Jeremy Davids, affectionately known as “Zack,” has big dreams of becoming a successful jockey. But his journey as an apprentice has been far from easy.
Born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, Jeremy’s upbringing was marked by hardship. Raised by his three sisters while his mother worked outside the province and his father remained unemployed, the young Jeremy knew he had to work hard to bring about positive change in his family’s life.
He attended Eastwood Secondary School until Grade 10 before joining the South African Jockey Academy (SAJA) to complete his Grade 11. It was at a young age that Jeremy aspired to become a veterinarian due to his deep love for animals. He was also a passionate soccer and cricket player during his school years, even leading his school to victory in the KFC cricket tournament.
It was Jeremy’s uncle, Haldane Thompson, who introduced him to the world of horse racing. Jeremy recalls, “My uncle always had the TV on the racing channel, and I would stop and watch with amazement. He recommended that I try to become a jockey.”
His journey to becoming a jockey wasn’t without its challenges. Initially, his weight prevented him from joining the academy. However, with the motivation from his mother, he lost 4 kg and successfully gained acceptance two years ago. “Although it was difficult being away from home initially, it was worth it in the end when I looked back at how far I’ve come,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy has faced injuries that kept him away from the track for an extended period. Despite the obstacles, his dedication and hard work have earned him the title of “the most improved athlete” at the academy for term two. He has his sights set on becoming a successful jockey and riding abroad one day, with professional jockey Richard Fourie as his role model.
Beyond his personal aspirations, Jeremy also wants to inspire and help kids from his community. He believes in the power of staying humble, persevering, being determined, and practicing patience.
When asked about the challenges that youth his age are facing today, Jeremy highlights poverty and drug abuse as pressing issues. He offers words of encouragement to aspiring youth: “Don’t give up and stay focused; it’s all in your mind. Whatever comes in your way, persevere and stay patient and consistent. Always be humble and never undermine anyone who tries to help you, especially if they are experienced.”
Jeremy’s journey was made possible through the Hollywood Foundation, which has provided a bursary to support his education at SAJA. Jeremy’s mother, a single parent working hard to provide for her family, could not have afforded the fees at the academy on her own.
“I have been waiting for this breakthrough, and I am so grateful,” Jeremy says. “The Hollywood Foundation took a lot off my chest, and I can now work even better because all the pressure is cleared from my mind as to how my single mom would pay. I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to a good school where I could meet my full potential in sport and academics. Now I have it!”