JOCKEY Maxime Guyon’s short visit to Port Elizabeth, Durban and Cape Town recently, when the Frenchman notched successes at each of the three racecourses he rode at, has tantalised the 23-year-old so much that he is already thirsting for a return to South Africa.
Legendary trainer Andre Fabre’s stable jockey hit the ground running at Fairview at the end of January, when he took eight mounts including five for trainer Mitch Wiese.
His natural talent and adaptability produced a winner for Wiese that proved the first in a five-winner haul over four days, which also included 11 places.
As he reflected on the visit that saw him tear like a whirlwind through the idiosyncrasies of Fairview, Clairwood and Kenilworth, Guyon heaped thanks on all the trainers and owners that supported him, especially Wiese, and vowed to return.
Guyon, speaking from his Chantilly base just outside Paris, observed: “It was great to be able to ride at three racecourses that contrasted quite a lot, meaning that the emphasis was on getting to grips with the tactics required. I do think that race-riding in South Africa is very tactical.
“Timing your challenge is the key to success and the local jockeys are extremely adept at this.”
Guyon, who took a total of 31 mounts during his stay, was also successful for trainer Mike De Kock on 14-1 shot Fun Police at Clairwood and put the icing on the cake with 125-1 stunner The Plunderer at Kenilworth on Met day, meaning that he had triumphed at each of the country’s three racing
centres he visited.
“After winning in Port Elizabeth and Durban it was more important than ever to try to get a winner at Kenilworth, as I know Met day is one of the biggest on the South African racing calendar.
“I know it was a dream come true for trainer Justin Snaith as well as for me when The Plunderer won, and I shall never forget it was Justin who also gave me one of two winners on my first day in South Africa.”
When scoring on Fun Police at Clairwood, Guyon was realising another ambition of riding for “The Master” himself, and said: “Mike De Kock is such a famous trainer worldwide and winning on my first ride for him was something I shall always remember. It’s nice to say I have a 100% record
Guyon, born in the Mayenne region of central France, rode ponies before enrolling at Le Moulin a vent Jockey School in Gouvieux. He completed his apprenticeship with Fabre in 2008 and has already bagged 19 Group 1 races.
These include The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on Fabre’s Byword (recently exported to stand in South Africa), top Hong Kong performer and Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon for South African trainer Tony Millard in the Hong Kong Derby and Classic Cup of 2011 and another Fabre
top-notcher Meandre in the Grand Prix de Paris, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Grosser Preis von Berlin.
Interest in South African racing has increased at racetracks and in the cafes of France due to the visit there of Guyon, one of their top riders. He has finished runner-up in the French Jockeys’ Championship in each of the last three seasons, eight winners adrift of Christophe Soumillon in 2012 and six adrift of him the previous year.
The French PMU has expanded its usage of South African racing this year by taking the first four races on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the European winter, as well as selected major races on Saturdays throughout the year.
French punters will therefore welcome the news that Guyon has stated his intention to return to South Africa.
Guyon says: “Phumelela was very kind to me, as were the many people I met both inside and outside racing. Winning those races, meeting so many great people and being looked after by Phumelela representatives John Stuart and Patrick Davis all combined to give me a feeling of belonging.
“I shall try my best to return and to go on safari in one of the wildlife reserves. It would be a big, big pleasure to go back to South Africa if I’m invited. At home my ambition is to win the jockeys’ title, but the main objective is to do better than my previous season.”