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Welcome To Cape Town, Callan

Murray's on the move!

Time flies when you’re having fun. It will unbelievably be four years since the then 20 year old Callan Murray celebrated the rare and heady feat of three Gr1 successes on Champions Day in 2017.

That big day! Callan Murray has matters in hand as Mustaaqeem charges clear (Pic – JC Photos)

Fast forward to 2021, the Ridgemont-Highlands jockey celebrated a career move from Gauteng to join the powerful Brett Crawford yard at Philippi in the Cape with a cracking winner aboard the Drakenstein owned and bred Quick Breeze, the only 2yo taking on older horses, in the first race at Kenilworth on Saturday.

The now 24 year old’s whatsapp profile pic shows a smiling and proud Uncle Callan holding his gorgeous niece Mia Paige De Melo – and plenty else has changed in the tall rider’s life over the two years since his return to SA from Singapore.

Demi Murray and Keahan de Melo tied the knot recently

While his older sister Demi recently married KZN jockey Keagan de Melo, and his former agent Toffa Santos ties the knot with Katherine Ralphs on 22 May, Callan moves to the Cape an eligible and unattached bachelor, and ready to make the most of what he describes as a ‘terrific professional opportunity’ with a top yard.

When taxed on why he opted to make the move South, he explained what we can probably already see in the raw stats – and that certainly don’t reflect his great talent in the saddle.

“Johannesburg was quiet. I wasn’t getting the rides and when the offer from a top trainer presented itself, I think I would have been foolish to decline,” he says sincerely.

Click to listen to him introducing himself:

A respected top judge of a decent rider, trainer Brett Crawford said that he noticed that Callan was underutilised in Johannesburg, sometimes only getting a couple of rides at a meeting and his confidence was taking a knock in the process.

“He already has a good record for a young jockey with multiple Gr1 victories and plenty of experience around the world. So, I approached him with an offer to ride for Crawford Racing – and within a couple of days he’d made his decision to join our team,” Crawford told Tabnews.

Callan, who modestly describes himself as ‘a keen but erratic golfer’, is upbeat about the geographics that most Gautengers in the corporate world would give their eye teeth for – and he has already settled in at his Claremont residence.

“Claremont is central and within a short drive of Mr Crawford’s yard at Philippi, where I will be doing the majority of my work-riding.”

We asked what he’d miss most about Joburg.

“My family and friends are very important to me. I will miss them. But we have active social media facilities and the world is a small place today!”

Mike de Kock -played an integral role in Callan’s life so far (Pic -JC Photos)

Callan was quick to add a word about Mike de Kock.

“I must say thanks again to Mr Mike de Kock. Nothing was cast in stone and we had no arrangements this term. But he has been the springboard for the great opportunities and high-points in my short career to date, and I am eternally grateful for the chances I have been given. It’s an honour and a privilege to have ridden for an internationally respected trainer, and that association will always be on my CV.”

And Callan’s top-level record to date clearly shows the De Kock stamp of achievement. He has won nine Gr1 races and was South African Champion Apprentice in the 2015/16 season.

The boy has certainly become a man since his first race ride on 3 November 2013, when he steered the since exported De Kock charge Captain Lars to fifth place in a Graduation Plate at Hollywoodbets Scottsville. It only took two more rides for Callan to register his first win.

That milestone came aboard the Charles Laird-trained Tennessee Strategy on 12 November 2013.

Callan proudly sports his sponsor’s Ridgemont Racing silks (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Fast forward and 4554 rides later to the present, he finds himself on 33 winners this season at a strike-rate of 9,68%. A number, along with his golf handicap, that he is very keen to improve upon.

Callan can ride comfortably at 53kgs and says that work and race-riding, as well as playing golf mean that he is active and doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in the gym.

A 13 handicap golfer, he was off to join his new boss’ son James Crawford for a round at Devonvale Golf Course in Stellenbosch on Sunday when we chatted to him.

While he is very keen to travel and up his ride-rate where possible, Callan will be utilising the services of local veteran Rob Champion, an agent for the likes of legends like Karl Neisius and Gerrit Schlechter over the years,  as well as Stuart Randolph in KZN, to source his engagements.

Agent Rob Champion

While it may take him a lifetime to repeat the feat of his extraordinary three Gr1’s on that Champions Day in 2017 when he steered Mustaqueem (SA Nursery), Rafeef (Computaform Sprint) and Deo Juvente (Premiers Champions Challenge) to victory, Callan has grown in stature and confidence with some valuable overseas experience riding in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia – serious career defining destinations.

He returned to SA, cutting short his Singapore contract in 2019, citing a combination of personal reasons and opportunities back home.

Prior to that he enjoyed two short stints in Hong Kong, with mixed results.  He won two Gr3 features from a decent haul of four winners at the first one in 2017, before returning for a longer term the next season.

The Cape’s newest jockey has ridden Got The Greenlight to a third place in the 2020 SA Derby, partnered Malmoos in work, and admired Paul Peter star Summer Pudding since she first ran.

We asked him to nominate one of them to win Saturday’s R750 000 Gr1 Premier’s Champions Challenge.

Callan and friend and colleague Lyle Hewitson at Hollywoodbets Greyville (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“That’s a very difficult and you are putting me on the spot! I can’t see there being much between three fantastic horses. I’m going to take the fifth and rather enjoy what should be a humdinger of a race. I think the debate will be raging this week as each of the three has their own fan club amongst the public. It’s great for horseracing to have the different age groups and both sexes taking each other on, and I am looking so forward to the race.”

For the sushi loving Callan Rosser Murray it’s now all about becoming a retreaded Capetonian, while looking ahead at lots of hard work and booting home the winners.

And the Kensington Johannesburg-born Reddam House graduate will soon discover that Cape Town can only improve over the next five months, with winter already showing its teeth in the early morning hours at Philippi.

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