Marcus Naidoo is an inspiring example of someone who is following his dreams with unwavering determination. A student at the South African Jockey Academy (SAJA), he is working hard to become an Advanced Work Rider, a path that will ultimately lead him to participate in work rider races.
Marcus grew up in Verulum, KwaZulu-Natal, with a family of four, including his parents and an older sister. He attended public primary and secondary schools, where he was elected Deputy Head Boy at Trenance Park Secondary. During his matric year, he had the honour of representing his school in a Transport Project, which earned them first place and recognition from the former Minister of Transport, Bheki Cele.
Reflecting on his childhood, Marcus fondly recalls a time when children played outdoors with simple joys like marbles, spinning tops, flying kites, and games of hide and seek. “Growing up was quite an adventure, and it was different from the younger generation today who have access to more advanced technology,” he says.
While his initial career aspirations included being an electrician or a lawyer, Marcus’s life took a different turn when his father placed a bet on the horse London News. This exposure to horse racing piqued his interest, leading him to research and discover the SAJA.
Completing his work riding training at SAJA has been a transformative experience for Marcus. “It’s totally different from your normal day-to-day life, it’s exciting and mundane at times, but being around animals, especially horses, brings out a side in you that you never knew,” he explains. However, being away from home and family can be challenging, although the goal and the support he receives keep him motivated.
One of the major hurdles Marcus has faced during his training is the limited support available for Work Riders in comparison to Apprentices when it comes to competing in races. His route to becoming a jockey, via a Work Rider qualification, presents unique challenges.
Despite these challenges, Marcus has achieved something he’s immensely proud of. “I will be able to qualify as a work rider at the age of 33. I have never been exposed to racing and horses in my life and have only started my riding career at the age of 32 – I doubt anyone has ever done that before,” he proudly states.
For the future, Marcus hopes to have the opportunity to ride in a Work Rider race and establish his own animal shelter, highlighting his deep concern for animals.
He believes that the qualities required to be a champion jockey include resilience, determination, knowledge, and understanding, but he places significant emphasis on faith: “The grace of God, because without Him, nothing is possible and through Him, anything can be achieved.”
Looking up to jockeys like Pierre Strydom from the past and Rachel Venniker today, Marcus remains inspired in his pursuit of his dreams.
Marcus’s journey has been made possible with the support of the Hollywood Foundation. Marcus’s early aspirations were hampered by financial constraints, but the Hollywood Foundation stepped in to help him achieve his dream. He expresses his gratitude for the foundation’s support, especially Caroline Hartog, who played a pivotal role in making his dream a reality.
“The Hollywood Foundation have paid my debt to obtain my certificate and accommodation to achieve my goal!” Marcus exclaims, adding that he is “forever grateful.”