Five For Thandi – Five For Alyson

'Thursday is a whole new day'

The Hollywoodbets Greyville racemeeting on Wednesday belonged to Sporting Post-sponsored jockey Athandiwe Mgudlwa and Hollywoodbets-sponsored trainer Alyson Wright, who each registered a memorable five-timer.

The Mgudlwa and Wright paths crossed with four winners, with the 32 year old rider picking up another for Dennis Bosch, while Alyson Wright’s ‘other’ winner in a quintessential quintet was ridden by the unstoppable Richard Fourie.

Three of Alyson Wright’s winners were for longstanding owner Rikesh Sewgoolam.

Gary Green is flanked by Athandiwe Mgudlwa and Alyson Wright after Miss Paget won the last (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

For the softly spoken Thandi Mgudlwa, the sunny afternoon represented a turnaround after a testing few months.

The man who in February 2011 became the first apprentice since international champion Muis Roberts forty year earlier to ride a jackpot, recently parted company with the Gareth van Zyl yard, and found that the principle of never burning one’s bridges has paid off handsomely in his short career.

“Gareth was completely honest and open with me. Nobody likes losing a good job with a powerful stable. But we shook hands and parted amicably. The very next day, I joined Alyson and Kevin Wright. I had enjoyed success with them as an apprentice. Things fell into place – almost miraculously, one could say,” adds Thandi as he told of the inspiration of a mentor named Anton Marcus.

“Anton Marcus was a champion jockey and he is an amazing human being whom I respected from early in my apprenticeship. His intellect and strength of mind are something else. I spoke to him after my parting with Gareth van Zyl. He told me to use the experience positively. To remind myself that I wasn’t indispensable, but also to get up the next morning, and work hard. He said it wasn’t my first knock – that it in all probability wouldn’t be my last either,” recalls the man who grew up in Daveyton in very humble circumstances.

He said that he always felt that he would ride at least a double on Wednesday.

“The yard is in good form, the horses are feeling happy, and I was hopeful! Strangely, Professor Lupin in the first was one of my concerns. He is a nice horse, but probably not the most honest fellow around. When he won, I knew there were possible big things on the horizon!”

Thandi says that Miss Paget, his fifth winner, ‘just panned out beautifully’.

“I had four in the bag. But then things fell into place. She was in a good position and moved up beautifully. I was zoned out and it was all a blur! I saw on the replay that I saluted at the line. I don’t remember doing that. What a wonderful feeling!” he adds happily.

After his five winners on Wednesday, the first person Thandi called on his way home to his partner Bronwyn and their two children, was Anton Marcus.

“Anton said he was really proud of me. But he also suggested I enjoy the replays, and then to wake up tomorrow and remember it is all history. Not to ride on the high of the great day for too long. On Saturday we are back at Hollywoodbets Greyville and it’s a whole new day. New heroes. New memories. New challenges,” he recalls as he tells us that it’s advice that he takes to heart.

“My partner Bronwyn and my family were on the phone and following my day. There were tears of joy. They are my biggest supporters and family support is so very important,” Thandi added.

And tomorrow?

“I will be at work extra early! Anton Marcus’ advice is invaluable. He had the championship record to prove that keeping one’s feet on the ground and working hard is vital – basics!” adds Thandi.

Part owner of Miss Paget, the Mgudlwa-Wright final winner of the day, Gary Green enjoyed a terrific afternoon, and pledged R15 000 to the Coastal Horse Care Unit. A lovely touch!

Enjoy the Warren Lenferna interview in the last:

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