CAPTAIN of the international team Richard Hughes made it clear on Friday night they were in South Africa to retain the Avis Coach Charter International Jockeys Challenge title they had captured last year.
“We didn’t just come for a jolly up. We came to win. We feel as jockeys we don’t want to come here just to take the money. We would rather take part and win it,” said Hughes.
Hughes was true to his word. The team comprising Jimmy Fortune, Seamus Heffernan, Joao Moreira, Paul Mulrennan, Tom Queally and Hughes, came away with the honours. They accumulated 336 while the South Africans, comprising Anton Marcus (captain), Anthony Delpech, Gavin Lerena, Jeff Lloyd, Piere Strydom and Muzi Yeni, finished with 288 points.
Popular Brazilian jockey “Magic” Moreira, who races mainly in Singapore, won the Victor Ludorum with 84 points with Lerena finishing second with 69 points, followed by Hughes (67), Fortune (61) and Marcus (59).
The South Africans started off well enough on Friday when Anton Marcus won the opening leg aboard Desert Sheik but the Internationals struck back when Hughes brought home Tally Blue in the second race of the evening.
At that stage the international team led the locals by 10 points but the rain came down at Turffontein and ended racing for the evening.
It was the international team that began best when Moreira won Race 4 at Clairwood on Sunday aboard Guantanamera, narrowly holding off Fortune on Mike’s Choice with Marcus third on Captain’s Secret.
But the South Africans struck back with intent in Race 5 when Lerena brought home Silver Age ahead of Orbit War and Jeff Lloyd, with Mulrennan third on Occhi Di Lupo.
In Race 7 the international team once again showed their resolve when Posh Boy under Fortune took the lead at the top of the straight to hold off Royal Galaxy (Mulrennan) with Kalmia (Strydom) in third.
Going into the final race of the competition the South Africans trailed by 39 points and there was everything to play for.
Kindle with Delpech up was all the rage to win this but he was so far back that he would have needed to attach a guided missile to get him to the front by the finishing line. Strydom, aboard Gida, slipped through on the inside rail with Maluti on his outside. But it was Heffernan who stayed on better aboard Maluti to beat Gida, with Moreira on Solera third. Kindle flashed up to claim fourth, beaten just two lengths.
On the day Lerena scored the same number of points as Moreira so they shared top honours at the meeting.
The final word goes to SA captain Anton Marcus. “The Avis logo is `We try harder’, so we will have to try harder next year and win it back.” – Racing Express.