Anthony Delpech, or Bonji as he is affectionately known, is now reaping the benefits of having taken the trouble for honing his skill in Hong Kong where he rode amongst other top horse’s one of the world’s top rated, Vengeance Of Rain. Delpech, in partnership with the great Mike de Kock, has now won the last two July’s-the most recent on Igugu and the July before with Bold Silvano. Anthony’s quiet demeanor belies his fierce determination to stay at the top of the jockey’s tree and his battle with Anton Marcus for this season’s jockey’s championship crown has been fascinating to watch. As Anthony is intensely loyal to the de Kock stable racegoers may be assured that a lot more will be seen from Anthony Delpech as long as he stays fit to ride.
What is your name and age? Anthony Clay Delpech. Born in Seychelles February 10 1969.
Where do you live? Mt Edgecombe Golf Estate.
Tell us about your family? Have been married to my lovely wife, Candice, for 11 years. My son Damon is 14 and I have two daughters Chelsea, 11years old, and Brooklyn who is 3.
How did it come about that you went to the jockey academy? I was very small at school so we made enquiries about the academy and decided that being a jockey could be a good career for me.
Who were your pals at the academy? Anton Marcus, Marthinus Mienie, Mark Khan and Frikkie Vermaak.
As a young man in the academy which of the trainers took a liking to you and mentored you? I was Joey Joseph’s apprentice for 3 years.
Which was the first horse you won and for whom and where was that? I won on a horse for Colin Lee at Clairwood.
How long did you ride in KZN before taking the plunge and making your way to Hong Kong? It took me longer than I expected to get to Hong Kong as I actually twice applied to go to Hong Kong and it was only after I won my second SA jockey’s title in 2003 that the Hong Kong Jockey Club invited me to come and ride there.
Which do you consider the best horse you rode in South Africa before going to Hong Kong? I would have to say that Classic Flag was a very nice horse.
Which trainer did you ride for when arriving in Hong Kong? I rode mainly for David Ferraris.
How many horses did he have in his yard? He always had about 50 horses.
You rated Vengeance of Rain as the best horse you ever rode. After some great success since your return from Hong Kong do you still rate him the best horse you ever won on? After what I achieved on Vengeance of Rain I would probably always rate him the best horse I have won on. He won about 75 million rand in stakes and he won all the top races in Hong Kong.
You and Mike de Kock are a wonderful team. As a jockey very close to Mike what do you his great training skills down to? Mike is a genius at training horses. I think one of his most remarkable abilities with a horse is that he is able to turn a horse around in a matter of weeks. When Mike puts his hand to a horse he goes from ordinary to extra ordinary in a very short time.
How often do you ride work for Mike de Kock? I try to ride work every day except Wednesdays.
Your win on Bold Silvano in last year’s July looked a perfect plan coming together. How sure were you before the race that you would win? I was very confident about his chance. He had a fantastic prep and I knew that if I got first run on him that I would win. That is how it turned out.
You have had a great run recently riding feature race winners. Do you get these rides on your own or do you have an agent? With the amount of race riding I do and also riding work as often as possible I find it very helpful to have an agent. My Gauteng rides are looked after by Ray Curling and in Natal my agent is Robbie Hill. I am very grateful to them both for the time and effort they put into helping me.
Do you and Mike speak a lot about the horse’s ability and how he should be raced or does Mike make most of those decisions on what he sees of the horse in work and in races? Mike doesn’t say too much to the jockey as he makes up his own mind and his record speaks for itself. He is a great judge of a horse’s ability.
Is there any chance that you will be joining the de Kock team in Dubai? I would love to ride for the stable in Dubai as it does hurt to see horses I have long been associated with running and winning in Dubai without me. It is, however, up to Mike to decide who he would like to have with him in Dubai.
What is your riding mass that you are most comfortable with? I can ride at 52 kg but am most comfortable on 53 kg.
Do you have any trouble maintaining your riding mass? No-I am lucky in that my body mass is very constant.
You are a very keen golfer. How often do you play and what is your handicap? Recently I have not played as much as in the past as my riding commitments have not left with me much spare time. My handicap fluctuated between 9-12.
Mike de Kock is another mad keen golfer. Do you sometimes play with him and, if you do, who normally wins? I have not played against Mike for ages but he is very good and when I do play against him he normally wins.
Training methods appear to have changed quite dramatically in the last couple of years with much more use being made of treadmills etc. Do you think, as a jockey, that these changes have improved the standard of the horses racing? Yes I do. Mike has found the right buttons and now that he has all the other top trainers are following suit. The treadmill, as an example, is a great help. When tracks are too wet to use and for horses with leg problems etc. it is of great value. There is no doubt improved training methods have raised the bar considerably.
You have now been associated with many top class jockeys but is there any one of them which you will remember with particular affection for his riding ability or personality? Dougie Whyte is a truly great jockey in all respects and deserves respect. Anton Marcus, Felix Coetzee and Robbie Fradd also deserve mention as being jockeys who deserve respect.
Which of the stallions standing in this country really take your eye and whose offspring you would like to see in your yard? It would be really fantastic to have a stable full of Galileo progeny!
As a person who appears to be very meticulous about planning his way what are your immediate plans for yourself and racing in South Africa? My job is particularly exciting at the moment and I want to keep it going just as it is.
Which horse do you think is the best racing in SA at the moment? Dancewiththedevil is very good. Her last run was all wrong and it should be ignored. She has great ability.
After having won the race in July, what chance do you think you have in the Gold Cup? Mike De Kock is a genius getting horses super fit and I think my mount ilsanpietro will have a great chance. I recently ran fourth on him over 2400 meters which could have been just a touch short for him, but I feel he will be ideally suited to be 3200m of the Gold Cup. I look forward to a great race.
How do you like to celebrate a big win? After Igugu’s win we spent the evening in the box at Greyville and had a great time until 12 o clock. Later in the week Mike and I organized a braai at the stable for all the grooms and family and friends and a great time was had by all.
What is it about racing that makes you passionate about the game? I love getting up in the morning to ride work and hoping and looking for the next champion.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? Mr. Ralph Rixon always said, “One can make mistakes in maiden races but don’t make mistakes in the Group races”.
How do you like to spend your free time, apart from golf, if you have any? I love to have a braai with family and friends.
How much time do you spend studying form? I always study form but I make sure not to interfere with agents.
The control of racing is now very strict. Is there anything more, in your opinion, that you think the authorities could or should do to make racing even straighter? I think racing is about as straight as one can get it.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? I reckon that without owners there would be no racing. The trouble is that stakes are so low that owners are really battling to stay in the game and that serious consideration must now be given to raising stakes and also to keeping the cost of owning a racehorse down. How that is done is up to the role players concerned
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Never think you are too big for the game.