Story and photos by Beverley Smith
Eurico Rosa da Silva
has won two Queen’s Plates, a Pattison International on a 42 to 1 shot, six Sovereign awards, an international jockeys’ challenge in Japan. All good. But he’s always been a man with a plan.
And that plan includes retiring from race riding at the end of this Woodbine season on Dec. 15, at age 44. He won’t be emulating Mike Smith, still riding at age 54, or Bill Shoemaker who won a Kentucky Derby at age 54, or that guy Danny Miller in Australia who is still riding at age 68.
For Da Silva still has miles to go before he sleeps and not necessarily on the back of a horse. For the past four seasons, he has already been working on his next chapter, quite under the radar. Actually, he’s been working all his life for the next moment.
For the past four years, Da Silva has been planning all of this, taking courses on Peak Performance, and studies in being a life coach from a Canadian academy. This sort of stuff isn’t new for him. For the past 13 years, he’s talked to an array of psychologists and learned about meditation and visualization. When he gets up at 5 a.m., he starts the day with mediation. Before the races, he does warmup mediation, breathing exercises and visualization. He’s one of the most focused of jockeys in the Woodbine room.
He has also trained taekwondo to calm and ground him, and take the steam and aggressiveness out of his personality.
He admits he used to get into fights in the jock’s room. Once again, if Da Silva has a problem, he takes care of it. “I did the work on myself,” he said. “It’s not easy.“
He’s dealt with loads of guilt. When he won, he’d feel guilt. When he lost he felt guilt. And he’s had to deal with it, too.
That Da Silva turned to psychologists for his own personal enlightenment is a testament to his desire to become a better human and wrestle his difficult start in life to the ground. He was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the son of a truck driver who “was a bad guy.” He has no relationship with his father to this day. When he was five years old, he went to live with his grandparents. When he was 12, he was out in the world, on his own.
But he was lucky, and blessed, he said. He found the world of horse racing. “The horse replace my father,” he said. “It was a passion. Horses are god to me. Because of horses, when maybe I was 18 or 20, I was making a lot of money in Brazil because I was leading rider.
“I went wild a little bit,” he said. “But very fast, I came back again. I got over it quick. I knew I was doing the wrong thing.”
Now, he wants to smell the roses. He admits he’s just tired. He has a seven-year-old son, William, Amelia, 3, and Isabelle, nine months. “I want to have energy to play with this guy,” he said, pointing to William. “I want to bicycle with him in the summertime. I like to take them to visit some places in Canada. Canada is beautiful. I never have the opportunity to go because all I do is ride. And the wintertime, it’s not the time really to travel in Canada.”
Eurico and Isabelle
He values time with his kids because he didn’t have that when he was young. He plans to support his wife, Dr. Orlaith Cleary, an equine surgeon and be with his young children. “They grow up fast,” he said.
And become a life coach to athletes and others, too, who might need to benefit from what he has learned. He plans to do it from an office beside his home in Campbellville, where he has easy access to five parks. Nature is a key part of his curriculum. Studies show that nature has definite and positive effects not only on the brain, but on heart rate, sleep patterns, and stress reduction.
“I’m not looking to get over busy,” he said. “I want to work with 10 to 15 players. I really enjoy them and they are professional and really want to work to be at the top.”
And he said he needs to work to keep himself busy.
He’s been on top in Canada for years now. That in itself brings tremendous pressure. “The more you win, the more your mind want to get you,” he said. “I stay on the good ground. I never think I was big. I’m having a sense now a little bit of how much I win, but I swear now, I feel like I just was a rider than won a little bit. I didn’t feel anything, because I was so focused on myself. I know what I need to fight all the time.”
Eurico and stakes superstar Pink Lloyd
What he knows: that when you are under pressure, pictures of a past life play on your mind, like a default process.
“You need to twist them,” he said. “If that way don’t work, put that [different mental picture] in. It’s quite crazy. I need to manipulate my own mind to be able to concentrate.”
Da Silva knows first hand that being a jockey or any kind of athlete is “a lonely kind of business,” he said. “If you have somebody to talk about your stuff is amazing. The key is to listen to the person.”
So with the boots put away and the riding crop silenced, Da Silva plans to be a life coach, mainly to athletes, but others who need to benefit from his life lessons, even people under high stress. He knows that listening is the key.
What most people don’t know is that Da Silva has already put in practice this life-coach plan. For several years, he has been working with an NBA player (not a Toronto Raptor.) This year, he has also been working with a taekwondo fighter, a tennis player and a jazz pianist.
“It’s all the same,” he said. “They need the focus. They find you. You don’t need to find them.”
This season, Da Silva is currently the second-leading rider, but he’s eased off his pace. The taekwondo lessons have slackened. He used to work eight to 10 horses in the morning. “I don’t know how I did it, but I did it in the past,” he said. Now he might work a minimum of five on the weekends.
“This is my last year,” he said. “So I just want to have fun. This year, I have been way easier on myself.”
He says he is financially okay, but doesn’t consider himself rich. But then, he’s not motivated by money.
“Money never really drove me much,” he said. “I am fascinated to help others. I take them to nature and see their faces. The difference when they walk away from the sessions, they just walk different. And it’s so beautiful.
“And the trust they put in you, too. It’s beautiful. No money can buy that.”