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Lerena Silences Detractors

Zero to hero in a weekend!

Champions respond well to criticism, especially when they perceive it to be unjust, and Gavin Lerena proved this at the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate festival over the weekend, emerging as the joint-leading jockey despite a limited number of rides.

Gold Circle report that in a festival panel discussion last week one of the panelists, well known racing man and jockey’s agent Rob Champion, said, “Sadly I don’t follow Gavin Lerena much in the Cape as his strike rate is pretty poor outside of Jo’burg.”

Gavin Lerena steers Celtic Sea to her Gr2 win on Friday (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Lerena responded by having a one hundred percent strike rate on Friday, booting home the Harold Crawford/Michelle Rix-trained 18/10 favourite Bold Diva in the third race and later romping home in the main race, the Grade 2 Cartier Sceptre Stakes over 1200m, on the Sean Tarry-trained champion filly Celtic Sea, who was backed into even money.

On Saturday Lerena had six rides and two winners.

His first win was aboard the Sean Tarry-trained star Chimichuri Run, who downed fellow Grade 1-winning sprinters Pacific Trader and Kasimir in a Pinnacle event over 1000m where he started 3/1 third favourite. Lerena later won on the Dennis Drier-trained Cabo De Cruz, who started 11/2 favourite.

He thus had a 50% strike rate over the two days.

Richard Fourie also rode four winners over the two days, but had 16 rides.

In Champion’s defence, Lerena had never previously enjoyed a particularly high strike rate in Cape Town.

He had not ridden a winner in 12 previous rides this season and his Cape Town strike rate in the 2018/2019 season had been two winners in 34 rides for a strike rate of 5.88%. His strike rate in the 2017/2018 season was 33.33%, one winner from three rides.

Lerena’s last three seasons have been blighted with injury and illness, making it tough for him to establish relationships with trainers and horses outside of his home province.

Furthermore, it is not unusual for a top out-of-province rider to have a low strike rate in Cape Town, where the top yards dominate and have their established jockeys. Twice SA Champion jockey S’Manga Khumalo’s strike rate in Cape Town this season, for example, is 3,77% (two winners in 53 rides).

Lerena did have isolated seasons with fair strike rates in Cape Town last decade.

In the 2011/2012 season he had an 18.18% strike rate in Cape Town (six winners from 33 rides), in 2014/2015, which was his national championship winning season, he had a strike rate 10.7% (three winners from 28 rides), and in the 2016/2017 season he had a strike rate of 12% (three winners from 25 rides).

His strike rate in Cape Town this season rose from 0% to 20% over the weekend.

Lerena dedicated his win on Cabo De Cruz, his last ride of the meeting on Saturday, to Rob Champion so the criticism had obviously stung him.

South African sportsmen are famous for being at their best when their backs are to the wall and in an industry which is notoriously shy to criticise Rob Champion might well have inadvertently unearthed the way to get the best out of our jockeys!

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20 comments on “Lerena Silences Detractors

  1. Rudy Moodley says:

    One of the most pleasant and humble jockeys in SA.An absolute gentleman.May God assist him in reaching his full potential.

  2. INNOCENT says:

    I also feel Lerena is not so good outside Joburg

  3. nico botha says:

    Not so good on anything but sitters

  4. Deezo Snyman says:

    Rob Champion made a fair and honest assessment about Gavin Lerena. We can only make a fair assessment as per stats and up until this past weekend, Lerena’s strike rate was pretty average. We could make a similar assessment regarding Khumalo, a past champion and July winner who rides in all provinces. His winning strike rate sits at an eye watering sub 3% and a place strike rate at just over 8%. That would not inspire much confidence with punters. A great jockey can win at any venue and unfortunately they are judged by their strike rate and an expert presenter like Rob makes his assessment accordingly.

  5. Nico Botha says:

    Khumalo’s strike rates is so low because there is no Tarry Stable anymorAnyone can become a champ with the right stable and connections.

  6. gavin says:

    unfair on gav top jock

  7. Joe says:

    A magnificently balanced jockey with incredible hands. Only people who
    ride themselves will understand what im talking about.

  8. hilton witz says:

    How can you make a statement that a jockey cant ride in cape town with such few rides surely you need a far bigger amount of rides before making such a ridiculous statement …If he has had success there before what has he forgotten how to ride there?Gavin lerena is a world class rider and can ride anywhere in the world and not so long ago won jockeys competitions in england and hong kong..Just to add reading posts on mdk and anton marcus only in south africa do we insult our legends of the turf much like we continue to not appreciate some of our world class sportsmen and women but go overseas and these same sportsmen and women are idolized and respected as is mdk and anton marcus…

  9. Avril L says:

    I wonder if this is the same Nico who criticised Gavin’s ride on Afrostar way back in August.

  10. Nico says:

    No Avril.It is maybe another Nico.


    Gavin please tell Sean Tarry not to bother with the Cape Flying with Celtic Sea, and that doesn’t mean she can’t win it !

    If Celtic Sea comes home first in the Majorca, it will be remembered and/or revered by most.

  12. George Croucher says:

    Nico Botha .Almost every horse Gavin rides is at least 2-3 points below its true price simply because he is riding, (as is the case with Anton) and they get unfairly slated by many, who , like you are of the misguided belief that any Odds On shot is a “pointer” and the only way it can get beat is Jockey error, When Gavin won the team tournament for the “Rest Of The World” at Ascot he rode a 245/1 double and when he won the Victor Ludorum in the Longines Challenge in Hong Kong none of his rides where shorter than 16/1, truth of the matter is he does not need “Aimers” to win races just his God given talent, a point that was highlighted in June 2014 when he rode 42 winners in a calendar month a record that IMHO will NEVER be broken,The man is a Master of his craft, even Stevie Wonder could see that, sadly there are none so blind as those who will not see…
    William, Chimmi in the Flying and Celtic in the Majorca would be the way to go IMO…

  13. Rian says:

    Celtic Sea must be a dream filly to own, think she has won on most courses in SA and very versatile

  14. Eric Fordred says:

    Gavin Lerena is a champion Jockey in his own right, and has proven his reputation time and time again, he is a Gentleman in every sense of the word.

  15. George Croucher says:

    She has Indeed won graded races at Scottsville,Greyville,Turfontein and Kenilworth from 1200-1600 absolute pleasure to own


    George is 106% correct

    When Gavin did that double, my brother who isn’t a big racing fan, but resident in the UK said to me “his a proper jockey, reminds me of Waichong Mawing ”

    Rian, spot on, if you can win in all three major provinces, at different distances, like Model Man or Empress Club, then you know it’s the real deal your’e watching


    Mr. Eric Fordred, welcome back !

    Bombay Duck, Izindaba and all

    I think this gentleman rode the gifted sprinter Espirit du Corps …or not ?

  18. Eric Fordred says:

    Indeed I did, he won a b div, having just turned 3yrs old, drawn 1 in the heavy going which at the time, was the wrong side of course, he carried 55.5kg and won by 10 lengths, thank you William cor reminding me of those treasured moments in Racing


    No, thank you Sir, for the enterprising ride.

    And Izindaba, whom I think was by Politician, was a bit of a darling within Cape racing for at least 2 years.

    Weird that you mention the heavy going, but I think, she too, was damn good in the wet.

  20. Rian says:

    Had a lovely bet on Charles Fortune in his first run in Cape Town , but knew my money was gone when they backed Eric’s horse and it was race over, smart Jockey !!

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