KARIS TEETAN at the tender age of fourteen was one of two youngsters selected from 102 Mauritian lads to join the South African Jockey Academy in 2004. After initially finding it tough due to the language barrier, Karis, with the help of many at the academy and generally in horseracing, has risen to prominence and has passed the 100 winners mark in every season since becoming a fully-fledged jockey. He completed his apprenticeship in 2009 and totalled 147 winners during this time. He is now closing in on 500 winners in his career. Karis is a very focused and hard-working young man with an excellent brain. During this interview he often took time out to thank everyone who has been so instrumental in his success to date. That alone says a lot about this young man who is mature beyond his age. The likeable Teetan, is currently having his greatest season to date and attempts to win his fourth Grade 1 of this campaign as he partners, the champion son of Dynasty, and firm Vodacom Durban July favourite JACKSON in a bid to land South Africa’s most prestigious race. He is having his fourth attempt in the race so would have gained invaluable experience along the way. WINNING FORM and HOLLYWOODBETS.NET wish Karis Teetan everything of the best in the race.
What is your name and age? Karis Teetan and I am 22 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Gemini, 3 June 1990.
Where were you born? Mauritius.
Where do you live? Cape Town.
Tell us about your family? My mum is Rita and my dad is Pravin. I have two brothers Mervin (1st year at the Summerveld Academy) and Hansley. Other than Mervin, the rest of my family reside in Mauritius.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? None that I know of.
Favourite food? Pizza or Chinese food.
Favourite drink? Coke.
Favourite music? Any relaxing music.
Favourite sport? Horseracing and soccer.
Favourite soccer team? Manchester United and Wayne Rooney all the way! Argentina in World Cups – Lionel Messi is the greatest.
Favourite holiday destination? I would love to travel to Manchester, England, and visit Old Trafford.
Whilst an apprentice you wanted to buy a Golf GTI. Did you eventually buy that car and what car do you now own? Unfortunately, I didn’t, but when I came out of my apprentice I bought a 1.4 Polo. I now own a VW Scirocco.
How did you become involved in horseracing? As you can see on television, horseracing is in the blood of most Mauritians. I grew up loving horses and my dad’s friends owned horses so I used to ride for fun when I was very young. I have always had great respect and passion for the thoroughbred.
Where did you start your apprenticeship and what year was it? I used to ride at a Pony Club in Mauritius and was also part of the showjumping set-up. In 2004 the Mauritus Turf Club assisted in bringing Patrick Salvage (then Headmaster of South Africa Jockey Academy) across to select a few promising youngsters to bring back to South Africa. Roby Bheekary and I were lucky enough to be chosen out of 102 entrants.
Being a Mauritian, how tough was it to break into South African racing? It was very hard as I was young and could hardly speak English. However, two things helped me a lot. The first was having a fellow Mauritian, Roby Bheekary with me, which helped a great deal – I thank him a lot. The second was the unbelievable support I received from everyone at the academy. It is a really professional set-up and everyone is so supportive. It didn’t take me long to make myself at home. I will forever be appreciative of everyone who helped me along the way. We have some really wonderful people in our sport.
Tell us about your stay at the academy? Once again, it wasn’t easy. You work really hard in the mornings and have your particular chores that need to be carried out meticulously. No one said that getting to the top will be easy. Hard work always pays off!
Who were your fellow apprentices at the academy? Dereck David, Roby Bheekary, Lucian Africa, Andile Mlaba and Donovan Howells.
How long did it take you to have your first ride and tell us about it? It was in my 2nd year. I rode a horse for Mr. Tony Rivalland at Clairwood Park and finished in midfield. It was an unbelievable experience and a great thrill.
Tell us about your first winner and what did it feel like? My first winner was on a horse called Step With Style for trainer Paul Lafferty at Scottsville in 2005. I can’t explain the feeling. It was out of this world. There isn’t anything better. It was a childhood dream that was finally realized.
Which trainers supported you in your early years? I had great support from Paul Lafferty, Patrick Lunn, Gavin van Zyl, Herman Brown and Tony Rivalland. I thank them as well as all the other trainers for giving me all the chances early on in my career.
When did you complete your apprenticeship and what was the total number of winners that you had during that time? I completed my apprenticeship in 2009 with 147 winners.
You moved to Cape Town shortly after completing your apprenticeship. It didn’t take you long to settle in and you were quickly hunted by the various stables. What year did you move and which trainers gave you your first break in the Mother City? Actually, it was in my 5th year. I was kindly offered a job by Mr. Glen Kotzen to ride for him in Cape Town. I wasn’t even riding for him at the time, yet he showed great faith and confidence in me. Once again, I am really grateful to him. Of course, during my stay with the Kotzen yard I rode the great Big City Life and finished third on him behind the champion Pocket Power in the Queen’s Plate of 2010. He showed his class right through his career and even in his final race. Thanks very much to his owners for allowing me the privilege of riding him!
