STEPHANUS CHAMBERS, or Fanie to many racegoers, is a professional jockey who did things the hard way. Despite his passion for horses, and his love for riding them, he initially studied engineering at a technical college straight after his schooling. Then, at the age of 23, he applied for a special apprentice’s licence and within 18 months reached his 50 winners, thereby getting rid of his claim and a little while later, he became a fully-fledged jockey. He has achieved a fair amount of success over the past decade despite some issues and was responsible for the 100/1 chance KING’S TEMPTRESS’ (ex-Kimberley) mind-boggling debut win in a Grade 2 on the Highveld in 2012. His best finishing position on the National Jockey’s Log has been a creditable 17th and he won back-to-back Kimberley Championships in 2003 and 2004. WINNING FORM and HOLLYWOODBETS.NET wish Fanie everything of the best in all his future endeavours.
What is your name?
Stephanus Chambers but everyone calls me Fanie.
What is your star sign and birthdate?
I was born on the 25th May 1976 which makes me a Gemini.
Where were you born?
Born in Potchefstroom and then moved to Limpopo Ellisras, now Lephalale and I grew up there.
Where do you live?
I live on a small holding north of Pretoria where I keep myself busy with some sheep and other small animals.
Tell us about your family?
I am married to my wonderful wife and have 3 children. I have two boys. One aged 11, my step son is 26 and my daughter is 14.
Do you have a ‘nickname?’
Not really but now and again I am called ‘Vinnige Fanie.’
My favourite is a nice steak on the braai.
Ice cold beer in summer.
Rock around the oxwagon (english for boeremusiek).
It must be watching rugby.
Who is your favourite author?
Piere Strydom writing for the The Citizen (ha ha).
What book are you reading at the moment?
I am reading the Computaform.
Which is the characteristic about yourself that you like most?
What I like most about myself is the fact that I don’t know what I like about myself as long as I am true to myself and to the people around me.
Which characteristic about yourself do you like the least?
Although I try to take defeat in a sporting way I actually hate losing. Makes me more determined to win next time.
Is there anything the public don’t know about Fanie Chambers that they would be interested to know?
There is a lot the public don’t know about me and I intend to keep it that way, ha ha ha! The only thing the public will find interesting is that I am not only a professional jockey but that I also have my professional hunting licence which I obtained in 2007. (Born to fish and hunt but am forced to work-you know how it goes).
Favourite holiday destination?
I don’t have much time for holidays but when I get the time I love to go to the bushveld.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Ellisras Primary and then my best five years in standard seven in Ellisras Secondary.
What sort of student were you and what did you really enjoy studying?
I was not a bad student but could not wait to get to the horses in the afternoons to go and ride.
What tertiary education did you attain?
It was a funny thing that I studied engineering for three years after school at the technical college when all that I really wanted to do was to become a jockey – what a waste of money!
Were any of your family involved in racing in any way?
On my mom and dad’s side no one was involved. On my wife’s side most of the family was involved in the bush racing side. At the age of 9 I started riding in races and met people like Nick Loubser, Leon Erasmus and Coerie Lensley to name a few. That was before they became licenced trainers and from then on I was hooked.
How did it come about that you had to apply for a special apprentice licence?
I applied for a special licence in 1999 because I was too old to go to the academy and had to become apprenticed to trainer Kobus Roux. He and his brother Fritz helped me a lot and I got rid of the claim, very soon. It took me only 18 months to ride 50 winners and I was a fully-fledged jockey by the end of 2001.
What was required of you before you were granted your licence?
I had to ride 50 winners.
Who were the trainers you rode for once you got your licence? I rode for trainers like the late Owen Sims, Roy Unsworth and also for Arthur Miller in PE.
Where did you do most of your racing?
I have been based in Gauteng my whole career.
Which of the horses you rode early in your career inspired you to keep going?
I never rode really good horses as I tried to ride as many maidens as possible in order to qualify as soon as possible.
What would you say has been your most exhilarating day in racing to date?
I would have to rate my win on King’s Temptress as one of my really exciting moments.
You ride mainly in Gauteng and Kimberley. Which is your favourite racecourse to ride on?
The Kimberley racetrack is the best sand track we have in SA. It is a pity about the horses running there but they also need to win somewhere (Joke).
What is your most comfortable riding mass?
My most comfortable riding mass is 54kgs. If the stake is right I would try to come down in the weight.
Do you have any problems with keeping your mass down?
Luckily for me I don’t have a problem. I do pick up weight but I don’t have a weight problem.
You have a very unhurried riding style. Are you, by nature, a cool and calm sort of person?
Yes, I am cool and calm but I do have my moments.
Which would you consider to be the best horse you have ridden to date?
The best horse I have ridden is Dancewiththedevil. I never won on her but ran second on her twice, early on in her career.
The Gauteng summer season is about to start. Which horses would you consider to be worth following during the season?
It is hard for me to say as there are many good upcoming horses but a horse which has really caught my eye and who I rate very highly is Wylie Hall. I think he can achieve big things.
Will you be making a big effort to get rides in races like the Summer Cup and then the Met in Cape Town?
I will always be keen to get rides in as many features possible. My agent, Gary Daly, is always on the lookout for good rides for me.
Which of the main feature events in the country have you ridden in and what has been your best placed effort in them?
I won the Rose Garden Sprint (Bloemfontein 2002), the Flamingo Casino Sprint (2002), Listed Riverside Handicap, 2004 and 2013. The Highveld Sand Challenge (2013), The Protea Stakes, 2012 and 2013. Syringa Handicap 2004 and 2011 and 2013. Sycamore Sprint 2012 and the SA Fillies Nursery 2012. Winning the SA Fillies Nursery, on a first timer, King’s Temptress, from Kimberley, at a price of 120/1, was a great thrill. My best finishing position on the SA jockeys log has been 17th. I won the Kimberley Championship twice in 2003 and 2004.
Right now you are doing a lot of riding for Corne Spies. How are the rides organized as his training establishment is a long way from Gauteng?
I leave it to Corne. Fortunately some of his owners really like me on their horses so when they have a runner I normally get the ride.
Corne Spies could have many runners in the Cape this season. Will you be taking the rides on them?
I will be leaving that to Corne to decide what to do.
You rode WAR HORSE in the Emerald Cup. He was fancied by many but did not come up to scratch. Were you disappointed with him in the race?
War Horse is by Victory Moon and still a colt. He has the most laid back temperament you can find in a racehorse. Maybe that is why he did not take to the sand plus the fact that he was very badly drawn.
Racing is your chosen profession but if, for any reason, you could not ride anymore how would you like to earn your living?
I love hunting and I love the outdoors. To be a professional hunter full-time would be a great job.
Do you take an interest in the breeding side of things?
I don’t know much about breeding so I leave that to people who have money. I will ride them and they can buy them.
The Ready To Run is a huge feature event. You have won twice on MOUNT HILLABY. Will you be riding him in that event?
Yes, he is my ride and I give him a big chance. He is a nice strong horse who gives me a good feel when I am on him. I can position him anywhere in a race and when I ask him for an effort he has a very good turn of foot.
On a personal note: How many races have you won in your career?
My best position on the log has been 17th. At this stage I don’t know how many winners I have ridden but whatever the score is it is too little to brag about.
What short term ambitions do you have for yourself in racing?
My short term ambitions will be to hold on and ride for as long as possible.
Does the old maxim, “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman,” apply to Fanie Chambers?
Behind me is a wonderful wife who supports me and wishes me luck. She keeps things going for me at home when I am not there and I owe her a big vote of thanks.
Gavin van Zyl
Chris van Niekerk