonderful game of great opportunity. Just look at Variety Club’s win in Hong Kong and the national anthem being played afterwards. If that doesn’t inspire all of us, then surely nothing will!