It is always sad when you lose one of your own and the sudden death of Alec Forbes on Thursday sent shockwaves throughout the South African horseracing community. All of our thoughts are with his wife, Lezeanne, and his family.
Obviously we need to wait to find the exact cause of death but we know he had complained about a tight chest and breathing problems while in the sauna on Wednesday.
It is a well-known fact that jockeys throughout the world spend much of their lives trying to keep their weight down and spending long periods in the sauna is part of that process.
I know what weight I can get to and sometimes I incur the wrath of a trainer or owner when I get off lighter rides. But there are many riders who feel pressured to keep a ride irrespective of the weight the horse may be carrying or their own health.
I often get asked why we do this. We rely on rides to make a living so we are all loathe to get off horses with winning chances or from a top stable because if that horse runs well under another jock he has got a foot in the door and suddenly you are left on the side lines. So there are many guys who might not be feeling well on the day yet feel pressure to ride those horses.
We are always told as kids when you have flu you needs lots of fluids and lots of rest but many of us ignore that advice and go off to work. We all want to please the boss and do the work we are paid to do. It is not ideal for anybody but in the case of sportsmen and women, the repercussions can be quite serious.
Jockeys, in particular, do the exact opposite when trying to lose weight, so by spending time in a sauna we are getting further dehydrated and that can affect our health. I have personally seen jockeys faint from dehydration.
There is a 48-hour rule that automatically affects you as well. If you don’t ride and rather stand down you might have to miss the next meeting where you might have a decent ride. With us it is a case of no work, no pay, so many of us would rather ride, even if it means we will be pushing ourselves to the limit.
Today we race on the Inside track at Turffontein and Race 1 is a Maiden Plate over 1200m. My first selection in a very weak field is Prosperity. With the scratching of Mike de Kock’s runner there are still two unraced horses and neither has to be too good to win in this field.
Race 2 is another Maiden Plate and here is my best – and only – ride of the day. Artax definitely has winning form and the fact he is drawn No 1 is definitely in his favour. My obvious danger is Skiminac.
Race 3 is the first leg of the Place Accumulator and Noceur looks a banker. The unknown horse is Cloud Nine, who I rode last time. She was extremely green and the trip that day was definitely too short. The extra distance will definitely suit her and she will be more experienced. It is still difficult to make a solid prediction as she was beaten quite a long way out.
Race 4 is another Maiden Plate with no horse standing out. My first selection is Justify who could still be improving and the same could apply to Michael. Of the older horses I would lean towards Graf Spee. The filly in the race, Emmeline, might also need to be included in the Place Accumulator as it is such a weak field.
For the Pick 6 consider the field.
Race 5 is a handicap and is quite competitive. My first selection is Urgent Fury with the dangers being Scotland, Revelation and Zeal And Zest. Use all of those mentioned in the PA and for the Pick 6 add in Holy Joe and Arpad.
Race 6 is another handicap and my first selection, Cathedral County, has a bad draw. Therefore include Alpine Echo who is drawn in pole position. They could get you through the PA but if you want another runner consider Fidelio.
For the Pick 6 you could think about taking the field as it is quite a competitive race.
Race 7 is another handicap and my value bet for the day is Shortstop. Last time he ran over 1400m and he came past me very easily like he was going to win but stopped late. Therefore over 1200m, from a good draw and taking on a weak field he is my PA banker and could even be a Pick 6 banker.
Race 8 is another handicap over 1200m where the draw is a huge advantage. Flag Of France and El Bombero should fight it out. El Bombero has been competing over longer distances and last time when I rode Flag Of France it was over 1400m. He moved up and then stopped and will enjoy this 1200m. He is eight years old so it will be worth adding in a runner like El Bombero. Their danger would be Singaswewin even though he is still a maiden.
Another inclusion could be Minnesota and if you look beyond them you need to consider the field.
Race 9 is another handicap and you could possibly banker Tokyo Drift. The danger could be Jim Cables who often shows a lot of speed and could like this Inside track. His merit rating has also dropped quite a lot.
On best form another runner would be Apple Crumble. Others to consider are William Nicol and Last Girl Standing from the in-form St John Gray yard.