Former SA Champion jockey Gavin Lerena will ride for the Mauritzfontein team as a retained jockey.
Gavin will ride both Mauritzfontein and Wilgerbosdrift owned horses.
“Gavin is a true professional and we could not be more excited to have him join our team. I have no doubt that he will be a huge asset and we look forward to the upcoming racing season,” said Jessica Slack.
Lerena, who has been riding at a remarkable strike-rate since his return after a five month injury break, says that the job with the powerful breeding operation was a privileged position for any jockey to be in.
“I am excited and very honoured to have been given the opportunity to ride for this well established powerful team. They race top-class horses with leading yards across the country and I look forward to adding value from the saddle.”
Having operated previously as a remount station for the British Army during the Boer War, Mauritzfontein was bought by Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer in 1945.
The couple got involved in horse racing shortly after the war in the 1940’s. Kimberley was both the headquarters of the DeBeers Mining Company of which Harry Oppenheimer was Chairman, and was also represented by Harry Oppenheimer in Parliament, a seat which he held from 1948 to 1957.
Mauritzfontein imported their first stallion in 1951, Janus who was by Pharis and had been a top class racehorse in France. Janus was the sire of Tiger Fish (Durban July Handicap), Open Sea and Ellation. He also sired fillies Will-To-Win (Tankard Gr.1) and SA Oaks winner Tsessebe.
In 1959 Mauritzfontein imported Wilwyn, who incidentally was the first horse ever to be flown into South Africa. Four years later he was crowned South Africa’s Champion Sire, as a result of his top class progeny, King Willow, Smash And Grab and Unlce Ben. He became a fantastic broodmare sire and his daughters produced, amongst others, Sentinel, Hidden Magic, Faro and Canyon Creek. Wilwyns son, Col. Pickering is also the broodmare sire of the famous Horse Chestnut.
In 1965 Free Ride stood his first season at stud. His offspring included no fewer than five SA Oaks winners and the likes of Principal Boy (Durban July), Oakland Bay (SA Derby), Bodrum (SA Classic), With Pleasure (Natal Oaks) together with Run For Roses and Medora who both won the Paddock Stakes, Gr.1.
The next Champion sire to be imported to Mauritzfontein, arrived in 1994, Fort Wood.
A Group 1 winning son of Saddlers Wells, out of a dam, Fall Aspen, who herself produced four Group 1 winners. Fort Wood was set to take the farm’s legacy to a whole new level and the writing was on the wall with his first ever runner, Horse Chestnut.
This legend of the turf was to win the Triple Crown and J&B Met all in the same year, and was named Horse Of The Year. Horse Chestnut is also the broodmare sire of multiple Group 1 winner, Smart Call, who like her grandfather won the J&B Met in the black and yellow silks. Fort Wood, to date, has produced 3 Horse Of The Year colts and has already proved a magnificent sire of sires. His son Dynasty, who won the Durban July Handicap, has himself gone on to produce champions in the likes of Irish Flame, Equus Champion Beach Beauty, Jackson, Legislate and J&B Met winner, Futura. Fort Wood has also won champion broodmare titles and his daughters have produced amongst others, Capetown Noir, Thunder Dance, Pluck and Triple Tiara winner, Cherry On The Top.
Strike Smartly, a full brother to Smart Strike was imported in an attempt to create a successful cross for the many Fort Wood mares at Mauritzfontein. Sadly his career was cut short, and he left behind only 6 racing crops. Despite this he produced the likes of Smart Banker who won 11 races including the Horse Chestnut Stakes twice. Strike Smartly also sired Bouquet-Garni (SA derby), Prestic, General Sherman and multiple Group 1 winner,Slumdogmillionaire.
Currently Mauritzfontein stands the son of Kingmambo out of Banks Hill, Ideal World and the handsome Byword (by Peintre Celebre) who won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes Gr1. Ideal World has already been enjoying much success with his progeny on the racetrack.
In the last few years Mauritzfontein has begun a renewed effort to obtain fresh blood and exceptionally well bred fillies to continue the dynasty and shape their thoroughbred nursery. Mauritzfontein has produced no fewer than 14 Oaks winners, 7 Durban July winners, 2 J&B Met winners and most impressively a Triple Crown and a Triple Tiara winner.