39 year old FRANCOIS HERHOLDT is a home loving successful jockey. Apart from the time he spent at the academy much of his career has been in Gauteng. He was fortunate to be involved with Patrick Shaw for the last two years of his apprenticeship. Soon after leaving the academy, he had a close friendship with Jeff Lloyd, who he acknowledges as having had a big influence on him. This year he rode a great race to win the Emerald Cup on In A Rush for Port Elizabeth trainer Gavin Smith. He has won all of the major races in Zimbabwe, some more than once. His best finish in the July has been 7th. He admits that the July and the Met are the two races that every jockey wants to win. This weekend Francois will be a busy man with a full card of rides at Arlington on Friday. Racegoers will be interested to know that of these, he has singled out 3 runners as his best rides for the day. WINNING FORM, HOLLYWOODBETS.NET AND SPORTING POST will be watching Francois in action with keen interest.
What is your name?
What is your star sign and date of birth?
I am a Pisces and I was born on 3 March 1974.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Cape Town and I grew up in Johannesburg.
Where do you live?
Tell us about your family?
I have a beautiful wife, Tracey, and 2 beautiful kids, Kieren (15) and Kayleigh (13).
Do you have a nickname?
Pasta and a good steak.
Red wine and whisky.
I love all kinds of music.
Golf and rugby.
Favourite soccer team?
Man United, obviously.
Favourite holiday destination?
I love Sun City. It is beautiful and close to home.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol.”
Which characteristic about yourself do you like the most?
I am very friendly and outgoing.
Is there anything the public don’t know about Francois Herholdt that they would be interested to know?
Nope, what you see is what you get.
Who is the one person that you would love to meet and why?
God, I have a lot of questions for Him.
Where did you go to school and what qualification did you achieve?
I went to a few schools as my dad travelled a lot. I passed matric.
What sort of student were you and what subject did you really enjoy studying?
I was a naughty student. I was small so everybody loved me. I enjoyed History and Biology the most.
How did you become involved in horse racing?
I think I am living my dad’s dream. He couldn’t become a jockey so he asked me if I was interested and here I am, 25 years later.
In which year did you become an apprentice. Where were you based and who were your fellow apprentices at the academy?
1989. I was based in Durban for 3 years then moved to Johannesburg for my last 2 years, riding for Mr Patrick Shaw. There were a few jocks in my year, Heinz Runge, Craig Arnold, Clinton Louw, Rudolph Harmse and Andre Du Preez. I am the only jock left riding from my year.
Tell us about the lifestyle at the academy and what were the obstacles that you faced?
Obviously leaving home at the young age of 13, had a big impact on us apprentices as we were now thrown into the adult world where its shape up or ship out. Not many guys made it after the first 6 weeks, but we adapted. We had to get up early in the morning and go to track at 4.30am. Come back and pack for school. Wow it was tough to stay awake the whole day at school!
Who were your riding masters at the time?
Mr Vincent Curtis, David Cave and Kenny Michel. 3 really tough but very fair guys who I think a lot of apprentices owe a big vote of thanks to.
Which senior people in racing had a major influence on you during your apprentice days?
I was a kit boy to Stuart Randolph and he helped me a lot. He is a nice guy who would sit and listen to me when I had a problem.
Which senior jockey did you idolize growing up?
Myself and legend Jeff (the Guv) Lloyd. We became good friends as well as riding rivals. I used to spend almost every weekend at his place, watching videos of U.K racing. I learned a lot from Guv and am eternally grateful to him. When coming to Johannesburg, Johnny G took me under his wing and looked after me. We are still best friends to this day. Great Guy.
Tell us about your first winner?
My first winner was in September 1991 on a filly called Wayward Star at Scottsville for Mr Herman Brown snr.
Which trainers gave you the most opportunities during your early days?
I rode a lot for Mr Colin Lee while Herman Brown Snr, Tony Rivalland, Mike Airey, Ricky Maingard and David Payne gave me a lot of chances.
Mention some of the top quality horses that you were associated with during your apprentice days?
Senor Santa, even though I never rode him in a race. I used to work him often. There were plenty of top horses back then but as an apprentice I didn’t ride them in races.
How tough was it to make the transition to becoming a qualified jockey without any allowance?
We only raced twice a week back then so it was cut throat, like dog eats dog I tell you. When you claimed 4kgs – 1.5kgs you were supported but as soon as you lost that allowance you had to fend for yourself. Hopefully by the time that happened you had made a name for yourself.
Upon qualifying as a jockey, where were you based and which trainers supported you?
I was based in JHB riding for Pat Shaw. I rode my first group 1 winner for Mr Mike Azzie, a couple of months out of my time, on Imperial Despatch. Mr Azzie really looked after me. Mr Mike de Kock was not shy to throw a man a bone.
You recently won the Emerald Cup on the Gavin Smith trained IN A RUSH. How did you pick up the ride and how confident were you going into the race?
