As I am busy recuperating from last season’s busy schedule, I took the time off to rest my body and mind and escorted the family on a holiday to the Seychelles.
It is nice to know I have officially been crowned champion jockey. But racing can change very quickly and I need to get back to where I left off. Hopefully the owners the trainers who supported me last season will continue to do so because in racing, things can change at the blink of an eyelid.
I am unable to say I can or can’t win the championship again this time but last season I had a really good start, everything fell into place for me and I was forced to put in an effort from the beginning. That put me in a position to win it.
This season, as usual, you will get a number of jockeys announcing they will be going for the championship but within a couple of months you will see the majority fall by the wayside. You will always have your regulars in Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech as they ride for the big yards, but you have to look at the hungry guys who get the volume of rides. Richard Fourie, now with Justin Snaith, is one of those, while S’manga Khumalo has already come out strongly. He might just get a bit of support and will be right there.
Looking back from a personal point of view, it’s nice to be crowned champion jockey. But once you know you are in contention, you get tied down and are driven to ride at every single meeting. It’s not possible to enjoy your racing because you feel pressurised. You don’t want to miss a meeting because you might lose out on a winning ride.
I had some weeks where I would ride at the Vaal on Tuesday and Thursday, fly to Port Elizabeth on Friday, back to Joburg on Saturday and perhaps ride in Durban on Sunday. It is always a rush – getting to the airport on time to catch a plane early in the morning. Then you dash off from the airport to the racecourse to make it in time for your first ride but have to scurry back to the airport after the last race to make the flight back home. It is very tiring and it takes its toll.
I jumped out of the stalls running and due to financial obligations was forced to put in more of an effort than I have over the past couple of years. That enabled me to be competitive.
You always want to win the championship but the R250,000 “carrot” dangled in front of you by Klawervlei was extremely motivating. Unfortunately I couldn’t give them the exposure they had last year when there was a close fight but I’m glad, from a personal point of view, that I didn’t have to sweat at the end.
The winning margin of 62 over Anton was quite large and although I am not sure whether this is the widest winning margin ever, I’m sure I am now South Africa’s oldest champion jockey.
I feel in this year I have proved something to myself and to others. But what amazed me was the belief other people have in me, saying I have never ridden better than I did this past season. I don’t think I have had as many opportunities to ride so many good horses since the last time I won the championship.
There are times I feel regretful that I didn’t put in more of an effort in those years. If I had, perhaps I could have won more than six championships and even challenged Michael Roberts’ record of 11 wins.
Now I have had my break and it will start all over again for me at the Vaal on Tuesday.
This is a new season and all the horses in the major centres have had their merit ratings raised by around six points. That might confuse matters for punters when studying form.
Racing is on the standside track at Turffontein today and there are 10 races on the card. In Race 1 the form horse is Regal Rose but she ran second in a moderate field. There has been a lot of money for Shepard One and if you are on course you will have benefit of viewing the horse and can assess if he looks a possible winner or not.
Race 2 it is a plate race in which Capricorn Ridge in the best-weighted runner and should win on merit rating alone. One can expect further improvement and he should be very hard to beat.
Race 3 is the first leg of the Place Accumulator. The obvious horse on form is Wild Ash but there has been money for the Mike de Kock–trained first timer Santa Carolina, who is a half-sister to Ilha Bela. For that reason we will back up Wild Ash with Santa Carolina in the PA.
Race 4 is a very weak field. The horses with the best form are Dark Reign, Ali and Clear Sky. They should be good enough for the Pick 6 but if you don’t like them you might have to go with the field.
For the PA go with any two, although my preferences are Dark Reign and Ali, who is claiming 4kg.
Race 5 is an apprentice handicap and it normally throws up a bit of a rough result. For that reason I will include Johnny Quid – who is better suited to the distance, drops in merit rating and claims 4kg, Jumbo, Beowolf and Take Me On.
Hopefully they can see you through the Pick 6 as well.
Race 6 is very difficult in that there are some quality horses coming back from a long rest. They could either race fresh and be good enough to win, or could need the run badly. For that reason you might need the field in the Pick 6 but for the PA one could look at Vivacious Star, Extra Zing and Saint Angelique.
Three horses stand out to me in Race 7 – Lecture Queen, Queen Of The Sky and Jewel Collection. Queen Of The Sky has been pulling when racing over further so she might enjoy the return to this distance. Lecture Queen has the best current form and Stuart Pettigrew’s yard is hot at the moment. Jewel Collection has a lot of scope for improvement so those are my PA selections. I would add the Wallace Tolmay coupling of Countess Bacardi and Coniston Gold to complete the Pick 6.
Race 8 is terribly weak and one cannot go light. For the PA I’m including Beza, London Irish – who has been running off bad draws – Educated Guess, who also has a good draw, and Shoe Horn.
I’ve noticed there are quite a few horses who might use front-running tactics and that could suit somebody coming from off them. That is why I am leaning towards Shoe Horn as my first selection. I will put all four in the PA and will include the Leon Erasmus coupling in the Pick 6.
I thought Travel Up Front would be the right horse in Race 9 but I am worried because he pulled over shorter last time. Over 1800m the pace will be a little slower and he could again pull hard. So for that reason I’m going to include Golden Handshake, who is drawn No 1, and the other form horse, Virginia Sound.
You could easily consider the field for the Pick 6 but I would suggest including the Erico Verdonese coupling of Royal Wings and Fun City and, my roughie for the race, Empire Of the Moon, who is running off a good draw and at a galloping track over a distance that will suit her.
Conne Mara Black has been running quite well from the front on the inside track. But the fact she is now running on a galloping track and nobody will put pressure on her, could give her a soft lead and she could stay on and win Race 10.
STRYDOM’S BEST BET FOR TURFFONTEIN
NO 4 CAPRICORN RIDGE
STRYDOM VALUE BET FOR TURFFONTEIN
NO 6 EMPIRE OF THE MOON