This week, we meet with the one and only Mark Neisius. This great jockey won the more prestigious races on the island – The Maiden Cup and the Gold Cup. And the Cape Guiness, a grade 1 event in South Africa. A real gentleman on the racecourse and in life in general, his pleasant personality makes Mark Neisius a genuine person.
So Mr Neisius, when did you fall in love with horses?
As most race goers will know, my uncle is a jockey as well. From a kid I spent most holidays with him as I loved racing from a young age. I had my first horse when I was 4 years old and have ridden ever since.
How does it feel winning the Maiden Cup?
Winning the Maiden Cup is hard to put into words, it’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe. I’ve been fortunate enough to win Grade 1 races in South Africa but that cannot be compared to winning The Maiden here in Mauritius. The crowd Maiden day is huge and to have every one of them applauding you is quite a terrific experience. Riding a treble on the same day just made it that much more special.
How many victories do you have at this time?
I do not know the exact figure but approximately 600 in South Africa (SA) and 72 in Mauritius.
The biggest race you won?
My biggest victory in SA was the Cape Guiness a grade 1 event for 3-year-old colts. A horse called Ethno Centric that I was fortunate enough to ride throughout his career. I won 10 feature races on him. In Mauritius, definitely the Maiden and the Gold cup.
How do you find the whole atmosphere at the Champ-de-Mars?
The atmosphere at Champ-de-Mars is unique, I’ve taken seasoned race goers to the track race day and they were blown away by the atmosphere. Even riding is a total different experience as you can hear the crowd long before you turn into the home straight.
Are racing events improving over the years? What could be done to improve racing in Mauritius?
To be honest, not much has changed since I first started riding here in 1995, besides introducing the 1,000 m race which has helped many horses win races here. Racing in Mauritius is unique and I think big changes could kill the appeal that so many Mauritians love about racing. A big track with a big grandstand away from the action would be detrimental to local racing in my opinion. The crowd here enjoy being close to the action and that’s what pulls the crowds here. I wouldn’t want to change anything about racing here except making life a little better for the horses. I feel for them because of the conditions they live in. Being locked up for most the day is cruel in my opinion. Overseas horses have their boxes open all day, can be left in open paddocks, etc. Unfortunately, horses here don’t get to experience the same luxuries.
Your fondest memory?
My fondest memory as many other jockeys would be my 1st winner. It was the 8th ride of my career and I won on a filly that I adored as an apprentice. She won from start to finish and we beat Felix Coetzee on a hot favourite. Unforgettable memory.
And the worst?
The down side of the job, FALLS! Unfortunately part and parcel of our jobs. All jockeys fall off and we all get hurt. I’ve had a couple of serious injuries and don’t wish it on any fellow rider.
If you was a horse, which one would it be? Why?
Hahahahaha, Ive been asked this question before. I would be a lazy horse that the trainer won’t spend much time with and eventually send me to some little girl to be a riding horse, much better than being a race horse.
A word to fellow race-goers?
My advice is not to believe anything you hear and to believe only half what you see.
Anything you’d like to add?
The racing game has been around for hundreds of years and was ‘invented’ for pleasure, eventually gambling was introduced for added pleasure. What I’m trying to say is men enjoy racing and they enjoy a gamble, it’s human nature. But that’s all it should be, enjoyment. There’s nothing worse than hearing stories about people that have lost fortunes on horse racing.