When Devin Habib was 22-years-old, his career as a jockey was beginning to emerge.
Just 18 months earlier he captured his first Grade 2 race when Alimony won the Emerald Cup on the sand.
Trainers were starting to take notice and some decent rides were beginning to come his way. The he has involved in a serious motor accident.
He spent a month in hospital and there were serious concerns about his ability to live a normal life, let alone ride again. Now 30-years-old, Devin is back in the saddle and starting to ride winners.
The miracle had happened. “I thank God for giving a second chance,” says Devin, “not just for my life, but also for all the changes that have happened.”
For a few years it seemed Devin would be unable to come back be-cause he was getting epileptic fitts.
“I was told they were following the British rule and that I would not be allowed to ride again. But it just cleared up on its own.
“With the opportunity now open to him, Devin came back to ride but then he was confronted with another issue – his weight. Before his accident Devin used to ride at 52kg but when he got the go-ahead to ride, he weighed 70kg.
“I didn’t think I was coming back so I used to go to the gym and train and pu ing on all that muscle, my weight went up.
“It took a while but I got my weight down to 60kg but it all was a result of spending long hours in the sauna and wasting. I was arriving at the course needing to get my weight down so I would sit in the sauna and sweat off two to 3kg a meeting.”
It was clearly unhealthy and Devin realised he needed a complete lifestyle change.
“My mind-set wasn’t right. I needed to have a new game plan and set different goals, so I started doing it the right way.”
So he stopped riding, went to a dietician and followed an eating plan.
“I stuck to the plan. It’s all in the mind; you’ve got make your mind up and set your goals. Make sure you do the right things.”
Eight months later Devin returned to riding with his weight set at his targeted 55kg.
“I can even ride comfortably at 54.5kg – without wasting.”With this lifestyle change came a whole new attitude to life.
“I’m not here just for the money, I’m here to be a champion and ride as many winners as possible. “Before, if I didn’t get chances I would get despondent and give up to quickly.
But now I realise it’s all up to me. I have to keep my head up and carry on working.”To that end Devin has had the support of a few trainers, none more so than Paul Matche .
“He has helped me quite a bit with rides and has given me chances. I have worked hard for him and he has given me the rides.”
The best was in the Grade 2 Wilgerbosdri Gauteng Fillies Guineas at Turffontein on Saturday 2 February, when he rode a cracker on 16-1 chance Running Brave who was touched off by 28-10 favourite Nafaayes.
“She’s had two or three good runs with me and I’m grateful to get the chance to ride her. “Sure, it’s disappointing to go down a short head and it was just a ma er of having her head down at the line.
I know if she runs in the Fillies Classic and stays 1800m, she will be a big runner and there will be another chance.
“Running Brave and I have bonded well. She’s quite difficult but we know each other well and she is improving.
She’s starting to settle in races.”
Devin is also quite happy to travel if the opportunity arises and last Sunday he travelled to Harare where he rode a winner and a couple of seconds.
“Riding winners gets your confidence up. It wouldn’t be an issue to travel.”But the biggest change in his life is that he has devoted his life to God and the person who has guided him in the right direction is Mark Tarry, brother of trainer Sean Tarry.
“Mark has a prayer group of which I am part. He’s played a big role in helping me spiritually. “I realise I have to persevere if I want to achieve my goals and I know that to succeed, I need to make sacrifices,” Devin said.