SA Jockeys Under Pressure

ACTS International Jockey Challenge

Piere Strydom

Piere Strydom. Team SA Captain

The historic Clairwood Racecourse in Durban will host the final leg of the three-meeting ACTS International Jockey Challenge on Sunday.

Turffontein will play host to the first leg on Friday evening, with Kenilworth on Saturday, where the Gr2 Betting World Merchants will be the headliner, the second leg.

The international team is captained by recently crowned UK champion jockey Richard Hughes, and includes top names like Johnny Murtagh, Jamie Spencer, Tom Queally, Hugh Bowman and Gregory Benoist.

The visiting jockeys will receive a hospitable reception on arrival for the ACTS International Jockeys Challenge, but at the track they will be confronted by a motivated South African team determined to exact revenge after being outpointed in recent years. The best local jockeys were selected to represent The SA Team.

Piere Strydom is Captain and he will be supported by Anton Marcus, Anthony Delpech, Robbie Fradd, Sean Cormack and 2013 Vodacom Durban July winner, S’manga Khumalo. Larry Weinstein CEO of the Racing Association says “It will be fascinating to see these masters quickly work out their horses’ quirks, adeptly judge pace then showcase their distinctive styles in furious finishes. The six top international riders will compete against six of the best from South Africa in a four-race challenge where the local team will bid to reverse the defeats it has suffered to the visitors in past two two years.

The riders will earn team and individual points in each of the four races with the team gleaning the most points over the day being declared the winner of the challenge. As an added incentive to racegoers there will be a further R5000 cash prize for correctly predicting who the Victor Ludorem will be at the Clairwood racemeeting. Entry forms will be handed out at the entrances and the winner is determined by lucky draw from all the correct entries.

Meet the International Team

Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes

Born in Dublin on 11 January 1973, “Hughsie” was crowned British Champion Jockey last year and took the title again this year. He has ridden 200 winners so far, taking his career total over 2,000. One of the tallest jockeys in the world at 1.8m, he has been on the international team at three of the five SA jockeys’ tests and helped his team secure victory in the last two years.

A well-known international jockey, he has also ridden winners throughout Europe, in India, Mauritius and South Africa, where he has ridden at Turffontein, Clairwood and Kenilworth.

He has enjoyed another great year, winning 10 Group 1 races, including the 1000 Guineas aboard Sky Lantern, his first British Classic, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Olympic Glory) and the International Topkapi Trophy in Turkey (Producer) – all his big-race winners coming courtesy of father-in-law Richard Hannon.

His minimum riding weight this year was 53.5kg.

Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer

Related through his wife Emma to Cape-based trainer Joey Ramsden and godson to Coolmore Stud owner John Magnier, Spencer was a member of the winning international team at the SA challenge in 2011.

He is currently 11th on the UK jockeys’ log with 84 winners to 23 October, including the Irish 1000 Guineas on Just The Judge. He won his first classic at the age of 17, the Irish 1000 Guineas on Tarascon, and has since won acclaim and criticism for his hold-up style of riding.

He was crowned champion jockey in Ireland in 2004, when attached to the powerful Ballydoyle stable, and took the title twice in Britain (in 2005 and 2007, when he shared the honours with Seb Saunders). The man nicknamed “The Baby-faced Assassin” is currently retained by Qatar Racing. Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, on 8 June 1980, he has also ridden top-drawer winners in France Singapore, Dubai, Canada, the USA.

His lowest riding weight in the last 12 months was 53.5kg.

Johnny Murtagh

Johnny Murtagh

Johnny Murtagh

Five-time Irish Champion Jockey and UAE champion in 1994, Murtagh has ridden just 15 winners this year – eight at Group 1 level including Sole Power in the King’s Stand Stakes and Novellist in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes – and has a strike rate of 22%. He was granted his trainer’s license in May and is based near Irish racecourse The Curragh. He has already saddled 16 winners in Ireland and Britain. As a jockey he has ridden winners at the highest level in the USA, Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong Germany, France and Mauritius and won the World Super Jockeys Series in Japan in 2011. He makes his South African debut but is well known to local racegoers through his association in Dubai with Mike de Kock, for whom he rode Honour Devil to UAE Derby glory in 2008. Born in Bohermeen, Navan, County Meath, Ireland on 14 May 1970, his lowest riding weight in the last 12 months was 55.5kg.

Tom Queally

Tom Queally

Tom Queally

Best known for his partnership with the mighty Frankel, who retired to stud unbeaten in 14 races, and Midday, who gave him five Group 1 wins including the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in 2009. The man who once trained to become a priest has been a member of the foreign team at the International Jockeys’ Challenge in the last two years.

Champion apprentice in Ireland in 2000 and Britain in 2004, he has ridden 69 winners in the UK so far this year with his biggest win coming aboard Tiger Cliff in the Betfred Ebor at York in August.

Twice a recipient of the Lester Award, he was a work rider in both New Zealand and the USA and has ridden winners at Turffontein and Champ De Mars in Mauritius. He was given a license to ride in Hong Kong in December and rode three winners. He was born on 8 October 1984 in Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland and his lowest riding weight in the last 12 months was 54kg.

Hugh Bowman

Hugh Bowman_webThis Sydney-based Australian makes his South African debut but is no stranger to international racing, having ridden in Hong Kong, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore and Mauritius.

Has booted home more than 1,500 winners to date, including 30 Group 1s. They include two VRC Derbys on Lion Tamer in 2010 and Sangster in 2011 and three Oaks, with his best horses being So You Think, Reliable Man and Samantha Miss.

Born in Mudgee on 14 July 1980, he has won the Sydney jockeys’ premiership twice and was named the New South Wales Apprentice of the Year in 1997-98 and 1999-2000. He won the Silver Saddle award at the Shergar Cup in 2007 when he captained the Rest of the World team.

His six Group 1 wins this year include Seville in the Metropolitan early in October and a double on 27 April aboard Mourayan in the Sydney Cup and Reliable Man in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He rides at 56kg.

Gregory Benoist

Gregory Benoist

Gregory Benoist

France-based Gregory Benoist, born on 7 February 1983, will be visiting South Africa for the first time. Currently 12th on the French jockeys’ log in a group of riders that include such immense talents as Christophe Soumillon and Olivier Pasquier, he has not won at Group 1 level yet and finished ninth behind Treve in this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but the man who moved to France aged 14 has a few other feature wins to his name.

He has ridden 800 winners in his career – 100 last season and 66 so far this season. Currently contracted to French owner Gerard Augustin Normand, hehas ridden in Japan (early this year) and in the past has also had mounts in the UK and Ireland, the USA at Breeders’ Cup and on Arlington Million Day, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Mauritius and Australia.

He stands 1.6m tall and his minimum riding weight is 54kgs.

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