The South African accent has been growing in volume in jockey rooms around the country in recent years thanks to former jockey turned NZ Equine Academy director Donavan Mansour, with that number growing by one this season.
Apprentice jockey Gareth Lahoud has added his voice to the expat South African contingent and is quickly making his mark on New Zealand tracks, scoring his first win at Tauranga on Wednesday aboard the Stephen Ralph-trained Mi Amigo in the Celebrating 150 Years Of Racing In Tauranga (1400m).
“It is a day I will never forget,” Lahoud beamed following the race.
“Mr Ralph gave me the best instructions. He told me to get a bit of cover and place the horse where he is happy, and that is exactly what I did.
“Full credit to the horse, he took me through the race and did all the work, and it was the best part to get up on the line.”
Lahoud has always been a fan of racing, a passion instilled in him by his father, and he was encouraged to pursue a career as a jockey when attending a race meeting in his homeland.
“My Dad knew a bit about racing, so we would go to the racecourse where I met one of the jockeys’ wives and she said I was small enough and I should start riding racehorses,” he said.
“She told me to go to a person in South Africa to teach me and from that day I just fell in love with it and never looked back.”
Lahoud progressed to become an amateur jockey in South Africa before moving abroad last year to further his riding career.
“I went to England last year to do an apprenticeship but unfortunately with the visa it didn’t work out,” he said.
“That is when I got hold of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing who said John Bary was looking for an apprentice and I arrived on Christmas Day last year.”
Lahoud first contemplated moving to New Zealand when he was introduced to Mansour in 2019 after hearing he was establishing a jockey academy, and he is pleased to now be apprenticed to the former jockey.
“One of the jockeys in South Africa said to get hold of him (Mansour) back in 2019 and he said he was opening up an academy and he didn’t have the things in place to get me in the country at that time,” Lahoud said.
“When I came to New Zealand, I went to John Bary’s first but now I am based in Cambridge (where I am apprenticed to Mansour) and my main stable is Roger James, I also ride for Mr (Stephen) Marsh, Mr (Andrew) Forsman, and a few other trainers when I have time.
“I am just thankful for all of the support, especially from Mr James, Mr Mansour and Mr (Daniel) Nakhle (Byerley Park and jockey academy founder). They have been right behind me and getting me some good rides, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Lahoud is enjoying his time in New Zealand and said he is wanting to make a real go of establishing himself in the country’s riding ranks.
“I am loving it and it has really been good to me with all of the support,” he said.
“I came here to just get more knowledge and get my apprenticeship, and it has really treated me well. It is a good country and the people are nice, I am really enjoying it.
“My plan is to ride as many winners in New Zealand and see how far I can take it. It has been a good country to me so far, so however long I can stay here I will.”