Jockey Gavin Lerena rode a superb four-timer at the Vaal on 27 September and made some interesting observations about the jockey title chase. Former top jock Tex Lerena’s youngster is now at second position on the national log behind joint leaders, Piere Strydom and Donavan Mansour.
Whether it is natural early season energy or a hint of that R250 000 golden carrot being dangled by Klawervlei, our jockeys as a group, certainly appear to have risen to the challenge and the mix of names in the top ten is as diverse as it is refreshing.
Gavin Lerena’s Vaal performance followed in the footsteps of his friend and colleague, Donavan Mansour, who clocked up similar numbers at Flamingo Park on Monday. Lerena said in one of his multiple post-race interviews with the lovely Julie Alexander, that he felt that the champion jockey race would be tough this year, with the victor hitting around the 160-170 winner mark. He observed that the competitive nature of the industry with names like Marwing and Strydom in full flight meant that it was an honour and privilege merely ‘getting a ride’ and that winning races was another story.
A quick manual calculation of who is where on the log, shows that there is a diverse spread of age, experience and riding styles. The bottom line is that the needle and energy can only prove positive for racing.
Our current top ten positions:
Donavan Mansour (22)/ Piere Strydom (22)/ Gavin Lerena (21)/ Karis Teetan (20)/Muzi Yeni (19)/Richard Fourie (19) /Felix Coetzee (19)/Anton Marcus (19) /Anthony Delpech (18)/Sean Cormack (17)/Marco Van Rensburg (16)
Only six winners separate the top eleven guys at this stage. Teetan, Fourie, Cormack and the well-travelled Muzi Yeni are at Durbanville this afternoon. So this could all change again in a few hours. Yeni’s work-rate has been particularly high, and one hopes that he will break through in the Western Cape, where his rides have generally lacked quality so far.
It was most refreshing to have the polished Julie Alexander back on our screens for the Vaal meeting and after a fall-out with officialdom(or was it egos?) a year or two ago, she looks to have edged her way back to some form of acceptance with the new management at the Rivonia television channel. She is an asset in this male dominated environment, and we hope that more use will be made of her services.
Lerena’s four winners were for trainers Lance Wiid, Tony Nassiff and a double for Mike Azzie. The most impressive of the afternoon was his win on the ultra consistent Azzie Fort Wood gelding Eugenes, who won the MR72 Handicap in the Oppenheimer silks over the 1400m straight with ease. This was his second win from eleven starts. He is the second foal of the brilliant Escoleta Fitz(Arg), who won ten races here when trained by Mike De Kock. The super fast Avontuur bred Valmorne was the first leg of the Azzie double. The Var speedster bucked the day’s trend when he stuck to his inside draw station over the 1000m straight and won impressively for John and Vanessa Azzie. Tony Nassif has a smart looking sort on his hands in Thembi, who was Lerena’s winner in the first leg of the Pick Six. The daughter of Tamburlaine out of an Elliodor mare, cost only R40 000 at Vintage, but won her third start in good style. She has now won R60 000 and won in emphatic style from her nice outside draw. She is one to follow.
While on the subject of Eugenes’ win, it is our pleasure to report that a very special lady celebrates yet another milestone in her extraordinary life. The Sporting Post wishes Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer the very best of health and happiness on her 90th birthday celebrated on 28 September. Mrs O, as she is affectionately known, and her family have been supporters of South African horseracing for over a half century. She has indeed earned the title of ‘First Lady of South African Horseracing.’
Here’s to you, Mrs O!