Well, I happened to scroll down the field on my laptop on the day of scratchings and saw In A Rush without a jockey. I took the chance and phoned Gavin, who I ride for in PE on occasions. He said no problem but let’s wait for the draw and decide from there. We drew 1 so he was going to run. I didn’t know the horse at all but I knew he had a reputation for being a great sand worker, after all he was champion Variety Club’s working companion. Need I say more. The feel he gave me going to the gates I knew we had a chance and the rest is history.
For those trainers that are likely to read this, what is the minimum weight that you can make for feature events?
I am very lucky that I can ride bottom weight of 52kgs.
Are there any younger horses that could be ones to follow in the future that you have ridden?
Yes, I have ridden 2 really nice 3 year old’s for Alec Laird- Bezanova and Chekilli. They both gave me a great feel and I am sure they will go all the way.
You do a bit of riding in Kimberley. Who are the main trainers that you ride for there and which are some of the better horses that you ride?
Yes, I love Kimberley. I ride there for Oom Sarel Von Willingh Smit and Vernon Rugg. I have won a few on Mr Vindaloo and Code Red.
You have a full card of rides at Arlington on Friday. Which of your mounts do you think racegoers should take note of?
“On Friday I have three rides which could run well.”
Race 4: NOAH FOREVER (4) for trainer Steven van Rensburg. He loves Arlington so, unfortunately for him, it will be his last race on this track. He is badly drawn in a competitive field but he is a big trier. If everything goes well for him I give him a big chance.
Race 7: LE VAR (9) for Gavin Smith. I won the Dahlia Stakes on him last year and after that another two races. I ran 2nd on him over 1200m in October and he may find this 1000m a bit sharp for him. He has a light weight and he will be competitive. I make him my best ride for the weekend.
Race 8: MARK OF THE DIVINE (12) for trainer Anelle Wilmot. The stable appears to have turned the corner and she ran very well last time. I am expecting a big run from her.
How many winners have you ridden to date?
I think the total number of winners is now around the 1000 mark-that includes all the countries I have ridden in.
Which countries have you raced in?
I have ridden in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Singapore, Macau and France.
How many feature races have you won?
Plenty to be honest. I don’t think I have enough space to put them all down, LOL. To mention a few I won the Emerald Cup this year and I have won all the “big” races in Zimbabwe on more than one occasion.
Which are the most important feature races you have won?
I think the Emerald Cup, The Daily News 2000, Castle Tankard, OK Grand Challenge, Republic Cup, and a couple of Group 1 races in Mauritius.
How well have you done in the Summer Cup, the July or the Met?
My best was running 7th in the July.
Which feature events are at the top of your still to win list?
I think the July and Met must be the answer from every jockey about that question.
How often do you ride work?
I work Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday as I race very often.
Do you have an agent?
Nope, I don’t have an agent.
Does having an agent make your life much easier?
I am sure it does make life much easier especially if you are racing so many days a week. For now I am happy to do my own rides.
Many jockeys and trainers are now sponsored. Do you have a sponsor?
No, I don’t have a sponsor at the moment.
Describe a typical day for Francois Herholdt?
I am up early for work, I get home and attend to my scratchings. I then get ready for races. On the days when I travel I leave early for the airport and fly to PE or Zim. I race the whole day and then fly back home that evening. That is my life in a nutshell. On the days that I have off, which is a Wednesday and maybe an occasional Sunday, I like to catch up on things around the house, work in the garden and spend time with my family.
Being a jockey is your profession and you make your living by it. What else are you passionate about in your life?
I love golf. I am not too good at it but I try. Most jocks play golf so it’s a nice social time with your mates. I also love gardening.
If, for any reason you could no longer be a jockey what else would you like to do?
That’s a tough one. I would in some way like to remain on the racing scene but am not too sure in what field.
Do you ever go back to the trainer’s yard in the afternoon to see a horse, or horses, you may be riding in a big feature event?
Like I said, I race 6 days a week so I don’t really get time. To be honest, I spend more time on a plane than in a stable yard. I suppose if I had a trainer to ride for, as a stable jockey, I would make the time and effort to do so.
How do you normally celebrate a big win?
I feel every win is like my first. It is a great feeling, but, obviously, the BIG ones are the ones that count. I will just go out for dinner with the family. After all there would be racing the next day so I can’t go too big. A man has got to work. The wife needs handbag’s and kids need shoes.
The old maxim is, “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman.” Does this apply to Francois Herholdt?
Hell yes! Honestly I have a GREAT wife. She does everything for me. She is my pillar of strength and my best friend. I love her to bits. I would not be here if it was not for her driving force behind me. She is an amazing woman, and she understands the game that I am in. She goes through the good and the bad times with me and keeps my spirits up. She is a great woman and an amazing mother. I LOVE YOU BABE.
Gavin van Zyl
Marco van Rensburg
Chris van Niekerk