Goodman Dadamasi clinched the 2018 Work Riders Challenge title – and the first prize of R20,000 – with a remarkable victory in the last race of the three-meeting competition.
Dadamasi booted home 28-1 outsider Flaming Hot for trainer Geoff Woodruff in Race 8 at Turffontein, slicing through the field from well back in the 1600m contest.
It gave him the points needed to fend off a determined challenge from Chamu Mabaya – who had earlier won Race 7 aboard 13-1 shot Lady’s Knight for the Mike de Kock stable.
Up until the final two races the two leading riders had failed to make it into the winner’s circle, but Mabaya had closed the points gap on Dadamasi through the day. In the “lucky last”, Mabaya was aboard odds-on favourite Alnasl, also trained by De Kock, and the odds were on him snatching the series victory from Dadamasi.
However, Australian import Alnasl never looked dangerous, running into some traffic problems and finishing well downfield.
In marked contrast, unfancied Flaming Hot – also bred in Australia – methodically threaded his way through the tiring runners and won comfortably, with Dadamasi riding hands and heels and in the final strides cheekily toying with second-placed Until Dawn, under Bavida Cossa.
Dadamasi arrived at Turffontein with 75 points, collected over the first two legs contested at the Vaal racecourse earlier this year. Mabaya had 57 points – and, importantly, appeared to have the better rides on the card.
But things didn’t go according to predictions. In Race 1, Mabaya finished last aboard 26-10 favourite Snowballed. Dadamasi was just one place better.
The latter stretched his lead with a second place in Race 2 – on 3-1 chance Torpedo Officer. Mabaya hit back with a second in Race 5 and a fourth in Race 6, before his win in the seventh. That set up an exciting climax.
Meanwhile, Tshepiso Matsoele and Joe Gwingwizha shot up the leaderboard with a pair of wins apiece. Francis Semela and Thomas Ncune were the other winners on the day.
The Work Riders’ Challenge, held over three full meetings, was introduced in 2008 by Phumelela, the Racing Association and the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust to showcase the talents of riders who have graduated from the Work Riders’ Training Programme.
The programme is funded by the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust and run by former champion jockey-turned-trainer James Maree.
Some of these professional work riders are in hot demand among trainers both locally and abroad – and the programme has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the earning potential of its graduates.
Phumelela stages work riders’ races nearly every week and, apart from earning riding fees on every horse they partner, they compete for the jockey’s portion of the prize money. The Work Riders’ Challenge carries a total purse of R50,000.
Riders score points for their finishing positions and the rider who scores the most points in each of the three legs gets R5,000. The rider who accumulates the most points over all three meetings gets R20,000. The runner-up is given R10,000 and the third rider gets R5,000.