Name, any nickname: Gregory Michael Cheyne; they called me “Autumn Leaves” as an apprentice because I fell so often. Nothing has really stuck in the latter years though.
Current position national jockeys’ log: Second. I have finished third on two occasions and my best was the 156 wins in the 2014-15 season.
Date, city of birth: 10 June 1976 (40); Pretoria.
Family: I’m happily married to Claire.
What attracted you to horseracing? Sport has been my whole life from the word go and I read about horseracing in a Sunday Times article when I was in Standard 4, about 11 or 12 years old. I was excited by the thought that it could be a career. I applied to the South African Jockeys’ Academy, but was told I was too young, so I reapplied a couple of years later and in 1991 got in. I hadn’t ridden before - I’d sat on a horse, yes, but had never ridden faster than a walk. In the beginning riding was challenging, it didn’t come naturally to me like most ball sports had. I’ve worked hard at my chosen profession but I’ve never regretted my decision.
Where are you based: I live in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town. I have been a regular rider in Port Elizabeth for as long as I can remember. Other countries I’ve ridden in include Hong Kong, Singapore from 2009 to 2013 and shorter stints, day visits, in Malaysia, Germany, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Korea and Macau.
When were you licensed: I became a fully fledged jockey in January 1996. The only other jockey who qualified with me and still holds a license is Alec Forbes.
How many career rides: Last Sunday five shy of 13,500 in South Africa.
Total winners: Over 1,537 in South Africa and 100 internationally.
Tell us about your first ride: It was a filly called Our Casey’s Girl, trained by Craig Benton. She carried 58kg (less my 4kg allowance) but I only weighed 38kg. Carrying my saddle after the race was the hardest part of the whole experience!
First winner: Toast of Broadway, trained by David Payne for the late Laurie and Jean Jaffee. It was a long wait and took nearly 80 rides. I won by a neck and was not sure if I had got up.
Best horse you are currently riding: That would have to be Sun Met winner Whisky Baron.
Hardest thing you ever had to do: Say goodbye to my father.
Superstitions: I have an idiosyncrasy or two but no, I’m not superstitious.
Hobbies: I enjoy my Thursday afternoon golf - though I have only managed to play once since September 2016 due to my commitments towards building a house - don’t ask!
What music do you like to listen to: I’m not really fussed. I like a channel with variety. A mix of the ‘80s always goes well. Favourites would be Avicii in recent times, Guns ‘n Roses from back in the day.
Do you follow sport: I follow British Premier League soccer and check the results of SA cricket, Rugby 7s and golf.
What is your favourite team: I am a big Tottenham Hotspur fan. #COYS. Locally, being a Pretoria boy, my heart will always be with the Blue Bulls. Yes, even when they are battling!
Do you read: I haven’t read much of late. If I do, perhaps David Baldacci, Jeffrey Archer or Lee Child.
What car do you drive: A Polo TSI
Objectives for the next five to 10 years: Let’s look at the next five years. When you’re a jockey in your 40s looking 10 years ahead is, well - let’s leave it there for now. Lol!
Since my return from abroad at the end of 2013 I have had a bit of everything. I was very pleased to get a top-10 finish from riding only eight months of my first season back. I followed up with a third-place finish on the national jockeys’ log with a personal best of 156 wins. Last season, I started well but ended up on the sidelines from late December to the end of the season due to an injury to my foot, which required reconstructive surgery.
Upon my return to racing in mid August, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I was well supported by all those I had been riding for before in the Western Cape and extremely fortunate to return to the position of first-choice rider to Alan Greeff in PE. I’m second on the national log this season, the highlight definitely being winning the Sun Met on Whisky Baron for Craig and Ross Kieswetter.
Riding as many winners whenever and wherever is always my primary goal. Being retained rider and part of the expanding Ridgemont team, which recently acquired Highlands Stud Farm, I have a strong focus on my responsibilities and the commitments that go with the hugely exiting position I find myself in. God willing, I still have some of my best years ahead of me, which could include international visits later this year and next year.