A formidable team of international jockeys will participate in The Citizen International Jockeys’ Challenge to be held over two legs next month – Turffontein on Friday night 11 November and Kenilworth on Sunday 13 November.
The Proteas have fully utilised home-ground advantage in all three renewals of the Challenge, but Dublin-born rider Richard Hughes, who will lead the internationals this year, will be determined to make it fourth-time lucky for the visitors this year.
The Citizen Publisher Greg Stewart said he was thrilled with the quality of the international team, which he said would really test the Proteas. “I think we’ll have a great contest again this year. To be sure the international jockeys are coming here with purpose and not just for a holiday.”
The international side was announced in Cape Town today and Hughes has an enormous depth of talent in his team in Jimmy Fortune (England), Olivier Peslier (France), Tom Queally (Ireland), Jamie Spencer (England) and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Andrasch Starke from Germany.
The South African team, which will be captained for the second time running by Anton Marcus, comprises Anthony Delpech, Muzi Yeni, Felix Coetzee, Weichong Marwing and Piere Strydom with Sherman Brown the reserve.
Home-ground advantage will not play as big a role this year because three of the international jockeys – Hughes, Fortune and Spencer – have ridden in South Africa before.
Hughes (38) at 1.8m tall is one of the tallest flat-race jockeys in the world and one of the more controversial figures in the UK jockey ranks. He has ridden winners throughout Europe, in Mauritius and at both Turffontein (he won a challenge race in 2009) and Kenilworth (back in 2003). He is fourth on the flat-racing jockeys’ log in Britain this year and his big-race wins include booting now-retired Canford Cliffs to victory in the Queen Anne Stakes and JLT Lockinge Stakes and victory aboard Coup De Ville in the Tattersalls Millions 2yo Trophy, both wins coming courtesy of his father-in-law Richard Hannon. He weighs in at 53kg.
Jimmy Fortune (39), a UK-based Irishman who has freelanced in the last year after forging a successful partnership with John Gosden for a number of years, is one of the few riders to have had the pleasure of partnering star SA sprinter JJ The Jet Plane. Champion apprentice in 1990, Fortune has held many prominent positions in racing, including being retained by the late Robert Sangster, for whom he was an immediate success with victory aboard Commander Collins in the Racing Post Trophy. He has had a quiet time on the Grade 1 front this year and rode in the International Jockeys’ Challenge in 2009. He weighs in at 54kg.
Olivier Peslier (38), four-time French champion jockey (1996, 97, 99 and 2000) and one of the most accomplished riders in the overseas team, is best-known for his recent partnerships with star racemare Goldikova and her half-sister Galokova. He has won a total of five major races on the pair in the last year, including Goldikova’s third Breeders’ Cup Mile in November last year. The son of a stone-mason and born in Chateau Gontier, France, he has very few big races to tick off his honours list, having won major races all over the world including France’s premier horse race, the Arc de Triomphe, three times. He weighs in at 54kg.
Irishman Tom Queally (27), champion apprentice in Ireland in 2000 and in Britain in 2004, has partnered such well-known horses as Frankel, Midday and Timepiece for Sir Henry Cecil this year. He is ninth on the UK jockeys’ log this year with his mounts having earned £2,532,254. He weighs 54.5kg.
Jamie Spencer (31) is related to South African trainer Joey Ramsden and has been crowned champion jockey in both Ireland and England. He is widely regarded as one of the most naturally talented jockeys in Britain and is currently fifth on the UK jockeys’ log this season with his big-race wins including victories abroad Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Blanco in the Arlington Million and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic International Stakes and Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup. He has ridden several times at Kenilworth and won a couple of races. He weighs 54kg.
German Andrasch Starke (37) shot to prominence last month when riding Danedream to victory in the 90th Arc de Triomphe. He has contested races all over the world, racing seasonally in Hong Kong where he twice won the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley Racecourse. A strong jockey with “nerves of steel”, according to one source, he weighs 54.5kg.