Jockey Paul Mulrennan, who finished 17th with 70 winners on the UK jockeys’ log this season, will replace Jamie Spencer in the international team for the Avis Coach Charter International Jockeys’ Challenge this weekend.
Spencer had to withdraw from the team due to riding commitments in Dubai this weekend.
The International Jockeys’ Challenge will be held over two meetings at Turffontein on Friday night and at Clairwood on Sunday.
Although of Irish descent, Mulrennan (30) was brought up in London and wanted to become a football player but was told he was too small. He first sat on a horse aged 16 and has since become one of the leading riders in Britain. This season he booted home 70 winners and finished 17th in the UK jockeys’ premiership, in spite of being out of action for a couple of months early on after breaking a leg in June last year. Career highlights include winning a Lester Award for the Flat ride of the year on Blue Spinnaker in the 2004 Zetland Gold Cup and winning the 2010 Calcutta Derby on Bruckner.
He is arguably most famous for his partnership with James Given-trained Dandino, on whom he won six races. Another claim to fame is getting the better of his wife, Adele, in a close finish to a claimer at Catterick. In September he won the Ayr Silver Cup on Mass Rally. He rides at 52.5kg.
The international team will be led by ruling UK champion jockey Richard Hughes, the leading point-scorer at last year’s International Jockeys’ Challenge.
Other riders in the team are Jimmy Fortune (who has ridden in the test twice before), Tom Queally (world-famous Frankel’s regular rider this year), Seamus Heffernan (second-string rider at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable) and top-class Singapore-based Brazilian Joao Moreira.
The South Africans riding in the Challenge are Anton Marcus (captain), Australian-based Jeff Lloyd, Gavin Lerena, Anthony Delpech, Piere Strydom and Muzi Yeni, with S’manga Khumalo acting as the reserve.
Four Challenge races, all handicaps, will be run at each of the meetings and the team that scores the most points will win the Challenge. There are also awards for the top riders in each of the legs and the top rider overall.
The International Jockeys Challenge has been staged for four years and the South Africans won the first three but had to concede defeat to the international side last year.