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Wright Signs For Ridgemont

Happy and content in the Cape

Things are happening for jockey Gareth Wright. He’s enjoying riding in the Cape. His young family have settled in well. He turned 34 on Monday. And he was recently signed up by the Ridgemont operation as a retained jockey.

Gareth Wright proudly wears the famous Ridgemont flag (Pic – Supplied)

The former Maritzburg College graduate spoke to the Sporting Post on his birthday and, while he is just not the personality type inclined to outbursts of gregarious shows of emotion, he said confidently that he believed that his career was poised to take off – not least of all, due to the Ridgemont endorsement of confidence.

“I am very honoured and proud to have been given this opportunity by Ridgemont. It’s a prestigious and high-performance brand that demands excellence at all quarters, and I well realise that I have big boots to fill after Anton Marcus and Greg Cheyne,” said the quietly spoken Gareth.

He is, of course, referring to the previous Ridgemont riders. Both multiple champion Gr1 winning jockeys, Marcus retired quietly after a persistent injury last year, while Cheyne, who dominated the landscape in the Eastern Cape for many seasons, emigrated to the UK in 2023.

Ridgemont’s Craig Kieswetter welcomed Gareth to the team, and said that a dedicated rider meant that he would get to know the individual horses and their quirks, and then be in a position to provide optimal assistance and valuable feedback.

“We are delighted to welcome Gareth into the Ridgemont team – and are very excited as we look to the future development of our racing division. In the past we have had great success with both Anton Marcus and Greg Cheyne as Ridgemont retained riders and Gareth, as an established jockey with an extremely professional outlook, is a fantastic fit for us.” added Kieswetter.

While he had some excellent grounding as an apprentice with the Snaith Racing team in the Cape, Gareth Wright’s career has taken some character-building twists and turns since he joined the SA Jockey Academy at the age of sixteen on 11 January 2007.

He rode his first winner, the Modern Day filly Flying Day, at the track we know today as Hollywoodbets Scottsville, on 22 July 2009.

He then rode his first Gr1 winner on Camphoratus, when the Robbie Hill trained filly won the Empress Club Stakes as a 50-1 shot at Turffontein, almost five years ago to the day.

He has spent time in Johannesburg, and then been back to his home province of KZN, with mixed success, including a rewarding stint with the Plattner Racing Team.

Gareth’s also had his share of injuries and suspensions – occupational hazards in the rough and tumble of racing.

But it was the move South in 2023, and the chance to ride some ‘better horses’, that have boosted Gareth’s confidence.

We asked how he dealt with pressure, and the personal and external expectations that go with it.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the chances I was given at the Candice Bass-Robinson yard. I was riding nice horses regularly, and I have found that having grown up, I am handling pressure better – in fact I am relishing it and thriving on it.”

Gareth tells how seeing a quote by tennis legend Billie Jean King, which hangs on the wall in the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queen’s New York, made him ponder.

“I actually saw it on the series BreakPoint on Netflix – it suggests that ‘Pressure is a privilege’. It’s so apt for me in my life as a sportsman striving to do my best. It’s human nature to try and duck pressure, as it makes us uncomfortable. But all the top guys have stared pressure in the face, taken it on and beaten it. Pressure and opportunity go hand in hand, and it’s a very real part of horseracing, and race-riding, in particular.”

He says that now that things are falling into place professionally, his happy family life is an important support structure. He enjoys enthusiastic backing from his wife Kerrin, and his daughter Alexi-Lee, who turned 3 in January.

Besides spending his down time with his family, Gareth enjoys Go-Karting and Action Cricket keeps him in shape, while providing a social outlet.

He rides comfortably at 54kgs, but can get down to 52,5kgs, where the ride justifies it.

“There are no excuses not to do well. I have the support of a top sponsor in Ridgemont, my family are content and happy in the Cape, and I am enjoying riding some really nice horses. I am in a good space. I intend to make them all proud,” concluded Gareth.

 

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