Journey of a Queen's Plate jockey

2012-11-26 15:27

Cape Town - Equestrian champions, trainers and jockeys alike are gearing up for the Cape’s most prestigious horse racing event, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, which takes place at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town on January 12, 2013, with contenders competing for the coveted R1 million purse.

For the jockeys, getting race-day ready takes rigorous preparation including a combination of a strict diet, exercise and training which, for renowned Cape jockey, Bernard Fayd'Herbe, often means having to lose up to three and a half kilos the day before a race.

The stringent dietary requirements of a jockey, according to Fayd'Herbe, include the elimination of carbohydrates or fatty foods to ensure a balanced weight. On race day, a jockey is not permitted to ride 200 grams over his designated weight or he will be replaced by another rider and face a hefty cash fine. 

Over and above this, to make the designated weight their horse must carry on race day, a jockey sometimes needs to exercise in a sweat suit and spend hours in a steam room to lose up to three kilos of water. The exercise regime of a jockey also involves cardio training in a sweat suit without any weight training in order not to pick up muscle mass. 

“Naturally, I would weigh around 70kg but I have to keep my weight down to around 57kg, which is an agonizing struggle but my career as a race horse jockey depends on it,” says Bernard.

“The night before the race I will have a fruit shake for dinner and am limited to a black coffee for breakfast at times on race day. After I sweat, I cannot put the weight back on and can only get through the day by taking rehydrate supplements as water or cool drinks are weighted.”

Bernard’s champion-filled career has galloped to success along with the horses he has ridden, including some of the best horses in the country such as L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate victor, Pocket Power who won the race for four consecutive years. 

“A top jockey needs to exude constant professionalism, have the ability to keep a cool head and understand that the horse is not a machine and needs to be nurtured. In the big races such as the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, a leading jockey needs to time the run perfectly and master the big match temperament,” says Bernard when asked on what it takes to compete in a race such as the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.

Other champions Bernard has ridden to victory include Dancer's Daughter, Ebony Flyer and What a Winter.

“After all, you can lose a race with one wrong move. In these big races, big players are involved with huge investments and it is important that you keep as professional as possible at all times. I believe that it is not always natural ability but also hard work and, most importantly, a healthy state of mind that separates you from the rest.”

“It is also important to get to know the horse you are riding and to study your opposition in order to work out the best tactics for the race. Racehorses travel at 70km/h and when you come off it is like coming off a motorbike, so it is important to be focused every second of a race .”

With many changes happening in the Cape Town horse-racing fraternity in order to grow the sport, the world-class standard of local horse-racing is ensured by the meticulous training licence approved by the National Horseracing Authority of South Africa.

The running of the 2013 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate - which sees the best 16 thoroughbred horses in South Africa being accepted according to their merit ratings - will see a new star born over the classic mile race with 2012 Equus Champion, Variety Club, starting as favourite with likely challenger being 2012 Durban July favourite, Jackson.

About L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate

It was 1861 when the legendary Queen’s Plate race first thundered on African soil, with a prize of a silver plate and 500 sovereigns donated to the winner by Queen Victoria. The race signalled a meeting of racing excellence, style and grace that has continued unsurpassed in the history of South African horse racing.

Sponsored by L’Ormarins since 2005, the Queen’s Plate is also one of the Cape’s acclaimed social gatherings where art and passion are captured not only in equestrian endeavors but also in the ancient winemaking skills displayed in Antonij Rupert Wines as well as a collection of classic, rare Mercedes-Benz cars on display courtesy of the Franschhoek Motor Museum.

An elegance of occasion, meanwhile, is reflected in blue & white race day fashions, world-class entertainment and a variety of hospitality & culinary offerings which suggest the perfect place to share good wine with friends, enjoy the races and dance the night away.

About Bernard Fayd'Herbe

Bernard Fayd'Herbe’s career began with a five year apprenticeship at the SA Jockey Academy in Durban in 1995, in which he underwent vigorous training to help turn him into one of the country’s top jockeys. After completing his apprenticeship and qualifying as a professional jockey, Bernard moved to Cape Town to take up his first job with trainer Justin Snaith of Snaith Racing and, within a very short period of time, his name was being touted as a jockey to watch.


• Winning the first race that he participated in for the late Michael Roberts on Dollar Deal
• Winning the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate four times on Pocket Power
• Winning the J&B Met twice on Pocket Power
• Winning in Dubai on World Cup night on Champion sprinter JJ the Jet Plane
• Winning the Mercury Sprint on three occasions including 2012 on What a Winter
• Winning two Group 1 races on Champion filly Ebony Flyer who will run in the GR.1 Paddock Stakes on the same day as the 2013 Queen’s Plate

•  L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, 11:00-23:00, January 12, 2013, Kenilworth Racecourse, Cape Town. Limited tickets to hospitality areas are available at Computicket.