MIKE de Kock writes in his blog today: “There are few more successful empowerment programmes in racing than the Work Riders Challenge, introduced in 1999. This annual initiative by Phumelela, the Racing Association and the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust showcases the skills of graduates of trainer James Maree’s Work Riders’ Training Programme.”
We’ve confidently entered many runners in Work Riders races and won a host of them over the years because our qualified work riders have acquired the skills to make them competitive and more than able to control their mounts. Therefore, we can trust them to deliver!
Francis Semela rode Two Gun Kid to victory for us at the Vaal on Tuesday, 5 February (see headline photo). He’s another typical example of a man whose life has improved in line with his skills, much like the late Abram Makhubo, the multiple champion work rider who stands as a shining example of what this initiative can do to lift previously disadvantaged people to a higher level.
Francis, like Abram, did duty for us in Dubai and he’s been around the stable for many years, learning every day and honing his skills. The work riders have a good work ethic and become horsemen in their own right, and their earning potential increase dramatically as opportunities open up.
The riders earn a riding fee, plus the jockeys’ portion of the stake in the work riders races, plus put themselves in line for prize money totalling R50,000.
James Maree has done a tremendous job with his training courses and he is on record as saying, “We try to develop a mindset so the work riders can correspond with the horses they climb on. Riding is a mental game between horse and rider – I guess you could call it horse sense, and you can see it first-hand in our leading jockeys. “
I fully agree with James when he notes: “Most jockeys are far too busy nowadays to gallop horses so it’s become important for trainers to have competent work riders – without good work riders, we might as well go home. So these work riders are playing a major role in horseracing nowadays, which gives them huge job satisfaction.”
The Work Riders Series now forms an integral part of South African racing. Let’s not take things for granted. Our congratulations and good wishes go to those who work hard to make it happen every year. May the Work Riders Academy go from strength to strength!