People are talking about Tony McEvoy’s new stable jockey.
Barend Vorster has created a huge impression since joining McEvoy’s Angaston-based stable in early March, following a successful 15-year career in Singapore.
The South African-born jockey has already ridden winners at a long list of Australian tracks – including Flemington, where he piloted Sunlight to victory in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap – and McEvoy says Vorster’s sublime talents are a timely fillip for the SA racing industry.
“As you know I’ve got a stable in Melbourne and I’ve got horses is Sydney, and everywhere I go people are saying ‘Wow, what about your jockey?’,” McEvoy says.
“He’s captured the attention of people and that’s very important because he’s starting to get a following.
“South Australian racing lost Jamie Kah to Melbourne and she was our star girl – I would say that 30 cents in every dollar bet in South Australia would’ve gone onto her, or more.
“But I think Barend is going to fill that void and make sure people are betting on South Australian racing and have someone to follow, with confidence.”
Vorster’s early winning strike rate has been nothing short of phenomenal and his success continued on Saturday when he landed the $100,000 Listed Oakbank Stakes (1100m) aboard the McEvoy-trained Despatch.
The 42-year-old hoop enjoyed plenty of black-type success in Singapore and is best known for his association with champion Rocket Man, but McEvoy says Vorster’s instant impact on Australian shores is no accident.
“When you see him on horses at training, he’s just lovely on them – they respond really well to him,” McEvoy says.
“And then in the presence of competition, his stats are incredible at the moment when you consider he doesn’t know my horses, he doesn’t know the tracks, he doesn’t know where the markers are yet and he’s still getting to know the jockeys he’s competing against.
“And every track I’ve taken him to he’s shown his professionalism by walking out and having a look.
“He’s been 15 years in Singapore riding at the one circuit, Kranji, then he comes here and I’ve taken him to Flemington, Mornington, Strathalbyn, Murray Bridge, Morphettville, you name it and he’s just stepped up to the plate like a real pro every time.”
McEvoy says he is “super impressed” with how Vorster and his family – wife Nikki and 11-year-old son Brendan – have slotted into the Angaston stable, while the experienced jockey is also enjoying his new surrounds and lifestyle.
Vorster’s professionalism and willingness to literally go the extra mile ultimately landed him the vacant Barossa Valley gig.
After emailing McEvoy, he flew to Australia to meet his future boss.
“I’d watched him ride and knew of his association with Rocket Man,” McEvoy recalls.
“Then he jumped on a plane and came down and that just showed me he was very keen, plus I liked him the first time I met him – and first impressions are pretty important.”
McEvoy says Vorster will be a key player in the stable’s assault on the 2019 Autumn Racing Carnival at Morphettville, starting with Oaks Ladies Day on Saturday, May 4. While Sunlight’s regular rider Luke Currie will be back on the star filly for the $600,000 Group 1 TAB Classic (1200m), Vorster will be front and centre throughout the carnival and has been pencilled in to partner promising stayer Secret Blaze in the $600,000 Group 1 South Australian Derby (2500m).
“I’m going to be very strong through the Adelaide carnival and Barend will ride the pick of all my rides in Adelaide, except for Sunlight,” McEvoy says.
“Given the way Barend has started, I think when he settles in and knows more about what he’s doing in these parts he’s going to be such a star.”
Image credit: Herald Sun.
Words by Paul Mitchell.