SUPERSTITIONS are “a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck,” writes KATHRYN RALPHS in Part 1 of a column published in the Turf Talk Newsletter.

There is a lot of work that goes into making anything or any person successful. Hard work, professionally trained skills, routine and dedication are a few givens, but whether you are winning or losing, superstitions seem to sneak into even the most logical of people’s lives… and in the horse racing industry, superstitions seem to be heightened.

If you have been to a race meeting, you’ve probably been told off for saying: “Good Luck.” This is a common and pretty consistent ‘no-no’ through the pole of jockeys, trainers and owners. There isn’t a well known alternative for these wishes- they range from: “Break a leg” (which I think is a bit awks) to “Don’t f*ck it up!” – a Ralphs family favourite.

I’ve heard that you should wear big checks if you want to go home with big cheques and small checks for small cheques. No science or logic here, but I mean, who wouldn’t do something silly for a bit of extra luck? Count me in!

So…  from touching wood to holding thumbs, who is the Rafael Nadal of Racing?

From legends to up-and-comers, hobbyists to industry experts… here are a few of the superstitions that plague the well known names in horse racing.

Warren Kennedy is riding winner after winner at the moment, but he isn’t new to racing. When talking to him about superstitions he admits he has seen a few crazy concepts in the jockey room. One of which is: “If you get given a new set of silks/ colours that have never been used before, you stand on them before you put them on.” (To Fiona at Odds On – I’m sorry.)

Warren also said that lots of jocks don’t love it when you take a photo of them mounted in the parade ring, he said you don’t want people to take the photo before the win. (But that might be the only photo we get Warren – we don’t win as often as you do.)

Tara Laing is also firmly in the camp that no one should wish her good luck before a race… she also said that “If I put my shirt on inside out by mistake on Race Day, I will never change it to the correct way around.” (and I’m guessing by Murphy’s Law you would also have the most winners and TV interviews that day.)

Tara Laing.
Tara Laing.

South Africa’s jockey ‘darling’ abroad, Lyle Hewitson said that he likes to include the colour red somewhere in his kit- however small it may be. (That will work well for him in a culture that widely favours the colour red and relies heavily on luck. That being said, Lyle certainly created his own luck in SA, purely through hard work and unwavering dedication. Even though his Hong Kong start has probably been a bit humbling, luck or no luck, red or no red, there’s no doubt this kid will be hugely successful.)

Mathew De Kock says that: “If I’ve left for races and realise that I’ve forgotten something, I never go back to fetch it” in order to save himself from bad luck. (Monique, please make sure you are safely strapped into the passenger seat at the time of departure.)

Ray “Stingray” Danielson doesn’t like it when he is riding an odds-on favourite and someone tells him that his ride is going to sh*t in, pre-race. (I have to admit, I really don’t like that either. It’s cocky, arrogant and annoying.)

Raymond Danielson.
Raymond Danielson.

Johan Janse van Vuuren has had huge winners, and under some of the most difficult of circumstances. He is a sure-fire favourite on the Rafa-superstitious-scale.

Here is a good quote from Johan, and some of his idiosyncrasies;

“This game forces us to be nuts” -JJvV

“If a horse runs below par, I will change the route I’ve walked from the saddling area to the parade ring, and change the route that I walk from the parade ring to the table that I watch the race from.” (His Fitbit is loving it.)

“I don’t leave the parade ring until all the horses are out, especially for a runner that I fancy.”

“A tie or a shirt that I wore on a day that I did not get results, won’t be worn again on a day that I have fancied runners.”

Tony Peter is partially responsible for the powerhouse that is Paul Peter’s Goliath stable. As youthful as Tony is, he has already developed some pretty convincing superstitions. “I watch all of our fancied runners at a certain spot, on a specific TV. I always use the escalator – never the lift, and I’ve got lucky socks and underwear that I reserve for the BIG runners.” (Who’s willing to bet that Vistula’s profile picture is probably printed on the current set of lucky underpants?)

Brett Crawford – the man that can win at any centre is surprisingly not immune to superstitions. “I never carry change (loose coins) to races, as I was once told that if you take coins to races, you come home with coins.

Gavin Smith (easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met) holds closely the superstition that green should never be worn to races, not even green underpants.

He also said that “if I have a good day, I will wear the same tie again shortly after, to try and bring its luck to the following race meeting.” The PE based trainer also walks exactly the same way out of the parade ring, for every single race.

John Freeman was an interesting person to ask this question. He’s created massive commercial success in racing. He responded with a few superstitions. One of which is to always walk out of the Kenilworth parade ring through the winners box. This was adapted from an old Irish family tradition, that you should always go out of the door that you entered. He added: “I also wear bright coloured socks for luck.”

The worlds best trainer, Candice Dawson, cringes every time anyone says good luck to her before races. One superstition of hers that I do admire is that she stays in the Parade Ring to watch every horse go down to the start, to show her respect for the field. – tt.

Superstitions Part 2 in KR Column, February, features, among others, Mark Currie, Jill Warner, Justin Snaith and Glen Kotzen.



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