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Stuart Randolph

The new 'Power King'

Stuart Randolph (credit: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Stuart Randolph (credit: hamishNIVENPhotography)

The list of jockeys to have won the Durban July is less than a hundred strong. It is an elite club where the air is rarefied and the company very select indeed. Membership is self-elected, but entry requirements are intense – you only get in by a lot of hard work and a great big helping of luck. The newest member of the club is Stuart Randolph.

The quiet and unassuming Stuart Randolph was born in the UK county of Sussex on 15 February 1971, although his family moved to South Africa when he was 3 or 4 and he says he feels more South African. His late grandfather was a bookmaker and urged Stuart’s father to enrol him in the Academy. He started his apprenticeship in 1986, alongside Martin Ball (now a Stipe in Zimbabwe), Stephen Moffatt (now a trainer), Willie Ries and Doug Whyte. “Basically there’s only two of us left that are still in the saddle.” His first win was aboard Indiana Jones at Clairwood for Tony Furness in 1987. Stuart explains, “I was apprenticed to Tony Furness and was very fortunate to have a trainer that supported me and helped me with my career at a crucial stage.” A piece of Furness advice that he has carried with him is ‘Keep it clean and work hard’ and he has applied it to good effect. He was an exceptionally successful apprentice, finishing his time in January 1991 with 110 winners and the plaudit of a ‘Rothmans’ ride aboard Sand in 1990 while still an apprentice.

Stuart admits that he prefers to keep to himself and maintains something of a low profile, but for all that, in a career spanning nearly 3 decades in the saddle, he’s amassed over 1600 wins, a very respectable number of Gr1’s and chalked up international experience in Mauritius (where he was champion jockey), Zimbabwe (winning the Castle Tankard on Circle of Life), Dubai, Macau and France. He lists Jet Master (1998 Cape Guineas) as one of the best horses he’s ridden, but he’s also partnered horses such as This England (1992 Administrators’ Stakes), Eldoriza (1996 Nissan Challenge), Arabian Lass (1997 Style Fillies Challenge), and Cereus in the 2001 Gold Cup. “I think that was probably the last time I rode at 52 kgs!” he jokes.

Weighty issue

“I am freelancing at the moment and not tied down to any yard, but I ride for Pat Lunn, Greg and Karen Anthony and I’ve been getting lots of support from a number of different trainers. I was doing a bit of work for Dean Kannemeyer and his string here in Durban – obviously Karl is the stable jockey – but when Power King was accepted for the July, my agent Rob Champion asked for my name to be put into the hat to ride him, so I got onto the short list, then I got the call and the rest is history.”

These days Stuart rides comfortably at around 55kgs, so getting to the 53kgs required to partner Power King in the July took some effort. “It was quite an achievement to get my weight down. It might not sound like much, but when you’re already down to your bottom weight, it’s quite hard and the first thing I did when I got home on Saturday was a McDonalds double cheese burger! I can get down low, but you find you’re not strong enough to assist the horse properly. I feel that’s unfair on the owner and the trainer – the owner has invested a lot of time and money and the trainer has spent a lot of time and effort preparing the horse. If you can’t perform at your best, I don’t think that’s right. I rather ride at a weight I know I can do where I can compete at my optimum.”

“I wasn’t following any special diet as such, just watching what I ate, cutting down on certain meals, sugar, carbs, that sort of thing. It’s a long process, but luckily Jehan Malherbe – the agent of champions – let me know early, so I had about 3 weeks to get down and that really helped. When I got to the course I had half a kg to go and I knew I could do that easily.”

The race

Power King

Power King wins the 2015 Vodacom Durban July

“Power King caught me by surprise. I’d watched a lot of his races and he was often slow out of the gates and slow into stride, but he broke well with me. I was able to get him behind Anton and the favourite Legal Eagle, so I had the perfect horse to follow. I needed a horse to pull me into the straight, something that would quicken that I could follow and it worked well, but then Anton never really pulled away from me and it looked like he was labouring in front. I saw Helderberg Blue and Tellina and realised that if I stayed behind Anton any longer, we’d be in trouble, so I switched him in early and pushed through the gap and he just powered through. He actually caught me by surprise by how much he turned it on.”

“I’d made my run and I wasn’t aware of the interference – my horse didn’t move underneath me. I did feel him falter at the 50m area where he got nudged, but my horse never drifted. Going from the top of straight, he moved out two horses and then kept his line all the way to the finish. It was only when I saw the replay in the boardroom and saw the horse come from behind and brush my hindquarter that I realised why he’d become unbalanced. With his hindquarter being punched inwards, it made it look as though he was hanging out.”

