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A Future Champion

Kyle's got racing running through his veins

Were you born between 2002-2005? Are you sporty, fit, brave, not scared of animals and love speed? Do you weigh no more than 47kg and are no taller than 166cm? If you are South African, then this is your chance!

For most of us reading the intro, the specs listed are a hazy dream of a long-lost youth.

But for anybody fitting the parameters, the SA Jockey Academy Recruitment team are on their way to Johannesburg and will be in the City of Gold in May, while also visiting Cape Town.

Please email [email protected] for dates and venues, and an application form or to make enquiries.

A young man who says he would absolutely recommend a career in the riding ranks to anybody who asks, is 19 year old Kyle Strydom who rode the 40th winner of his short career at Hollywoodbets Greyville on 24 March.

Suntrax gives Kyle his 40th winner (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

After getting the best out of the mostly formless 20-1 shot Suntrax for veteran Gauteng trainer Tony Nassif, Kyle now claims a 1,5 kg discount until he has ridden his 60th winner.

“I come from a family steeped in horseracing. So I would guess that, as opposed to guys who have never sat on a horse and don’t even know where the racecourses are, that my introduction to the game has been eased by professional support, a feel for the sport and an understanding of the unique quirks of a great game,” says a modest Kyle as he chats to the Sporting Post.

Nobody is arguing that Kyle doesn’t have regal international class racing blood coursing through his veins.

But having a family tree that includes a Grandpa, Hekkie, and a Dad called Jacques training horses, as well as an Uncle Piere aka ‘Striker’, who is a multiple champion and one of the greatest jockeys we have had the joy of watching, must come with pressures?

Kyle in the IRC silks (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“There are perceptions and expectations when I meet people. But that’s to be expected. But it’s a really nice pressure to have and I’m very proud of the achievements of all my family in racing.”

With the reigning SA Champion Apprentice, high-riding Cape Town Met and SA Triple Crown winning rider Luke Ferraris now a qualified jockey, Kyle’s ambitions are set on lifting the national champion title in his first full season of riding this term.

While his first amateur winner came at Fairview on 9 August 2019 on Flame Up for his Dad,  Kyle’s come a long way since his June 2020 professional debut at Hollywoodbets Scottsville, which was a highlight for the family – it was a dream start!

“I was so excited and managed to win my second professional ride on Transonic for Mr Dennis Bosch. It was the most thrilling experience. I have just wanted to win more and I must say that 39 winners later, the enjoyment and excitement is growing.”

Watch the first winner here

A fall a few weeks after his sensational debut was to set Kyle back for the month of July 2020, but he has come out firing this season and he carries on a longstanding tradition of the seaport city of Port Elizabeth being nursery of SA champion jockeys over the years.

Piere Strydom and Warren Kennedy are two of the most recent that spring to mind.

Kyle’s maiden season gathered momentum when he rode the 50-1 last double – a career first – at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in September 2020.

kyle with the mandatory mask (Pic- Candiese Lenferna)

Lavu Lavu won for Louis Goosen, while Kyle’s ride on Juniper Spring for Kumaran Naidoo from the worst draw was vintage ‘Striker stuff’. It was a double celebration as Lavu Lavu races in the Suzette Viljoen silks – and her son Izak’s business Ludeim is Kyle’s sponsor.

Showing a maturity that belies his years, Kyle spoke about the vital aspect of support that a young jockey leans on.

Chatting about key people who have made a difference in his career, he says that Dennis Bosch, who gave him his first winner, Louis Goosen, and Garth Puller, have all been mentors and supporters. He says that he also chats to Dad Jacques, Mom Dalene and elder sister Johane, most days.

“From family to sponsors to owners and trainers – we are very reliant on support but need to nurture relationships and reciprocate too, I believe. Ludeim have been fantastic as a sponsor who show an interest in my progress. It’s a privilege to enjoy the association and it gives one a sense of confidence,” he adds.

While his predecessors Lyle Hewitson and Luke Ferraris were travelling from early and enjoying support of powerful stables, Kyle does not have those luxuries – but is not far behind them at a similar stage of his career.

“I work hard and do my utmost to maintain a professional attitude at all times. I have been home a few times but haven’t travelled that much in view of the Covid-19 restrictions. And then also the cost is a factor – one needs rides to pay for flights. With the SA Champions Season almost here, I am definitely going to try and travel more as the leading senior jocks are in town and rides in numbers are not easy to find.”

Kyle says that he had requested a transfer to the Gauteng academy as he felt he would be able to ride more in that province.

“There was no place available for me. I enjoy KZN though, and we have a great team at the SA Jockey Academy.”

The Pearson High School graduate, who admits that he ‘preferred’ athletics and hockey to mathematics and history in his school days, arrived at the Academy on 6 January 2020 as a post-matric student.

Having come through the workrider ranks, he followed much the same route as subsequent SA Champion Lyle Hewitson.

Kyle is tall for a jockey and his minimum riding weight is 53kgs.

“Being tall, I have to adapt my riding style and have used Bernard Fayd’herbe and Donovan Dillon as yardsticks. As one does in golf, I want to use my height to optimise my ability to extract the best out of every horse,” he adds.

A recent interference related suspension means that Kyle will be off from Tuesday 6 April for seven days.

“I pleaded not guilty but was found guilty. But the suspension doesn’t kick in till the Inquiry Review Board looks at the finding. So I decided to rather change my plea and signed an admission of guilt on Monday. That way I only miss one meeting, as opposed to waiting for it to come up when I least expect it – and then maybe miss three racemeetings.”

The Future Is Bright!

In March, the SA Jockey Academy staff and apprentices spent the day at the Hollywoodbets Team Support office in Umhlanga.

Through their ‘My Community’ initiative and their ‘Future is Bright’ project Hollywoodbets is supporting 16 apprentices with full bursaries to invest in their racing future – as well as providing the much needed funds to replace the Academy tractor.

“As an Academy we are eternally grateful and touched by this incredible contribution. This is the second year our apprentices have received bursaries from Hollywoodbets and we are truly grateful for this special partnership. A very big thank you to the Hollywoodbets team for a wonderful day out for the Academy and for the continued support and contribution to the sport of horse racing,” said Principal Graham Bailey.

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