You can bet on some grand displays of raceriding when South Africa’s best jockeys square up against a team of international riders in the Racing. It’s A Rush! International Jockeys’ Challenge this Friday and Saturday.
The Challenge comprises eight races over two race meetings – four at Fairview tomorrow and the rest at Turffontein on Saturday afternoon, when the R400,000 Victory Moon Stakes is the headline event.
It’s well catalogued that South African jockeys rank right up there with the world’s best as Michael “Muis” Roberts (UK champion jockey 1992), Doug Whyte (Hong Kong champion jockey 13 years running before finally surrendering his crown last year), Basil Marcus, Felix Coetzee, Weichong Marwing, Piere Strydom and others have proved down the years.
And if any more proof is needed, our jockeys have made maximum use of home-ground advantage and won the Challenge five times to the visitors’ two since the event’s inception in 2008.
Reigning South African champion jockey Gavin Lerena, who booted home 220 winners last season to clinch the crown, will captain the local team which includes last season’s championship runner-up S’manga Khumalo, third-placed Greg Cheyne and internationally acclaimed jockeys Anton Marcus, Anthony Delpech and Strydom.
It’s a formidable line-up, but the international team lacks for nothing in talent and experience and will be captained by Hayley Turner of England, the first woman jockey to consistently rank among the UK’s leading riders. Turner is the only female rider to have ridden 100 winners in a season in the UK and has won feature races in various countries.
The Challenge is set to be an emotional occasion for her because it will mark her last appearance as a professional rider. The other overseas riders include Eduardo Pedroza, four-time champion jockey in Germany, young French rider Aurelien Lemaitre and Pat Cosgrove and Robert Havlin, who rode 85 and 65 winners in the UK this year.
Theoretically each team has roughly an equal chance. The runners in the Challenge races were seeded beforehand with each team then drawing a mount alternately from the top seed down. The action at Fairview on Friday kicks off at 12.30pm with the first of the four Challenge races scheduled to start at 3.05pm. Saturday’s Turffontein meeting starts at 12.20pm.
See Racing Express tomorrow for full details.