Essential tips for becoming a horse racing jockey

It’s that time of the year again folks: The Vodacom Durban July will be held tomorrow at Greyville racecourse. This premier horse racing event attracts sports fans, enthusiasts and fashion fanatics from all over South Africa and has a rich history that spans more than three centuries. The race was first held in 1897 and over the years it has become one of the highlights on the Kwazulu Natal social calendar. It comes as no surprise that tickets to this event sell out faster than you can say “jockey” every year.

Durban July

Only four horses have won the Durban July back to back over the years: Campanajo (in 1897 & 1898), Corriecrian (in 1907 & 1908), Milesia Pride (1949 & 50) and El Picha (in 1999 & 2000). The race was first run over 1600 metres but the distance was changed a few times and eventually set at the current length of 2200 metres (in 1970).

Legendary Durban July jockeys are Harold “Tiger” Wright (who won in 1942, 1947, 1949 and 1955), Anton Marcus (who won in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2007), Anthony Delpech (who won in 1998, 2004, 2010 and 2011), Bertie Hayden (who won in 1971, 1973 and 1978), Felix Coetzee (who won in 1984, 1988 and 1990) and Pierre Strydom (who won in 2012, 2001 and 1996).

Around 55,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Vodacom Durban July and enjoy no less than 12 races (starting at 11:35 AM tomorrow). The top contenders who are expected to win tomorrow’s race are King of Pain, Legislate, Louis The King and Whiteline Fever (who clocked the fastest time over the last 400 metres in practice).

All this talk about the “sport of kings” is probably getting you excited and some of you are probably thinking of becoming a professional horse racing jockeys now. Well, if you are, you’ve come to the right place. Today I’m giving you some essential tips for becoming one in South Africa.

“Which skills do I need to become a jockey?”

You may think that horse racing is easy and anyone can do it, but it’s not for the faint of heart – you need to be skilled. To become a jockey you should have a high level of skill in riding and handling horses. You need to be fit and strong and have stamina, you also need to be determined and dedicated. Good eyesight and fast reaction speeds are also advantageous and you should have the ability to work well with others and the ability to cope with the risks and pressures of racing. Jockeys should also have knowledge of horse care and welfare.

“How do I become a jockey in South Africa?”

You don’t need a degree to become a jockey, but you could look at attending the South African Jockey Academy (or SAJA), the only institution in South Africa that offers an apprentice programme for youngsters.

The SAJA is well known and highly acclaimed worldwide and is situated in Summerveld (near Durban). The academy was established in 1958, has grown from strength to strength and has produced leading jockeys (many of whom have receive top honours internationally). The academy also has satellite campuses (in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape).

Well, there you have it, now you have essential tips for becoming a horse racing jockey. If you’re looking for a job, remember to Keep your CV updated and browse for jobs, apply on Job Mail.

Watch this space for regular updates in the General News category on the Job Mail Blog.

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4 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    Good morning, please can you advise if males / females of the ages between 20 and 30 are allowed to join the institution to become a Jockey ? If not, please could advise why ?

    Thank you in advance.



    • Henno Kruger says:

      Hi Sam – You’ll need to ask someone who is a jockey already / someone in the horse racing industry to confirm

  2. mfanelo says:

    Hi I want to ask what can i do if i need to be a jockey

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