They say sportsmanship and easygoing methods are all right, but it is the prospect of a hot fight that brings out the crowds!And doesn’t it just.
Well folks, for those of you who enjoy a good battle, we have the International Jockey Challenge to look forward to in November and it promises to be a cracker.
The team announcement was made in the Pavilion at the sumptuous Table Bay Hotel to a select group of invited guests. As MC Rouvaun Smit said in his opening comments, the smiles that greet you on arrival at the Table Bay always make you feel that the red carpet has been laid out just for you and you get that little shiver of anticipation knowing that you really are in for a 5 star treat.
But you don’t want to hear about the stunning hotel, the lavish luncheon or even the assembled great and good, so let’s get on with it.
For the second year in succession, the Jockey Challenge will be run as a Two Day International and the competition will be run over 2 legs, 2 race meetings and 2 race courses. Turffontein in Johannesburg will host day one of our TDI on Friday, 11 November 2011 and the International races will be contested across 4 merited rated races at each centre with the team scoring the highest number of points across the two days being crowned the winner. There will be a draw for mounts in each of the challenge races and the runners will be seeded beforehand in order to equalise the chances of the two teams as much as is possible.
The Turffontein leg will comprise a MR 92 Handicap over 1800m, a MR 90 Handicap over 1400m and two MR 86 Handicaps over 1400m and 2450m respectively with additional stakes on offer. As an additional lure, the card boasts 2 feature races – the Gr2 R300,000 Victory Moon Stakes and the Listed R135,000 Gardenia Handicap.
Day two will be hosted by the fairest racecourse in the fairest Cape at Kenilworth on Sunday, 13 November 2011, which as an extra draw will also be hasting the Gr2 R300,000 Betting World Merchants.
Yes sir, it’s all been confirmed, signed, sealed and delivered and we have a smoking hot international team of challengers this year.
One of Cape Town’s most passionate and enthusiastic owners, as well as one of the headline sponsors, Hassen Adams took to the podium to announce the visiting squad and I hope you guys are sitting down for this (I know I’m glad I was!).
Irishman Richard Hughes, best known for his exploits aboard Canford Cliffs and recent tabloid staple over the hotly debated whip rules, inherits the captain’s armband from last year’s captain, Christophe Soumillon. Richard will be managing the UK’s Jimmy Fortune who visited us back in 2009 and will draw some home team support for having partnered JJ The Jet Plane on his international campaign. The rest of the team comprises Frenchman Olivier Peslier, who most of us know best for partnering the incomparable Goldikova. Tom Queally modestly protested that South African race goers wouldn’t know who he was and asked to be introduced via his horse, the mighty Frankel. I can imagine that there will be trainers and owners alike salivating at the opportunity to have this talented young Irishman sit on their horse.
We have a bit of a local connection to the next name on the list with Englishman Jamie Spencer being related to local Cape trainer, Joey Ramsen. And the final name on the list shot to fame during the race that’s had everyone talking, when Andrasch Starke rode the race of a lifetime to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Danedream.
Our local team aren’t too shabby either!
Those of you who have been scanning all the print and electronic media for news will already know that our local team is made up of Anton Marcus (who will wear the captain’s armband again), Anthony Delpech, Felix Coetzee, Waichong Marwing, Muzi Yeni, Pierre Strydom and Sherman Brown will be our team reserve.
As an additional attraction, a local “Rising Star” team –still to be announced – will also have the opportunity to take on the visitors at each meeting. I expect there will be a queue of our young stars vying for this incredible privilege.
Our boys naturally have the home advantage and being defending champions with four successive victories under our belt, we have the psychological edge as well. However, last year was a frighteningly close run affair and the Proteas will be needing all the support they can get.
Jack Nicklaus said “It’s great to win, but it’s also great fun just to be in the thick of any truly well and hard fought contest against opponents you respect, whatever the outcome.” Well folks, they don’t come any bigger or better than this. So there you have it. You’ve got two weeks to get those glad rags ready, buy up all the South African face paint, flags and shirts that you can, invite all your friends, get down to your race course and go make some noise – we are in for a treat!