Grylls takes apprentices under his wings for a day

New Zealand jockey Craig Grylls was the latest “teacher for a day” to hand our boys a few words of advice at the Singapore Turf Club apprentice jockey’s school on Wednesday.

After the likes of Glen Boss, Corey Brown, Michael Rodd (six Melbourne Cups between them), Vlad Duric, Matthew Chadwick and Matthew “The Poon Train” shared their own experiences with the avid listeners in the past couple of years, it was Grylls’ turn to give the room of 11 apprentice jockeys a literally very “uplifting” two-hour lecture shortly after trackwork.

Singapore Turf Club riding master Damien Kinninmont was again the one who organised this up-close-and-personal session he hopes will help inspire our future riders.

Craig Grylls (grey tee with zig zag hoops) with local apprentice jockeys (from left to right) Desmond Chan Wei Sheng, Troy See, Mohd Firdaus, Syafiq Iskandar, Simon Kok, Zyrul Nor Azman, Hanafi Noorman, Noh Senari, Nurshahril Nordin, Salim Yusoff and Krisna Thangamani, picture Singapore Turf Club

One thing that stood Grylls out from the other guest speakers was he can also fly! (Boss can actually also fly a helicopter, but he did not let in that trivia about his already fact-and-figure packed resume to the audience then!)

The 27-year-old Grylls owns a private pilot’s licence and shared he actually wanted to fly more than ride as a career even if he has a family steeped in racing.

“I come from a racing family. My grandfather Johnny was a jockey but he died before I was born,” he said.

“My dad Gary was also a jockey and rode around 1,300 winners, and my sister Bridget is a jockey at the Gold Coast.

“Dad now trains and he was no doubt my biggest inspiration to become a jockey, but before that, I’ve always wanted to be a pilot!

“I’ve always ridden ponies and did showjumping, but I only made up my mind I wanted to become a jockey when I was 14, but the same year, I also took flying lessons and got my licence three years later.

“I bought my own single-seat aircraft, which I assembled myself, and I use that to fly off to the races back home.”

The novelty of a jockey flying his own aircraft to race meetings certainly had his audience marvelling at the unique job Grylls had – adrenalin rush at both ends, up in the skies and down on the track!

But Grylls, who boasts more than 700 winners in 11 years of riding and rode his first winner at only his third ride at Ellerslie, cautioned that life as a jockey is not the high life most people think it is.

“As a schoolboy, I rode work for trainer Graeme Sanders at Te Awamutu before school, returning to the stables after lessons, and accumulating flying hours whenever possible,” said Grylls who has booted home nine winners at Kranji since beginning his stint in August.

"They were long days, but it was the best way of getting into what I wanted to do. I can't think of a better job. It's outdoors and it's a sport.

“But it’s also a tough sport and there is no tougher battleground than New Zealand. There are so many good jockeys there and you learn so much riding against them every day.

“It’s different here as you don’t race that often, and the expat riders here dominate the racing scene. So, you’ve got to work even harder and take advice as much as you can.

“We are always ready to give you advice, to help you, to tell you where you went wrong. We all went through this as apprentice jockeys and it’s our turn to give back.”