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Patrick McGivern

The Cape Cossack

Patrick McGivern (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Patrick McGivern (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Popular former Cape heavyweight rider, Paddy McGivern recently made a comeback in racing. Not in the saddle, but he was back in the parade ring nevertheless, although this time he’s been keeping his feet firmly on the ground as the owner of the Dean Kannemeyer-trained Prudence Prevails.

Paddy purchased the filly’s racing career at a fundraising auction at a golf day, and chuckles that he bought her sight unseen, narrowly pipping underbidder Ticky Carr to the post. As there is always interest in what has happened to the stars of yesteryear, we caught up with the Cape Cossack.

About Paddy

Paddy was born and raised in Pinelands. His father came over from Ireland in 1948 and horses were in the blood. Paddy says ‘All Irish people ride.’ His father sold textiles and had sold some curtain material to Ivy Marsciano, who ran a local riding school and offered riding lessons in lieu of payment. “ We used to ride to the beach and gallop up and down. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday,” he reminisces. Mr Marsciano used to transport horses and it was via him that Paddy met the likes of Reggie Knight and Rick Stewart. “The first jockey I met was Johnny Barker.” He started riding work and was hooked. When Paddy decided he wanted to pursue a career as a jockey, he discussed it with his father, expressing the reservation that a professional jockey was a tough career choice to which his father responded, “But you ride horses all day anyway!” The rest is history.

Apprenticeship

Paddy remembers leaving for the Academy alongside Trevor Taylor. “We must have been 14 or 15 years old and met at Cape Town station. In those days you travelled by steam train and by the time we got there we were black with soot!” He joined the Mariannhill Academy alongside the likes of Vince Curtis, David Payne, Paddy Kruyer, Muis Roberts, Garth Puller, Kit Kensley, Michael Cave, Brian Deyes, Willem Ferreira, John Garcia and Gary Verne. His first three winners were for Hennie Coetzee, who he remembers as a ‘strict old man who always wore a bow tie’. His first boss, Heinie Schultz, passed away 6 months into his indentures, after which he transferred to Leslie Cawcutt. “Things were a bit different then. I was paid R10 per ride. Feature races were worth R2,500 and the Met stake was R30k!” He still rates Johnny Cawcutt as the best jockey he’s ever seen.

Paddy explains, “I always liked to ride for a stable, that’s where I was happiest. You got to know whats going in the yard. If you were with a stable, then if they did well, you did well. I didn’t like to freelance and have to chase rides. It’s difficult as a freelancer as you only get one chance to get it right, because in racing, the first person who gets blamed is the jockey, then the trainer – if they get that far!” he quips.

Paddy rode for the Peter Kannemeyer yard for a while, along with Garth Puller, before doing a stint in Mauritius in 1981. He also rode for Mike Bass for a long time as well as for James Lightheart. “In fact, the last race I ever rode was for Mr Lightheart,” he remembers.

Asked to name some of the best horses he rode, he lists ‘PK’s wonderful filly, Mrs Noah. “She was one of my favourites. She came to Kannemeyer as a 1 time winner. She won the Paddock and Southern Cross Stakes and was one of those horses that just did everything so easily. She was a sprinter, but had the class to win around the bend. Sadly she died at stud.” Another to get a mention is Termoli, who was the top priced filly at the National Sales and won the WP Nursery against the colts. She was owned by Piere van der Merwe, who owned the wine farm in Robertson that was sold to Graham Beck and is now known as Madiba. Other horses included Fillies Guineas winner, Have A Ball and Sweet Chestnut. “I never won the Met or the July, though,” he shrugs.

Near Miss

He did get close and smiles ruefully as he tells the story. “I’d ridden Queen’s Elect at his first ride back in the Christmas Handicap. The horse had had trouble in his near fore, but Mr Cawcutt said Dr Faull had sorted it out and asked me to ride the horse in the Met. I thought I knew better and turned it down.” Queen’s Elect won easily with Dana Siegenberg in the saddle.

