POPULAR jockey Johnny Geroudis has decided to hang up his boots. The 46-year-old suffered an eye injury in 2015 and after much frustration, several consultations and an operation to his left eye, “Johnny G” called it a day this week.
Johnny and his wife Yanti were relaxing on a holiday in Greece last August when he started experiencing blurred vision – something wasn’t right and he was diagnosed with a detached retina, commonly caused by tiny breaks developing inside the retina, resulting in a pulling away from blood vessels, severe nearsightedness and other symptoms.
He’s never one to give up and the retina was re-attached during surgery, but he will have ongoing problems with depth perception, something no jockey can do without. Imagine riding a finish and being unaware of horses around you!
Always spirited and jovial, Johnny chuckles at the suggestion that lack of depth perception might serve as a great excuse when you’re beaten on a hot-pot favourite or nailed on the line when you thought you were five lengths clear on a front-running horse. It doesn’t work that way, however, and the time has come for him to consider his future.
With time on his hands, Johnny’s first ambition is to “aggravate Mike de Kock as much as possible”, he jokes in reference to the former SA Champion Trainer, his long-time friend and associate. “Racing opens doors, I have no firm plans but I will take it easy and see what comes along. One can never say good bye to this game.”
Johnny plays plenty of golf (“along with my wife this keeps me sane!”) and has invested in his first racehorse. She’s a filly by smart young stallion Bold Silvano in training with De Kock and to be raced in partnership with the trainer, Mathew de Kock, Peter White and Charles Savage.
“Johnny G” was well established internationally with over 2000 wins to his name in South Africa, Singapore, Mauritius and Dubai. He finished his apprenticeship under Brian de Villiers and Robbie Sage in 1989, graduating from the same class as other future top riders Weichong Marwing and Sean Cormack.
Johnny won numerous Gr1s in South Africa, including the 1995 Durban July and Daily News with Patrick Shaw-trained Teal, the SA Classic with Shaw’s Kundalini, the Derby on Kale and more recently the 2015 Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship with De Kock’s Entisaar, his third win in the prestigious Scottsville Sprint.
His association with Shaw extended to Singapore when the trainer decided to move from South Africa a decade ago and the partnership yielded wins in most of Singapore’s top races including the Kranji Mile with Blizz Bless and Palace Line and the Lion City Cup with Qui Expression. In that era he also won the Ballanchine in Dubai for De Kock on Moon Dazzle.
Johnny was crowned Champion Jockey of Mauritius in 2012. He won the island’s top race, the Maiden Cup, three times, including a victory on Disa Leader, the hard-galloping old gelding he later rode in Dubai for De Kock.
Johnny tells: “I had the pleasure of riding some wonderful horses. I rode Horse Chestnut when he won first time out and I rode London News to victory the one time I got on his back. But I also hold the honour of getting beat on the great filly Spook Express!”
He’s always full of beans, Johnny G – we’ve missed him on the racetracks the last few months and we’ll continue to miss the little man with the powerful driving arms and the cracking left-handed stick. He’s never going to be far away though, and let’s hope that the racing door he speculates about opens sooner than later.