The SA Jockey title race is hotting up as we enter the final fortnight of the season with Gavin Lerena holding a narrow three win advantage over the current champion Anton Marcus. Anthony Delpech is a further 4 wins adrift of Marcus in third position.
Marcus was a notable absentee at Turffontein this afternoon and charismatic Tellytrack presenter Dave Mollett suggested that the world-class jockey possibly didn’t need the substantial cash carrot offered by the title race sponsor, Klawervlei Stud. It is a good question indeed as to why Marcus doesn’t appear flustered or charged by the interest in the title race.
Last season he travelled to the extremes of Kimberley and Port Elizabeth to clock up the winners in his titanic struggle with Delpech.
A huge bone of contention in the title winner calculations is the inclusion of the Zimbabwe winners, for the jockey statistics only. This anomaly is compounded by the exclusion of, amongst others, sire stats and trainer stats from that country in the published NHA figures.
If we do not dispute the geographical and political reality that Zimbabwe is a separate country and not a province of the Republic of South Africa, and that Zimbabwean-bred horses carry the ‘Zim’ qualification behind their names, then why include winning rides in isolation from that country?
Mauritian horseracing is as close to ours as Zimbabwe, and yet we do not count the Indian Ocean Island’s jockey results.
If Lerena were to win the title this season, it would be his first as a fully fledged jockey. He won the SA Champion Apprentice title for three years running from 2004 to 2007.
In a strange irony, a glance down the honour role reveals that generally very few champion apprentices go on to achieve fame and fortune in the senior riding ranks. Neither Marcus nor Delpech were successful at achieving champion apprentice status, but sensational Vodacom Durban July winner Piere Strydom joins Douglas Whyte and Weichong Marwing in bucking that trend. Lerena may well be the next generation to do so.
The man with an outstanding win-strike rate of 30% (versus Lerena on 17% and Delpech on 21%), Marcus goes for a hat-trick, having won the title for the past two seasons. He also won it for the first time in 1999/2000 and in 2007/8. Delpech won the title twice previously in 1998/99 and 2002/3.
The industrious and obviously highly motivated Gavin Lerena has had an up and down past week. He rode two winners at Fairview last Monday for Yvette Bremner. The former Mike De Kock-trained Havasha and the ex Darry Hodson filly Lydia Lopokova were both at generous odds. He then took the day off on Tuesday, before travelling to a wintry Kenilworth in the Cape for what looked a rewarding day.
The trip south produced a blank scorecard. His seven Cape rides on Wednesday produced a third and fourth cheque, and Place Accumulator punters were not happy after Lerena went missing on Eric Sands’ Hottojetto in the exotic opener at 19-10. His fortunes brightened somewhat back in his home province, when he rode four winners on the Vaal sand on Thursday.
He rode four frustrating seconds North of the Limpopo on Saturday, and his trip to Zimbabwe was probably jinxed from the moment a Tellytrack presenter innocently suggested a week ago that ‘he could ride six winners on Saturday’
He rode two winners today at Turffontein and rides at Kimberley on Monday, Durbanville on Wednesday and the Vaal on Thursday. In contrast Marcus has a card of seven rides at Scottsville on Tuesday.
The betting has been suspended but for the record it was: Gavin Lerena 6/10…Anton Marcus 12/10… Anthony Delpech 5/1