IRC Q&A: Rachel Venniker

First-year apprentice Rachel Venniker, based at the renowned South African Jockeys Academy, has endeared herself to the racing public with her rapid improvement under mentorship of SA and UK Champion jockey, Michael, ‘Muis’ Roberts. She holds a good lead on the apprentice’s log in a country known for producing world-class riders, but she remains as humble and hard-working as they come, realising that this is a hard and competitive profession in which you need opportunities to keep coming. She’s already show herself to be a good judge of pace, and she hasn’t been scared to take the guys on at their own game.

Rachel grew up around horses near Summerveld in Durban. She began riding work at 14 and hasn’t looked back, getting her first winner as a work rider in 2020. She worked as a stable employee whilst completing her schooling at Roseway Waldordf, before joining the Academy earlier this year. 

It’s been a fairytale for her so far, she’s been churning out the winners and is already being spoken of as a potential Holly Doyle or Hayley Turner, but Rachel has a head on her shoulders and she knows that her journey has only just begun. We look forward to following her progress.

Here is our snap Q&A with Rachel Venniker:

1. Full name? Rachel Venniker

2. Date of Birth? 11 April 2001
3. Steak or sushi? Sushi!
4. Superstitions? I have a couple… most of them are common ones such as the colour green being bad luck (so none of my kit is green) and standing on a set of silks if they are new.

5. Fav Holiday Destination? I’m not much of a holiday person but if I ever go anywhere, I really enjoy the Drakensberg Mountains.


6. Michael Roberts as a mentor? It’s hard to put it into a few words, one cannot get a better mentor than 11 times SA champion jockey who has ridden all over the world and been champion jockey in the UK. He really helps me a lot, we go through all my races (even those where I ride for other people) and we try to improve my race riding. He’s given me a lot of advice on tactical riding, which is the key to most of my wins.

7. Who inspires you the most? Lyle Hewitson has always inspired me as he went through almost the same process as I did (becoming an apprentice after being a work rider and completing school) and he is such a professional, it is truly inspiring.

8. Big night out or quiet night in?  I do enjoy the odd party night but I’m quite a quiet person who enjoys relaxing at home.

9. Left-handed or right-handed? I’m a righty

10. Most memorable day in racing? Riding my first treble, all the winners for Mr Roberts aboard Tupelo Honey, Hatta and Patronage. It was incredible as it felt like every time I realised what was happening I was standing in the winner’s box again. It still feels a bit surreal as it was something I used to dream about as a kid and suddenly I was going home with three winners.

11. What annoys you most? This is a tough one as I’m quite easy to annoy and I’m a bit short tempered but probably at the top of the list is apathetic people.

12. Funniest person in the weighing room? I’m on my own in the ladies jockey room so I don’t get to hear the guys too often.

13. What is your biggest phobia? Heights and spiders, I’ve slept on the couch a couple times because there’s been a spider in my bedroom!

14. Best horse ridden so far? Solid Gold

15. Most embarrassing moment? Tearing my jeans at trackwork.

16. Colts or fillies? Fillies. I find they tend to respond nicely to a softer approach, and we seem to get on.

17. Proudest Achievement? Winning on Luna Eclipse for Mr Roberts, she’s a very quirky filly and we had to put in a lot of work to get her right and she repaid us by winning by 5 lengths at her second start.

18. Economy or business class? I’d love business but I fly economy, so I don’t break the bank.

19. Whips or no whips? Whips. They don’t need to be overused but they are necessary.

20. One thing to improve racing for everyone? Better media coverage and getting racing to be more publicised like other professional sports.

21. Biggest ambition? To race overseas, hopefully Hong Kong or Japan.

22. Worried about losing your claim? Not really. I just try focus on always improving and working as hard as I can.

23. Best jockey ridden against? Probably Lyle Hewitson.

24. Your star sign? Aries.

25. Single or taken? Single.

26. Bath or shower? Shower.

27. Read or Netflix? I’m a movie fanatic so Netflix but I do enjoy a good book.

28. Would you rather ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

29. Nominate someone for our Q&A next? Donovan Dillon

Chosen charity for readers to donate to:

Coastal Horse Care Unit  – IRC.


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