Powered through

“If you look at the track with lines on the grass like on a soccer pitch, at the top of the straight my horse dived onto a dark strip of grass and from around the 350m to finish he kept dead on his line. The first incident was a slight touch and was actually nothing. Then on the second time, he actually pushes my horse’s hindquarter inwards. I put the stick down, pulled him straight, balanced him up again and he just fought right down to the line. It was so incredible how he powered through that. All credit to him – some horses get a knock like that and will throw in the towel. He’s not the soundest, but he refused to give up and the win is going to live with me for the rest of my life – not only because he won, but for the manner in which he did it. It’s a real privilege to ride horses like that. It was a very special moment and just an amazing feeling.”


Power King returns“When I first arrived at the winner’s enclosure, he didn’t feel quite right, but it wasn’t too serious. Then they asked me to do the canter and initially I wasn’t keen. I took him to the 300m mark – most guys go a bit further, but I felt something was not right. When I turned him around, he didn’t want to come back. He’d run his heart out for me and I couldn’t ask him to do any more, so I jumped off and called the vet over just to check. In the Bettingworld 1900 he had heat stress and did collapse, because he’s the type of horse who puts his whole heart into it. There was no way I was going to force him to come back.”


“When the siren went, you can imagine it was really sickening. The vet came running up and took care of the horse and the groom. One of the stipes notified me of the objection by the 2nd placed rider. The first thing that came into my mind was last year. Then you start doubting yourself. Then I thought no, I knew he’d run straight. He does have a tendency to hang at the end, but I was ready for him and he didn’t do anything at all. I had a quick weigh in and then went straight to the boardroom and then obviously the proceedings carried on from there. After my first reviewing of the head-on I could see that my horse was on that dark strip and that’s where he stayed. It was instant relief! I could see that my horse never veered off that line and after seeing that it was like sjoe! Just relief.”

Lengthy wait

Time stands still when it comes to moments like this, but even so, it seemed to take an extraordinarily long time for the objection to be resolved. Stuart explains, “It took a long time for me to get to the boardroom after weighing in and I had to take the long route round and make my way through crowed. After the reading of the film, Ian Sturgeon lodged the details of his objection and then I had to lodge mine. But after I’d seen the head on, I wasn’t concerned.”


“Talk about a roller coaster ride – this really was true to the word! Winning the July is an amazing feeling. I think it still hasn’t quite hit home. As kids when you join the Academy, it’s the one you really want to win. I’ve had 13 rides in the July and I’d started thinking it wasn’t mine to win, but every year you try. The one thing about this July was that it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt in the race. The horse was so calm and went down to the start beautifully. He’s such a lovely ride – to ride a horse that tries that hard – it’s just a privilege. I believe he pulled up fine after objection – I checked with the vet afterwards and he said he was doing much better. That put a smile on my face. It’s just such an amazing feeling.”

With nearly 30 years’ experience, Stuart has earned his place among the ranks of senior jockeys. As one of our gentleman riders, he is as well liked and respected in the jockey room as he is outside of it, but it is a mark of how humble he is that has been surprised by the all the attention and good wishes. “The response has been overwhelming. I’m quite a private person and I keep to myself, but to get that response really took me by surprise. The amount of messages even my agent is getting – I’m truly grateful. It’s a very tough industry, it’s very fickle and jockeys’ careers are not long. To get all those well wishes and messages – words can’t describe it. It’s very overwhelming.”


Stu Randolph , Laidlaw and Kannemeyer

Winning connections – Stuart Randolph, Lady Laidlaw & Dean Kannemeyer

“I must just say a big thank you to Dean and the team and obviously Lady Laidlaw for the opportunity to ride Power King. There are a lot of guys out there that could have ridden him and I was the lucky one. He’s an amazing animal and it’s just a privilege to have the opportunity to ride horses like that.”

“It’s been the biggest highlight ever. I must thank my family – they’ve been my biggest supporters. I think they could have bought a new house every time they’ve wagered on me over the years and it’s great that I finally managed to deliver for them. It was also a big thrill to have my dad on course afterwards – he’s one of my biggest supporters and has asked me every year when I’m going to win the July.

If you just keep pushing your dreams, and they do come true. Like Mr Furness said – if you put in the hard work and push through, it pays off.”

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