By Nicholas Godfrey
Hong Kong: Leading South African jockey Grant van Niekirk has broken his silence over his shock sacking by the Hong Kong Jockey Club earlier this month to admit that a domestic “dispute” with his girlfriend led to an “unfortunate accident”.
Van Niekirk was standing at fifth place in this season’s Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership when he was kicked out with immediate effect owing to what was described in a South China Morning Post report as an alleged “domestic dispute”.
Though Van Niekirk the 28-year-old was an habitual offender with regard to careless riding bans, missing ten meetings through five separate suspensions, the HKJC issued a statement confirming his licence had been withdrawn “as a result of a conduct-related matter which does not pertain to any race riding or integrity-related matter”.
Speaking on his Instagram account about what he described as a “private and personal matter”, Van Niekirk admitted he and his girlfriend had been involved in an argument.
“We found ourselves in a dispute on the 2nd of April 2020, where a very unfortunate accident occurred,” said the jockey.
“It resulted in my girlfriend having a foot injury. I dearly regret the accident that resulted in the injury. People have taken it upon themselves to speculate what could have occurred. False accusations and allegations have been made by the public. We have since made the decision to move forward as a couple.”
The Instagram statement was carried by the South China Morning Post above a comment piece headlined: ‘The truth behind the Jockey Club’s sudden sacking of Grant van Niekirk’.
Van Niekirk’s Hong Kong sojourn ended with 37 winners from 350 rides during the 2019-20 season to add to last season’s tally of 31.
He has more than 700 winners to his name at home in South Africa, among them ten G1 victories including five with star mare Inara and three with Oh Susanna, aboard whom he landed Cape Town’s number one race, the Sun Met, in 2018.
- Read the South China Morning Post’s comment on Grant van Niekirk