Keagan Latham building for more Magic Millions success with Eleven Eleven

South African jockey Keagan Latham has ridden in more international racing jurisdictions than most, but the popular rider will be forever thankful to Australia for saving his career.

Latham started out as an apprentice to champion South African trainer Mike de Kock and prior to arriving in Australia rode in South Africa, Ireland, England, France, Hong Kong, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.

“Towards the end of 2016 I was thinking about pulling the pin on my career,” Latham said.

“I went back to England for a second stint and I just could not get going. It didn’t matter what I did, what I tried, who I rode for – just couldn’t get going.

“I thought ‘I’m done with it now’. I’d lost the hunger, the will to win. When people have no faith in you, you lose that faith in yourself.

“I was filthy with how my career had gone from high to low – I wanted nothing to do with racing anymore.

“I was looking at other options for the rest of my life, car salesman, motorcycle salesman, plumber, electrician whatever you like. I was looking at careers that were easy enough to slip into after doing the relevant study.

“My wife (Nancy), my girlfriend at the time, suggested I look to Australia. Go and ride work for a while, refresh your mind and then come back to England and re-evaluate. If you want to still pull the pin then fine.

“I came here, rode work for Gai for a couple of months and thankfully she gave me a winner at my first meeting and it has just snowballed from there.

“I just wish I’d have come here many, many years ago. Australia has been very good to me.”

Keagan Latham. Photo: Jenny Evans.Source:News Corp Australia

Since then, Latham’s profile has continued to build and the momentum has grown with the 32-year-old booting home more than his share of winners, mainly on the provincial circuit.

Fifty-two winners during 2018/19 grew to 86 last season and less than halfway through 2020/21 – Latham has ridden 34 winners from less than 200 rides at better than 17 percent winners to rides.

“It’s a high ladder but we are climbing it steady and have been getting a lot of great opportunities,” he said.

“It’s quite a fine line that I’m sitting on. Some might say I’m sitting on the fence but you can fall either way.

“On the provincial circuit, I’m doing very well. I get a lot of good rides on a Saturday when all the city boys are in town and I’m riding my fair share of winners.

“It’s fair to say I’ve established myself pretty well on the provincial circuit but I’d be an idiot to say I wouldn’t love to be in the city.

“I think I’m good enough to be among the big boys and I’ve always found the tougher the competition the better you perform and the quicker you learn.

“Better horses, better jockeys and you raise your game.

“I would like to be able to start to get a few more opportunities in the city but it’s a fine line because you still need to be getting on the right types of horses.

“I wouldn’t want to be going to town and making up the numbers, been there and done that and don’t fancy going there again.

“It would be a risk to give up what I’ve built in the provincial circuit but that is something I’ll evaluate in the months ahead as the opportunities present.

“Hopefully things just keep getting better and better.”

This Saturday, Latham makes a rare foray into the city to partner the horse that has done the most for his profile in Australia – Eleven Eleven from the Greg Hickman stable.

Latham and Eleven Eleven have forged a winning relationship with the pair combining for four wins and three black-type placings from seven starts.

One of those wins was in last year’s Magic Millions 3YO Guineas after Alligator Blood returned a positive sample to a prohibited substance.

There will be Blood! Alligator Blood wins the $2m MM 3YO Guineas to make it 8 (& a G1 2nd) from 9 starts. The 3YO by @VineryStud’s All Too Hard was sold by @BaramulStud to Ezybonds No. 1 for just $55k at the 2018 Gold Coast Magic Millions & has won $2.1m. # ItPaysToBuyAustralian pic.twitter.com/XbQVt8rkdJ

“He’s been the most important horse I’ve ridden in Australia. He is a horse that has allowed me to showcase my ability on the big stage,” Latham said.

“Any jockey will tell you, it takes a horse to put you on the map. Some of the boys I ride against on the provincials are highly capable jockeys but they haven’t been lucky enough to have that horse to put them up in lights.

“I always think of a rider like Tom Queally. Before Frankel came along he was merely a nobody but that horse put him on the map.”

The Fastnet Rock gelding resumes from a spell in the Members Christmas Benchmark 88 Handicap (1100m) en route to a start in the $1 million Magic Millions Cup (1400m) on the Gold Coast in January.

“I think he is coming up really well,” Latham said. “Unfortunately, he’s drawn out in the car park on Saturday and the distance is probably a shade too short for him but his prep has been really good.

“He looks great and feels even better.

“All going well he’ll end up back on the Gold Coast and hopefully this time we get to celebrate a win on the day.”

Eleven Eleven’s trainer Greg Hickman. Photo: AAP Image/Simon Bullard.Source:AAP

Latham nominated the Stephen O’Hallaran-trained Deadly Impact as one of his better rides on Saturday in the Highway Handicap (1800m).

“He’s one that is pretty quirky, probably should have won last start under the kid,” he said.

“Generally speaking, the Highway’s are usually a bit easier than your normal city races and this horse did beat Rari at Rosehill early in his career.

“A performance like that would stand him in good stead in a race like this.”

He also rides two horses he’s nominated as potential city winners either on Saturday or into the future – Trust The Process which lines up in the Precise Air 3&4YO Benchmark 72 Handicap (1500m) and Secretly Awesome in the De Bortoli Wines 3&4YO Benchmark 72 Handicap (1800m).

“Trust The Process is quite a capable horse, one I think is up to winning in Saturday grade,” he said.

“His first-up run was quite good and he’ll have come on from that but he too has drawn a bit awkwardly so I’m going to have to give him a good ride.

“Secretly Awesome is another that has a lot of ability but he’s also a bit of a quirky bugger.

“He’s starting to get into the distance range that will suit him and if he can keep learning and improving I think he has a decent future.

“He could develop into a pretty handy stayer.”

Eleven Eleven is an $8 chance on Saturday while Deadly Impact is priced at $6 with his three remaining rides Trust The Process, Secretly Awesome and the stablemate In Lighten Me all double figure odds.

Keagan Latham in his go-kart at Sydney Premier Karting Park at Eastern Creek. Photo: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Away from the track, Latham is a speed freak that spends his spare time zooming around go-kart tracks.

“I enjoy spending time away from the races in my go-kart,” he said. “It’s a proper two stroke that does around 110km/h in a straight line.

“I don’t have the time to race because race meetings are usually held on weekends and I’m at the races, but I enjoy getting out on the track and testing myself against myself and the clock.

“Blake Spriggs has got into it too.”

So, who is the fastest of the two go karting jockeys?

“Don’t ask stupid questions,” Latham said.

Originally published asKeagan Latham has a need for speed

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