Patrick McGivern - Miracle escape

Photos of the drama unfolding

However, the ride he is perhaps most famous for is a 1200m Progress race at Kenilworth on 3 March 1993. “I was riding a horse called Court Messenger. He was a miler, so it was short of his best, but he was being prepped for a feature later in the season and the instructions were to win if he was good enough, but not to cut him in half to get there. We jumped and got off to a good start and I left him alone in the early stages. At the 300m mark, he’d picked up the bridle and was travelling well. As we came off the false rail, I saw a lovely gap, We were going better than everything else around us, so I picked it up again to try and go through. As I did that Mark Khan, who was on one of the fancied runners, shifted in in front of Court Messenger. Normally you have to be a length or two clear before you move, otherwise it can cause an accident. He’s a good jockey, but in this instance he was hasty and just shifted without checking first. Court Messenger clipped heels and went down. Usually when a horse clips heels, their legs fold under him, but Court Messenger fell on his knees and somehow got his footing back. As he stumbled, I was shot forward, but then as he got up, his neck came up and I instinctively threw my arms around his neck and he kept galloping. I knew I had to fall off, but was trying to figure out how to do it without getting trampled as I was now hanging under his neck with my legs locked up around his wither.”

Acrobatics

“He then started angling towards the rail. I panicked and realised if he did run into the fence, I’d be the buffer, so I started to wriggle around and somehow managed to push myself back into the saddle. By the time we got to the post, I was back on and had my feet in the irons,” he says with some satisfaction. “It was more a case of self preservation. I was pretty angry about it at the time – we were both going for the same gap, but my horse was improving and I was sure I was going to win. Afterwards, all the guys made an honourary ‘avenue’ for me to walk through – it was quite emotional. The Cape Times likened the ride to something the Cossacks would have been proud of. It’s the only time I ever made the front page!” he says drily. “It’s amazing how much goes through your mind. I wasn’t scared – I was just trying to decide what to do next. Fortunately it all ended happily.”

Patrick McGivern - Miracle escape

Local newspapers were fascinated

Another highlight includes a stolen ride on the mighty Sea Cottage. “Paddy Kruyer was Syd Laird’s apprentice at the time. The rest of us were all terribly envious, because Paddy got to ride Sea Cottage in work. One day, when it was quiet and the groom was leading him around, I jumped up on his back for a few minutes. It’s amazing, I hardly remember what I had for breakfast, but I still remember that like it was yesterday.”

He also rode in the 1974 Jockey Invitational with the likes of Lester Piggot and Yves St Martin at Scottsville. The rest of the home side included Gerald Turner, Raymond Rhodes, Marty Schoeman and James Maree.

Style

Asked whether he had any riding heroes or modelled his style on anyone, he says no – “there wasn’t much opportunity to watch other riders on TV in the early days. The style was different though, with jockeys riding with longer stirrups and shorter reins. At one stage the senior riders were very upset about this young jockey who rode with very short stirrups and long reins, letting his horses bowl along. They were convinced it was dangerous and that he’d end up causing an accident.” The young rider was Jeff Lloyd. “I guess he was on to something,” concedes Patrick.

Paddy was eventually forced to give up due to injury. He was riding a Phantom Earl horse one day for Mike Bass. The horse was a real handful, fly leaping and ending up heading for the running rail. “He tried to jump the rail, but didn’t make it.” Paddy went to hospital and had a number of injections, but a few days later he was back and they found a fracture. “I was out for three months. I came back and rode a bit, but my back went into spasm.” After struggling with it on and off, he eventually retired from race riding in 1995 to join the family plastics business.

Life after racing

“While I was still riding, I invested in the family plastics business. It was just something I did at the time, but it turned out to be quite lucky. When I stopped riding, I joined the company in the sales section. After being a jockey all my life, it probably took me 5 years to get used to the change. I often thought about packing up and getting a job in a stable, but I eventually got the hang of it.”

They sold the business and after staying on as a director for a few years, Paddy retired again in 2011. He is no longer married, but has 2 daughters. He now spends his days playing golf, often joining his old boss, Mike Bass on the course.

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1 comment on “Patrick McGivern

  1. Edith Morgan says:

    Hi remember most of the jockeys as my late. Brother Domingo De Allende was a jockey and all the Great jockeys

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