Gavin Lerena is to relocate to the UK this summer and will be based with Charlie Hills at Faringdon Place Stables in Lambourn.
The 2015 champion jockey is also the current title race leader but has opted to forgo another possible title in order to expand his riding experience. He will fly out on Friday.
Lerena boasts 48 Graded-race successes in South Africa, including Grade 1s, and hopes to add further Pattern race triumphs overseas to that portfolio.
The 31-year-old is to be sponsored by Chelsea Thoroughbreds whose principals Richard Morecombe and James Ramsden have been impressed with his riding on the South African circuit and will give him opportunities on their 27 horses when appropriate and possible, that are housed with a total of nine trainers spread around the country.
Hills expects to give Lerena plenty of opportunities, while many other trainers have expressed an interest in his services.
Not since former Racing Post editor Graham Rock brought Michael Roberts over in 1991 has a leading South African jockey based himself permanently in the UK, and Lerena is greatly looking forward to the challenge.
He enthused: “I’m so excited to get over to the UK and start riding winners there. The Shergar Cup was an experience in itself last summer and I cannot thank Richard and James at Chelsea Thoroughbreds as well as Charlie himself for offering me this wonderful opportunity.”
Meanwhile Chelsea Thoroughbreds are delighted to add Lerena’s skills to its rapidly growing place among the top syndicate operations in the country.
“I was really impressed with the winners Gavin rode at Ascot last summer and there’s a real opportunity for him here in the UK at the moment,” said Richard Morecombe.
James Ramsden added: “My brother Joey, who trains in Cape Town, couldn’t recommend Gavin to us strongly enough while I saw that talent for myself when he rode at the Shergar Cup last summer.” Lerena was a three-time champion apprentice riding out of Johannesburg amassing 283 winners and breaking a record Roberts had held for three decades.
Among his recent major successes was victory in the 2015 and 2016 Sansui Summer Cups on the Geoff Woodruff-trained Master Sabina.
When landing the SA title he achieved a record of 42 successes in a single month and has partnered around 1,400 career wins.
His foreign wins includes victory in the 2015 Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Challenge.