The real test of jockey skills is on the ordinary horses. Apprentice Ryan Curling lifted the riding honours at Scottsville on Wednesday 22 June with a brilliantly judged ride on the 12-1 shot Kentucky Sue in the second race, a Maiden Plate over 1400m.
The underdogs just don’t get enough opportunities and while the advantage of riding fancied horses obviously comes with plenty of pressure, one wonders what the run-of-the-mill guys could achieve with better horses. It is a vicious cycle and a big hole once you haven’t had all the lucky breaks. One just gets the feeling that the personable and enthusiastic Ryan Curling could do wonders with a good mentor and some guidance. He rides so well when given a few opportunities and isn’t exactly utilised by the bigger yards.
Curling rode a great race to win the second race over 1400m on the Julie Dittmer-trained Kentucky Sue. Running in the instantly recognisable red and grey colours of KZN breeding icon George Rowles, the daughter of Opera King won like she could do it again. Not that the young Ryan was fazed by the famous silks – showing his youthful naivete by declaring afterwards that he ‘hadn’t even checked the owner details.’ But Uncle George would not have minded that little unintentional verbal back-hander after his jockey overcame a wide draw and rode a mature and calculated race up front. Curling conserved her for a final spurt and she held off the late rattle of the Drier horse, Wild Ginger.
Trainer Gavin Van Zyl and jockey Raymond Danielson maintained their impressive partnership strike-rate when the favourite Wild Type won the day’s topliner, the J Leslie Smith & Co Inc. Mr 96 Handicap over 1400m. Go Go Loochee turned on the burners up front but tired late as Danielson produced Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer’s Strike Smartly gelding up the centre to win well. It was a clever bit of race-riding as he kept Glen Hatt on the KZN Guineas chaos kid, Ridethebreeze, very tight on his inside. Ridethebreeze is the horse who took half the field out during the running of the Guineas in mid-May when ducking sharply for no reason.
Mike De Kock’s Argentinian-bred Ginepri won the first under Kevin Shea and this colt is feature bound on Vodacom Durban July day. He gave the blonde jockey the first of his two winners and looks classy. He won with ease, but is looking for 2000m and will make his presence felt. His sire, former Claiborne stallion Easing Along, is a Group 1 producing son of Storm Cat.
Owner Raymond Deacon, whose purple and white silks were carried to Grade 2 glory in Friday evening’s Post Merchants by the smart Splash Gold, enjoyed yet another family champagne and interview when Mister Slam cruised in under Anton Marcus to win the Action Coach Maiden plate over 1000m. Deacon, who owns the son of Grand Slam in partnership with Fred Crabbia, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, and was all smiles as he lead the second Argentinian-bred to win on the day into the winner’s enclosure. He is trained by Glen Kotzen and looks a progressive sort.
Shea was on the mark again when riding a confident race on the African Betting Clan’s Miss Diana in the opening leg of the Pick Six. This filly has been backed so often and always seems to find something to spoil the party, but today she took on the boys in this 2400m Maiden Plate and beat them comprehensively. It was a very gutsy win and trainer Paul Lafferty must have felt very relieved as she made up lengths to overcome the free-striding Spectroscope and Pat Lunn’s League Of His Own.
Muzi Yeni is firmly entrenched at third position on the national jockey log and he made The Makro MR 71 Handicap for fillies and mares over 1400m, all his own when riding a very casual race to wiin on Cane Martini at 12-1. Trained by Colin Scott, this daughter of Rich Man’s Gold has found her form after a slump and was winning her second race in a row. Her sustained finish prevented a Muhtafal –Lafferty double for a buoyant Kevin Shea, who already had two cheques in his kit bag. He was a narrow second here on the unsound mare Born In Space. She is too inconsistent to follow with confidence but could pop up at any time.
The Marcus Delpech duel got tighter at the top of the jockey log with Marcus getting another one back – the scores now 184 – 175 with Delpech holding the edge!