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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

Richard Fourie is on track to smash record

Ace jockey flits about the country and rarely leaves a meeting empty handed.

Punters love it when there’s a close battle for the national jockey championship; they can be sure the principal combatants are seeking out the best rides and putting heart and soul into winning the coveted title. Bank on those riders to at least run a drum and you can profit.

But when someone is running away with the championship things are a lot less certain – there’s less intense intelligence gathering by jockey agents, more loyalty to trainer friends, and maybe a smidgeon less risk taken.

Richard Fourie is smashing it this season, last week clocking up his 200th winner of the term and putting him about 90 wins clear of second-placed Muzi Yeni at the two-thirds stage.

But there is no sign of Fourie easing up before the line. That’s because of a R1-million prize put up by bookmaker Hollywoodbets for the rider that breaks Anthony Delpech’s record 334 winners. The former champion set that mark in the 1998/99 season and many pundits reckoned it would never be bettered, partly because there is less racing these days.

Delpech Challenge

After injury ended Delpech’s highly successful career he became a brand ambassador for Hollywoodbets, with responsibility for managing the company’s ownership syndicate, which is now one of the largest thoroughbred owners in the country.

Ironically, he has also become the face of the million-buck Delpech Challenge – and the job might even call for him to be seen cheering on Fourie from time to time.

It’s now clear that the remarkable Mr Fourie has a good chance of breaking the record and collecting the bar – and lively interest in the chase has prompted newsletter Turf Talk to start a daily “Fourie Barometer”.

This is a projection of how many wins he will end up with at close of business on July 31, the last day of the 2023/24 season. The number is based on his current rides-per-calendar-day rate for the season to date and his current strike rate.

On Thursday morning this week, the barometer read 343, meaning he was on track to better Delpech’s mark by 10.

Stats don’t lie

But hatching chickens is tricky. Injury, illness, suspension, travel fatigue and sudden dry spells of lost form are constant possibilities – as last year’s champ Keagan de Melo discovered when he couldn’t find a winner for week-upon-week as the season drew towards its close.

The upshot of all this is that Fourie is a man to follow at all times.

His stats are phenomenal: riding at four or five meetings a week – all over South Africa – by Thursday he’d registered 212 wins from 971 rides at a win rate of 21.8% and a place rate of 49%. PA, Quartet and Trifecta gold dust that.

Since the start of February, he had ridden at 29 meetings and only drawn a blank four times; with three four-timers and a plethora of threes and twos.

Of course, there’s a payout discount on every nag he throws a leg over. In the last six weeks, his longest-odds success has been 14-1 – War Chariot in a Class 4 race at Kenilworth for trainers Michelle Rix and Harold Crawford.

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