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Lucky Houdalakis

Lucky Houdalakis

Lucky Houdalakis

MICHAEL ‘LUCKY’ HOUDALAKIS is yet another former professional jockey that has made the successful transition to training racehorses. Initially, training was not part of his plans but thanks to persuasion from his wife and owner Coenie Strydom, he obtained his licence in 2006. His new career then took off at full tilt, when just over a year later, the great sprinter, J J The Jet Plane found Houdalakis and the son of Jet Master credited him with 6 Grade 1 victories, including the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint. Things have steadied for the Vaal based conditioner since his star charge’s retirement, but he still managed to notch up a seasonal best 42 wins, last term, and is only a handful of winners shy of eclipsing that feat, this time around. Lucky will be represented by RAISE THE RED in one of this weekend’s juvenile features, the Listed Storm Bird Stakes and reading between the lines, he rates the colt and expects good things from him, especially after he is gelded. WINNING FORM, SPORTING POST and HOLLYWOODBETS.NET wishes Lucky Houdalakis Racing Stables all the best for this upcoming weekend and in his future endeavours.

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What is your name?  Michael Nicholas Houdalakis.

What is your star sign and birthdate?  I am a cancer (Good Guys) and I was born on 27 June 1963.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?  I was born in Egypt and grew up in South Africa from 6 months old.

Where do you live? Vereeniging – Three Rivers.

Tell us about your family?   I am married to Natalie, my pillar of strength and we have two children, CJ and Lexi.

Do you have a ‘nickname’?  Lucky.

Favourite food?   When I look in the mirror, I guess everything.

Favourite drink?  Amstel.

Favourite music?  Greek.

 Favourite book?  Computaform.

Favourite sport?  Most sport but if I had to pick one it would have to be rugby.

Favourite soccer team?  Manchester United.

Favourite holiday destination?  Game Reserves.

Favourite racecourse?  Sha Tin (LOL!) I don’t really have a preference.

Mention some of your hobbies?  I like playing golf and going fishing.

What is the characteristic you like most about yourself?  I am honest and straight forward. What you see is what you get.

Is there anything the public don’t know about Lucky Houdalakis that they would be interested to know?   No, I’m just lucky.

Who is the one person that you would love to meet and why?  I have met her already and I married her.

Where did you go to school?  Roseneath Primary and then went to KES.

What did you do once you completed schooling?  I went to the Jockey Academy.

Where did your interest in horseracing begin?  My uncle suggested that I give it a go. I knew nothing about the sport before getting into it.

Can you share some of your earliest happy memories of the sport?  Meeting all the greats of the game when the International Jockeys Challenge was on.

You started off your horseracing career as a jockey. Tell us about that stage of your life and some of the more memorable achievements? Obviously to start riding in races, my first winner, going to Durban as an appie and winning the St. Petzia.

Mention some of the country’s top jockeys that you competed against?  All of them. They became good, only because I retired.

How long were you in the saddle for and what was the best horse you rode?  I rode for +- 27 years. My best horse that I rode was in Macau but I rode Goldmark and Smoglers Den.

How many graded or feature winners did you ride?  I don’t remember but it was just a handful.

What was the total number of winners you had in your career?  +- 600 winners.

What caused you to retire as a jockey?  Got a kick from a horse that shattered my shin bone. I did 2 ½ years of rehab but it didn’t come right.

When did you decide you would like to become a racehorse trainer?  I didn’t really want to become a trainer but my wife and Coenie Strydom decided to throw me into the deep end.

Who was the first trainer you worked for? How long were you with him and how valuable was that experience?  I never worked for anyone, as I said, I went straight into the deep end.

What year did you take out your trainer’s licence and how many horses did you start with?  I took it out in 2006 and started with 4 horses.  

Where did you start your training career?  On James Maree’s farm.

Do you recall having your first runner as a trainer and your first winner? My first runner was Mutual Secret. My first winner was Man’s Mood who went on to win me six races.

Your name has become synonymous with the great globetrotting sprinter, J J The Jet Plane. Tell us about your time with him and his amazing achievements? Too much to tell on here. It was a sad day at Clairwood when I handed him over to Mike de Kock. Then when he came back to South Africa, my real journey began.

Were you present at any of his overseas races?  I was present at all four. When he was with me, twice when he was with Mike de Kock and once when he was with Richard Hannon.

What has a horse like him done for your career as a trainer?  I guess it makes you believe in yourself. Also, getting praise from the master Mike de Kock means a lot.

Where is he now and do you ever visit him?  He’s at Balmoral Stud in Mooi River with Marc and Nicola Coppez. I go and visit him when I visit my babies.

