With five of his last eight rides winners and the balance in the money, Grant van Niekerk has kick-started his new season with intent and booted home four winners, including a 50-1 shot, from his six rides at Hollywoodbets Durbanville on Tuesday.
While acknowledging his Mom Jeanette’s breakfast, it’s clear that his elevation to first-call rider of the powerful SA champion Snaith operation has got the enigmatically talented rider’s work-rate up and along with it the winners are rolling.
He has ridden 21 horses this term for 6 wins and 12 places (57% place strike-rate), which for the mathematically challenged means that only 3, or just under 15% of his mounts, have run out of the money.
Grant is now on a potentially nervous 13 winners short of his career 1000m winner milestone. He has a lifetime 13% win strike-rate, with a 33% place strike.
He kicked off the Tuesday afternoon when he got Silver Falcon home for the Snaiths to make it five on the trot. He caught Winning Form rider Richard Fourie in the final stride on the flashy grey After The Rain, who made most of the running.
Enjoy the first winner:
Van Niekerk then showed his diversity and talent when he set up a likely percentage-only payout in the Pick 6, getting the Paul Reeves-trained Crème Brulee up in a blanket photo for the fifth race.
Watch his second winner:
Producing the long overdue Veronica Mars, Van Niekerk made it three winners when he nabbed Morne Winnaar and long-time leader Royal Invitation on the post to win the sixth.
Van Niekerk joked that Morne Winnaar had said that he’d have to take a back-seat this time, but he thought it was close.
Veronica Mars won a tight finish – watch the replay:
The high-riding Van Niekerk rode his fourth winner in the seventh race when just getting Fallo Ancora up to beat stablemate Peut Etre Moi.
Grant’s fourth winner of the day:
Jono Snaith was thrilled and said ‘Grant’s back!’. That sums it up!
A born and bred Capetonian, Grant van Niekerk joined the SA Jockey Academy in something of a vintage intake in 2007, that included Gareth Wright, JP Van Der Merwe, Tshwaro Appie, Athandiwe Mgudlwa and Aldo Domeyer.
Known affectionately as ‘Big John’ or ‘Mr Muscles’, Grant had his first ride at Clairwood on 11 June 2008 on Combat Leader, when beaten 2 lengths by Anthony Delpech on Yarnmaster.
He rode his first winner on Combat Leader at Clairwood on 25 June 2008. Three weeks later, he rode his second winner on the same horse – this time at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.
He qualified as a fully-fledged rider in January 2012 and has ridden 18 Gr1 winners across South Africa, including the Gr1 Sun Met on Oh Susanna in 2018.