THE `craic’ (fun), as the Irish jockeys would call it, is about to begin again and the newswires are starting to rattle in the lead-up to the annual Avis Coach Charter International Jockeys’ Challenge, in which six top South African riders will lock “bridles” with a mega-star cast of overseas jockeys in a total of eight races at both Turffontein and Greyville.
Headline-hitting Richard Hughes will captain the Internationals.
This event, now in its 5th year and growing from strength to strength is currently the only international horseracing event in South Africa. Staged by the Racing Association in conjunction with racing and betting companies Phumelela and Gold Circle will be held over two race meetings – the first leg will be at Turffontein in Johannesburg on Friday, 16th November and the action moves to Gold Circle’s Durban flagship racecourse, Greyville on Sunday, 18th November.
The local team, who will again be awarded their Protea colours for their participation following negotiations between the South African Jockeys Association’s Tex Lerena and the South African Equestrian Association, took the honours at the first three International Jockeys Challenges but lost out to the International Team last year. The South Africans, who will be captained by current champion Anton Marcus, will be going all-out to reclaim the trophy.
Marcus will have a fine band of men to help him achieve that goal with his team including former South African and Mauritian champion Jeff Lloyd, who will be jetting in from Australia to don his Protea colours at the two meetings. The other team members are Gavin Lerena, who so narrowly missed winning his first premiership last season by one race, former SA champion Piere Strydom, internationally renowned Anthony Delpech and Muzi Yeni (who won the Victor Ludorum at the first leg last year), with S’Manga Khumalo penned in as the reserve.
The South African team will definitely not have everything their own way, with the likes of Richard Hughes on the opposing team. The hot streak of form he has maintained this year continued at Windsor on Monday night when his seven winners equalled Frankie Dettori’s record and virtually secured him the UK jockeys’ premiership for 2012.
Hughes was the leading point-scorer on the International side last year and is no stranger to riding in South Africa. He will lead a brilliant team that includes fellow Irishmen – Jimmy Fortune, Tom Queally, Jamie Spencer and Seamie Heffernan. Brazilian Joao Moreira, who is set to win the Singapore jockeys’ title again, gives the team a more international flavour.
Racing Association CEO Larry Wainstein, is thrilled with the quality of riders who will participate in this year’s Challenge.
“It’s amazing that we’ve been able to put together such a hot International team to defend the title,’’ he said. “There are only two changes from last year – Seamie Heffernan and Joao Moreira replace Olivier Peslier and Andrasch Starke in the side.
“Moreira is a coup. He’s coming from Singapore where he is a phenomenon and rides two to three winners a meeting on a regular basis. The same can be said about Richard Hughes, who is probably going to be the UK’s champion jockey this year, and Tom Queally, who has been Frankel’s regular partner.’’
He is as excited about the Protea team, particularly the inclusion of Jeff Lloyd, “who has been a great ambassador for South African racing’’ since he left our shores to ply his trade in Australia and Hong Kong in 2007.
The Irish jockeys will be flown to South Africa via Cairo by Egypt Air, while accommodation will be provided by Emperors Palace in Johannesburg and Fairmount Zimbali Resort in Durban. The international jockeys will spend the last three days of their trip at Sun City.
Wainstein believes that media sponsors the Rising Sun group of newspapers “will help us turn the event in Durban into a spectacle to be remembered. They’ve contributed tremendously to the sport of racing and whenever they’ve been involved in an event, they’ve brought hoards of people to the track’’.
The jockeys’ apparel will be supplied by Velotex. The Jockeys will wear their National Colours on their silks.
Each of the Challenge races are handicaps and the runners in each race are seeded by a panel of racing experts to ensure as level a playing field as possible. A draw awards one team with horses seeded 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11, with the other team pulling the remaining mounts.
Points are awarded as follows: first – 30; second – 15; third – 12; fourth – 10; fifth – 8; sixth – 7 down to 1 for last. If a jockey does not ride in a race, he gets seven points.
The team that scores the most points wins the Challenge, but there are also awards for the top riders in each of the legs and the top rider overall.
For more information contact Larry Wainstein on 011 683 3220.