Sport » Horses
Former champion jockey, assistant trainer and owner Andrew Fortune has been temporarily banned from attending race meetings in South Africa.
This follows “an incident that occurred in the weighing room area at Turffontein Racecourse after the running of race 7 on Saturday 24 October”, the National Horseracing Authority (NHA) said in a statement.
The NHA provided no details of the incident in a statement late on Monday, but said it had opened an inquiry.
“After carefully considering the prima facie evidence, the provisions of Rule 91.2 have been enforced and an interim suspension has been imposed on Mr Andrew Fortune, a licensed stable employee and colour-holder, from attending race meetings until such time as the outcome of the inquiry has been determined,” the NHA said.
Fortune is one of the more colourful, controversial and popular members of the racing community, so industry chatter picked up overnight – with some people saying the ban was too harsh in a case largely unexamined and others saying tough action was required to salvage something of the image of the game.
All speculation, though, is based on guesswork as few people know what happened on Saturday afternoon at Turffontein.
Without casting any aspersions, it’s worth noting Fortune is no stranger to brushes with the authorities. Many altercations came from his robust riding style when he was in the irons, while others were due to his habit of speaking his mind.
Of course, Fortune is an icon of the game – in the true sense of that word – for beating drug addiction to become a champion jockey, setting a wonderful example for youngsters, in and out of racing, by demonstrating what courage and faith can do.
Hailing from Elsies River, Fortune defied the odds of the bad old days to become one of the most revered jockeys in the country. Nicknamed The Candyman, he had “magic hands” and was a great judge of pace. Then he got hooked on drugs and his career started disintegrating.
The story of how “Manne” Fortune picked himself up, got clean and won the championship is legend.
In his championship year, he crisscrossed the country to ride 1 100 runners and post 203 wins. That term he was handed 12 riding suspensions for a variety of misdemeanours, which meant he was out of the contest for nearly four months. If it wasn’t a riding skirmish, it was bad language on Tellytrack during a post-race interview.
Many a punter lapped up his cocky, no holds barred chatter in the immediate aftermath of battle. Those with more of a sense of decorum were less amused.
Such a hectic time must have put severe pressure on the man and the temptation to ease the pain chemically must have been enormous. Instead of succumbing, Fortune redoubled his fight, not only attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings daily wherever he might find himself, but also delivering countless talks to young people about his battle.
When injury, weight issues and marriage to Zimbabwean Ashley persuaded him to hang up his boots in 2017, he threw his weight behind his wife’s venture into training, with tremendous success.
Ashley Fortune is the top female trainer in the country, ninth on the national log, with much of the success ascribed to her assistant trainer hubby.
The NHA has not set a date for an official inquiry hearing into the latest chapter of Fortune.
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