With Gavin Lerena out of the equation, Cape-based rider Greg Cheyne has his best opportunity of winning his first jockeys’ championship.
At the time of writing he is currently 11 winners behind Lerena and 10 behind Anthony Delpech and ahead of Anton Marcus, Craig Zackey and Richard Fourie.
As he turns 41 next month, you’d have to include Greg – educated at Pretoria Boys High and a big Blue Bulls fan – in the senior ranks along with Messrs Fortune, Strydom, Delpech and Marcus.
His best finish in the national jockeys’ log to date came in 2009 when he finished third – it was a year to remember as he also won the Durban July on Big City Life.
His profession has certainly resulted in him experiencing race riding in many parts of the world including Germany, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Singapore and Malaysia where he won a Grade 1 Sprint.
Greg’s story is also one of a fight back from a horrific injury. In December 2015 he sustained seven fractures and two dislocations when his foot was crushed against the pens prior to a race at Kenilworth. It was a long road of recovery, but Greg was determined to get back in the saddle.
Perhaps the greatest advantage he has over his rivals in this year’s title race is his regular visits to the Eastern Cape and he rarely leaves a Fairview meeting empty handed.
One can argue that the likes of S’manga Khumalo – currently 12 winners behind Greg – Craig Zackey, Richard Fourie and Muzi Yeni are also frequent visitors to that part of South Africa, but of this quartet only Craig and Muzi have ridden in more races than Greg in the current campaign.
In fact, the workloads of some of our jocks is amazing – this term (to 10 May) Muzi had ridden in 1141 races, Craig 1069, Lyle Hewitson 1064 and Ryan Munger 1033.
When bookies price up again on the title race which is now an interesting contest, they’ll probably install Anthony Delpech as favourite which is a fair enough call. Along with Anton Marcus he gets most of the plum rides in KZN and regularly hops on a plane to Johannesburg.
When Anthony and Greg start taking mounts in Kimberley then you’ll know they are chasing the title, but in the meantime Messrs Zackey and Yeni are regulars at the Northern Cape track and this keeps them in contention.
My early season wager on Andrew Fortune for top jockey honours has gone west, but I still take my hat off to our own version of Frankie Dettori because he’s ridden over 100 winners and, quite simply, is one of racing’s great characters.
Craig Zackey has probably been the surprise package among our jockey this term, but he’s riding with great confidence and he’s getting plenty of support from a variety of Highveld trainers. He’s also probably dreaming of winning the July for trainer Duncan Howells.
So the stage is set for a fascinating finale in this season’s jockeys’ championship – the picture will become clearer in a month’s time. However, Greg Cheyne lacks nothing in determination which could see him home for his first title.
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According to Jack Milner, Friday’s Racing Express gets the biggest circulation among its avid readers – not Wednesday, which I had suggested might be the most popular due to two columns including Geoff Lester. Fair enough, I suppose, given the in-depth weekend previews.
Nevertheless, those regular readers of the “Molly” column will remember that a few weeks ago – when betting on the Durban July opened – I made my usual longshot ante-post pick which I like to do prior to the July, Met and Summer Cup. The horse’s name was Ten Gun Salute.
Now why I like this Aussie-bred gelding from Duncan Howells’ stable is the fact that the KZN trainer decided to give both the Cape and Highveld seasons a miss. Hence, he’s got a fresh horse on his hands – or so I thought!
Imagine my horror when Keagan de Melo pretty much stopped riding Ten Gun Salute in the Drill Hall Stakes with his mount trailing in last.
This brought two immediate responses – one from my wife, one from my friendly bookie. The former said “Nice one you’ve given them for the July” and the latter wanted to know “would you like a bit of 80-1 and 20-1 a place.”
After the Betting World 1900, the smile is back on my face. My July voucher is 40-1 a win and 10-1 a place and – unlike last year’s fiasco with Deo Juvente – there’s no chance of the horse not being selected.