100 Up – De Melo Chases His First National Title

Delpech holds the record

Winning form-sponsored KZN champion jockey Keagan de Melo reached his century of winners for the new season in relatively double quick time when booting Maximus home for Dean Kannemeyer and veteran owner Preggie Somasundram at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Monday.

It was appropriate in many ways that De Melo reached the magic milestone for Kannemeyer, who is the man who originally gave him the breaks when engaging him as a stable rider after Anthony Delpech’s shocking injury in April 2018 put an end to his illustrious career.

Keagan shows his joy on registering 100 winners (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Kannemeyer told the Sporting Post that he always preferred having a stable jockey, and that it was former champion rider Kevin Shea who had originally put him on to Keagan de Melo.

“I recall Kevin Shea saying to me that he had ridden against young De Melo, then an apprentice, and that he possessed all the attributes of a top rider in the future. Anthony Delpech was world-class and we were very fortunate to have him riding most of our horses in KZN. But then that terrible accident sadly ended his career,” he said.

Kannemeyer said that he preferred a jockey who doesn’t panic and gives a horse a chance.

“So the door was open for Keagan and he has certainly grown in stature. It is no secret that the more winners a jockey rides the better horses he gets to ride and the more his confidence grows,” added the multiple Gr1 winning conditioner, an accomplished amateur jockey himself some forty years ago.

Maximus charges clear under Keagan (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Kannemeyer said that he didn’t believe in employing a man to do a job and then telling him how to do it.

“One doesn’t want a parrot in the saddle either. Keagan uses his own initiative and doesn’t panic. His temperament is also perfect for race-riding. He doesn’t allow things to get him down. Our best jockeys have the power to get up off the canvas and box on. Keagan will go far, in my opinion,” concluded the second generation trainer.

In hitting the 100 winner mark in good time and at a strike rate of over 21%, and while there is plenty of water to flow under the bridge, De Melo must surely be favoured to lift his first SA national title this season. He is currently 37 winners ahead of Richard Fourie (19,6%), who also rides out of the Winning Form stable, and the hardworking Muzi Yeni (13,1%).

Interestingly the 28 year old De Melo’s 100 winner mark achieved on 21 November (three months and three weeks into the term) is slower than Anthony Delpech’s record achieved in three months flat, in the 1998/1999 season. That was Delpech’s first of three SA Champion titles and he was on his way to achieving a fourth national championship when that accident in April 2018 changed his life forever.

Anthony Delpech – champion rider

Anthony Delpech was 29 when he rode that three month century and was 30 when capturing that first national title, when he broke Piere Strydom’s record and set a new SA benchmark, which still stands of 334 winners in a season.

Anthony, the Hollywood Syndicate Manager, told the Sporting Post that his record-breaker was achieved on  Plan For Prophet (pictured above, apologies for quality) for Erico Verdonese at Newmarket on 27 July 1999.

Of  interest is that the Delpech 334 winner mark is immortalised at Hollywoodbets Greyville on a wall frame (pictured above) depicting the winning photographs, and just 24 hours after Keagan hit his personal record 100, the Hollywood Syndicate runner Trois Trois Quatre, French for ‘three three four’, ran third for Mike de Kock at Turffontein.

The Sporting Post was unable to reach Keagan de Melo for a comment.

The show goes on at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on Wednesday!

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