Mention some of the big races that you won in Cape Town? I recently won the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes on Thunder Dance and the Grade 1 Cape Derby with Jackson. I won the then Ocean Basket Green Point Stakes with Fabiani, the Grade 2 Diadem Stakes with Thunder Key, The Merchants at Turffontein with Arabian Mist and the Winter Guineas with Chesalon. I also won both of Zimbabwe’s biggest races, the Castle Tankard and OK Grand Challenge aboard the former South African runner Grisham.
You also ride in Port Elizabeth and have struck up a wonderful relationship with Yvette Bremner. Do you enjoy riding there and what features have you won there? I love PE and all the friendly people there. I have been doing it for two years and it feels like home away from home. Yvette and Mr. Hedley McGrath have been really good to me. I am very grateful for their support as well as that of all the other owners in PE. I was champion jockey there last season. I won PE’s biggest race, the Algoa Cup twice in consecutive years with Hawk’s Eye for trainer Joey Ramsden and Forest Of Dean for Patrick Kruyer.
To date, how many winners have you ridden in your career? +- 457 winners.
How many Graded winners have you had? 4 Grade 1’s and 4 Grade 2’s.
You have ridden in most of the racing centres in South Africa. Do you have a favourite track? I have resided in Cape Town for a few years now and really enjoy riding on Kenilworth’s summer course with its long run-in. However, I started my career in KZN and will always have a soft spot for Greyville.
You have teamed up with Cape trainer Brett Crawford very successfully over the past ten months. How did this association come about? I had ridden as a freelance jockey for Brett on a few occasions. However, I won on his horse Bottom Dollar at the end of August last year and he then asked me to swing by to ride work and see if I enjoy the set-up. I loved it and the rest, as they say, is history! He has been great to me. He has shown faith and confidence in me and I am eternally grateful for all that he has done for me. I have gained invaluable experience working with such an astute person. Thanks for everything, Brett!
Together you’ll pulled off a Grade 1 on Queen’s Plate day with THUNDER DANCE. You handled the pressure of the big occasion really well. Tell us about the race? This result was due to a plan that worked out perfectly. Brett and I discussed and strategized leading up to the race. I knew my filly quickens well and with just a small field of six runners, there would be no real pace on. We also worked out that the horse to beat, Beach Beauty, pulls very hard so her jockey may have no other option but to lead. We were also mindful of the fact that her jockey wouldn’t go very hard on her in front, so I slotted in perfectly behind the pacemaker. My filly who was working really well in the build-up to the race quickened smartly in the straight, as we expected, and won a very good race. That was excellent teamwork!
There was more success to come on the Cape’s biggest raceday i.e. Met day, when you and Brett teamed up with JACKSON to win the Cape Derby beating Variety Club quite comfortably. Explain your nerves on that occasion as there was heavy market support on the son of Dynasty? You produced him very well and can you talk us through the ride? His run in the Politician Stakes was meant to be a prep run and I remember Brett saying to me in the ring that he would be very happy if Jackson finished a running on fourth. As it turned out he romped home to an impressive 2.25 lengths victory. When it came to the Derby, Brett had him much fitter and we knew how good he is. I was supremely confident prior to the race. I knew that whilst my horse would love the Derby distance, the champion miler and our biggest danger Variety Club may not see out the entire ten furlongs, so I tracked his every move. When I pressed the button at the 250m mark, Jackson cruised away from Variety Club to win impressively.
After his break, he made an eye-catching Champions Season debut in the Guineas, despite being no match for subsequent Rising Sun Gold Challenge winner and old foe, Variety Club. How excited were the stable after he showed his well-being and ability to handle the tight Greyville circuit? We were very realistic going into the Guineas and knew that we would find it very tough to beat the country’s top miler, Variety Club. Of course, the latter had just won the Winter Guineas at Kenilworth two weeks earlier and was very fit whilst our horse was returning from a three-month break. I guess we were just hoping he handles the track well in a race (he did have a gallop with Thunder Dance at the course), with the Daily News 2000, being his main mission. Once again, everything fell into place as he handled the course really well. He stayed on well for second behind Variety Club but more importantly was just over four lengths clear of Mike de Kock’s horse, Golden Chateau (Gauteng Guineas winner) who finished third. Everyone at the stable was delighted the next day as he pulled up well!
His next port-of-call was the Daily News 2000 and after starting very deep in the red, he hammered his rivals, a few of which take their place against him in the Vodacom Durban July. How impressed were you with his victory and has he improved since? The Daily News 2000 was always Jackson’s main mission during Champions Season. Brett said to me that should he win the Daily News 2000 well, then we will aim him for the July, which would be an added bonus. As it turned out, he destroyed his field in the Grade 1. I expected the effortless win.
Brett Crawford mentioned that the Daily News 2000 was always his mission in KZN. Do you feel that he won with plenty in reserve on that occasion? I know that my compliments to Brett may be getting a bit boring, but I must take my hat off to this top trainer. He knows exactly what he is doing. I ride work on Jackson almost every day and he has come on so well since his Daily News 2000 run. He is getting better and better with each and every day. Brett will have him spot-on for the July.