Are you a man that keeps up with your statistics? If so, what is the total number of winners you have had as a trainer?  No, I’m not but I am told its 252 winners in South Africa and 3 international winners.

How many of those were graded or feature winners, and in particular Grade 1 winners?  I have won 17 graded/feature races with 6 of those being Grade 1 winners, thanks to J J The Jet Plane.

Have you had runners in any of South Africa’s big three races i.e. the July, Met and Summer Cup? No, not yet, but it’s coming.

What is the most number of winners you have had in a season and your best finishing position on the National and provincial logs?  2012 – 2013 season I had 42 winners. I am not sure what my best finishing position on the National and Provincial logs have been.

Tell us about the most number of winners you have had in a day?  The most number of winners I have had in a day is three which was on the inside course at Turffontein on 26 January 2013. The horses were Essenelles, Virginia Sound and Demanding Lady.

Where are your stables currently based and how many horses do you have in your care? I train at the Vaal Racecourse where I have 75 horses. I also still have babies on the farm.

Does the Houdalakis yard have a marketing team or a website?  Natalie and her sister Tracy are my marketing team. We have a website which is www.luckyhracing.com and you can also find us on Facebook, just search for Lucky Houdalakis Racing Stables.

What can the Houdalakis stable offer to any potential clients?  120% honesty and all our heart and souls.

What training aids does the stable have for their horses?  We utilize Equine Therapies such as Bemer, Equine Massage Therapy, Nebulizers, Ice Boots and Ice Machines etc.

You have had some top jockeys ride for you over the years. Who would be the one jockey that stands out in your mind as being closest to the ‘perfect’ package? I try to use the best. If I had to pick one out it would have to be the Dutchman (Striker). There are also certain horses I identify for S’manga who has natural ability.

You seem to have a decent string of horses at the moment. This weekend there are six feature races at Turffontein. In the Ruffian Stakes you have entered SILENT RUSH. Tell us about the daughter of Windrush? It was all about how she ran on Saturday (1 March 2014). She ran well but she’s a tiny filly and I will decide at a later time if she will take part in the race or not. I am not a fan of running a baby so close together.

In the other juvenile feature you have nominated RAISE THE RED who was a facile debut winner but was second best, next time out. What sort of potential has he shown you and tell us about his temperament?  He’s got a wonderful temperament. We’ve discovered that he is big so a gelding is not too far away.

What feedback did Piere Strydom give you after his second outing and what do you think his optimum distance will be?  I felt that I could’ve had him better. I told Striker to ride him out but don’t kill him.

Mention some of the horses from your yard that the public could follow during the Gauteng season?  I don’t think I have many that are strong enough for this Gauteng season.

The KZN season is not too far away. Will you be raiding during the season? If so, which horses will you be taking to compete?  I am hoping for Demanding Lady to come back to herself.

Do you have any assistance when buying yearlings or older horses at the sales or off the stud farms?  No I don’t.

When purchasing horses, what are the main characteristics you look for?  I look at the specimen itself.

Which is your favourite stallion, or stallions, at the moment?  I have always liked Captain Al, Dynasty and also Silvano.

Are there any stud farms you like to visit to see the ‘babies’ before the various sales?  I would love to visit all of them but it is just difficult to do it living in Johannesburg.

What other members of your family are really keen on racing?  Nobody other than Natalie and my father-in-law, Trevor Lange.

Tell us about a typical training day in the life of Lucky Houdalakis?  It’s the same every day. Go to stables in the morning and if there is racing I go racing but only if I have runners on the day.

What is the most memorable day you have had in racing?  Had to have been when J J The Jet Plane won the Hong Kong Sprint.

How do you celebrate a really successful day?  It depends on who is there. Normally a few drinks with the owners and then go home and plot for another one.

Is there any particular moment in the sport that you regret? The day I got kicked and it ended my riding career.

If you were pushed for an answer, right now, which horse in South Africa would you tip to win the Vodacom Durban July?  Not sure what’s running but I hope it’s standing in my yard.

Have you heard the news that Multichoice will be terminating the contract with Tellytrack from 26 March 2014? What are your thoughts on this?  I hope Phumelela can sort something out because we need it. My father-in-law will go into depression.

What changes would you like to see happen in South African horseracing?  Stakes is the obvious one but I’m not in the position to know if they can or can’t increase.

What has been the most valuable life lesson you have learnt?  Hard work never killed anyone.

What is the best advice you have been given?  Believe in yourself.

The saying is “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman”. Does this apply to Lucky Houdalakis? Definitely! Natalie is the engine behind this operation.

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