Due to the special conditions of the Vodacom Durban July, he is a handicapping certainty in terms of his official ratings as he ought to have been carrying 59kgs rather than the 57kgs he will shoulder. Still, he concedes 3.5kgs to the fast improving Mike de Kock trained, VETTEL, for a 3.75 lengths beating. Do you feel that he will again have the latter’s measure? Make no mistake, Vettel is a definite danger. One has to respect Anton Marcus and the great trainer Mike de Kock. The two horses met at level weights last time but there is 3.5kgs favouring Vettel this time. He has a decent draw and will be right up there. Mike de Kock will have him ready for the big day and would have definitely left something in reserve. However, I know how good my horse is.
What feeling does JACKSON give you? He is the best horse that I have ever ridden. Previously, it was the late champion Big City Life, but this horse is super-special.
Is he an easy horse at track? As easy as they come, if you get along with him. He is very workmanlike, athletic and professional. When I say professional, it’s because when he gets on the track, he is completely focused and wants to finish off his work and leave. After work, he is completely relaxed and chilled. He stands around; eats some grass and just takes in all what Mother Nature has to offer. His every movement is a joy to behold.
How happy have you been with his preparation after his last run? His preparation continues to go according to plan.
Unfortunately, he has drawn badly. How will this affect the way you ride him as trainer Crawford has said that he would like you to be right up with the leaders turning for home? His dad, the great Dynasty won this race in 2003 when he was drawn 20. I have watched that video a few times and he showed tremendous courage to find extra at the finish, despite racing wide throughout the race. Jackson is a horse that is comfortable wherever you place him and he will give his all. Obviously, we will have a plan come the big day as well as alternate plans.
Who do you make your biggest danger in the race? Which horse do you wish to track in the race, especially now as you have drawn wide? There are a few that I have earmarked. Obviously, Vettel, who will be right up there with the speed. Initially, I was leaning towards Ilha Bela but she has drawn badly and I am unsure whether Anthony Delpech will try to overcome the draw or drop her out. Of course, Mike Bass’ runner’s English Garden and Chesalon must be respected. Jeff Lloyd, who is aiming for his first win in this race has come from Australia to ride Chesalon, so that must be taken note of.
You experienced a tough time in last year’s July and would probably like to forget it. You rode CASTLETHORPE and due to circumstances beyond your control, you were badly bumped shortly after the start and the horse struck the rail. He still ended up running a creditable race finishing just over five lengths behind the winner Igugu. Have you put this behind you? Did that happen to me? See, I completely forgot it! Ha! Ha! On a more serious note, the horse took a bad bump but ran a very nice race under the circumstances. He would have finished much closer had that not happened. To answer your question: That happened in the past, it is gone and forgotten. I only focus on the present and the future. And the future is, JACKSON.
On a personal note how will you prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the race? Honestly, I won’t be doing anything different. My normal running and visiting the gym, coupled with ride work will help me ready myself.
You appear to be a very cool and calm person. Is this a front or do you suffer from pre-race nerves? I have already been winning big races. The more races and major races you win, the more confident you become. I am riding with lots of confidence at the moment and once again, thanks to everyone that continues to assist me. In terms of me being a cool and calm person, I guess when you come from a relaxed and beautiful place like Mauritius, it certainly helps your personality.
Do you have a routine you follow when waiting to ride in a race as big and important as the July? Same as always, keep focusing.
Will any of your family be coming from Mauritius to watch you riding in the July? Yes. My mum, dad and my uncle’s. They follow my career whenever they can. My second brother is in South Africa, he is at the academy in his 1st year. My small brother unfortunately won’t make the trip as he is writing examinations, but will definitely be cheering me on.
What will you be doing on the night before the July and how early will you be getting up on Saturday morning? Usually I go to PE on Fridays but will give it the skip for that week. I will have an early night and will be up at my normal time on racedays, which is around 6:30 or 07:00. I will have breakfast and relax before leaving for the track.
What sort of energy breakfast will you be having to help you through the day? The same as normal. The South African breakfast, possibly an egg and cheese omelette.
Will any of your rival jockeys in the race try to dent your confidence by saying that you will have a hard time in the race through rough tactics? Firstly, it is very competitive amongst us jockeys but each jockey knows how dangerous it is out there so won’t do anything to intentionally injure someone. And obviously, if any jockey tries to intimidate me into getting scared, then he need not try. I am a strong person who will just pass it off from one ear through to the other and out my system completely.
You probably know the Greyville track like the back of your hand. How big an advantage do you think that is for you and JACKSON? I started my career in KZN so you are right, I know the track very well and so does Jackson. He galloped there once with Thunder Dance and raced twice on the track. Those are all major advantages going into the race.
If you win will you be going on a short celebratory holiday afterwards? Not straight away. I will plan a holiday after that. I have had a long season. We will see after the July. After a tough season it will be nice to lie on the beach sipping cocktails.
If you were a punter by profession, would you back JACKSON to win the July? Yes.