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Bonji’s Living The Dream!

How a champion jockey became a Gr1 Racing Manager!

When Anthony Delpech walked through the doors of the SA Jockey Academy forty years ago alongside the likes of Anton Marcus, Marthinus Mienie, Mark Khan and Frikkie Vermaak, he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that the circle of life would one day see him as a spectator and Racing Manager cheering a Grade 1 winner on from the grandstand with tears in his eyes.

Anthony Delpech (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Anthony Delpech – the champion jockey (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

“Saturday at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth was amazing. I rode my share of Gr1 winners around the world. But boy oh boy, this was lump-in-the-throat special for me –as it was for all of us involved in the Hollywood Syndicate. We have winners most weeks – I never show emotion. But when Make It Snappy kicked again at the 200m, I started screaming and hitting my racecard against the rail. I had to check myself for a brief moment!” he laughs.

Anthony Clet Delpech was born in the Seychelles on 10 February 1969.

The family moved to Durban when he was 13 and becoming a jockey sounded like a good excuse to escape school. Just shows, it’s often not how we start, it’s how we finish!

Nightingales

Nightingale seen winning the Majorca in 2017 under Anthony – his last Gr1 success at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth

He recalls riding his last Gr1 winner at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth on Nightingale for Mary Slack and Candice Bass-Robinson in the 2017 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes, and was  still on a high after Make It Snappy’s thundering end-to-end victory in the World Sports Betting Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas 48 hours earlier.

The Sporting Post caught up with him on Monday after a visit with his family to the world-class Ridgemont facility out at Wellington.

Anthony is hugged by his wife Candice after a memorable moment (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

“It’s funny how life works. I could never have imagined fulfilling an administrative or management role. I was only ever a jockey and that’s all I ever wanted to be. But life changes, as it did so drastically for me in April 2018 with the accident. I don’t think Owen Heffer realises exactly what he did for me, and for my family, when he gave me the opportunity to become the Hollywood Syndicate Racing Manager. Lifechanging is a word that comes to mind. And it’s not a job. I’m living my passion. I’m a lucky guy! ”

While ‘Bonji’, as he is known affectionately, spent 35 years living the life of an internationally accomplished champion jockey, with the tough façade and cucumber-cool exterior covering the human frailties within, Anthony admits that being forced to give up race-riding after his accident, almost broke him mentally.

It’s an oldie but a goodie! A lovely file pic of Candice and Anthony Delpech with Damon then 15, Chelsea then 12 and in front,Brooklyn then 4

“Racing has given me and my family a wonderful life. But riding at the top level means that one seldom gets to show emotion. You bottle things up and show the public what you think they want to see. Decades of that restraint imploded in a heap when I learnt that my riding career was over. So I had to seek professional counselling and sort my head out. Being a part of the Hollywood team has been my major therapy and given my life new purpose. I love it and Make It Snappy took it all to a whole new level on Saturday,” he adds.

Speaking about the Fillies Guineas, Anthony says that he always felt the form was too close to make it a cut-and-dried affair and that the favourite was actually beatable.

Louis the king! Make It Snappy charges to victory (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

He says that the draw really left them with only one option.

“From that gate we had to jump, own the space and then dictate from there. Louis Mxothwa rode the perfect race,” he adds.

And so the win was no surprise? 

“Ciao Bella is a beautiful specimen and she won the Grade 2 really well. But as I say, the form was close. She had been beaten by Bonika, for instance. And I thought Make It Snappy impressed when winning the Summer Bowl beating the older fillies. Even in receipt of 9kgs, it is not easy walloping older Gr1 horses. Make It Snappy’s biggest asset is her massive stride and the further they went, the further she won by on Saturday. I think she will get 2000m, so that gives us plenty of options. She is having a break this week out at Ridgemont. She is a lovely filly!”

The Hollywood, Ridgemont and Crawford team celebrate! (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

The Hollywood Syndicate’s Happy Chance ran a very decent fifth on Saturday. Anthony says she is taking time and still needs to mature but is another smart sort likely to be seen in action during the SA Champions Season.

“Brett Crawford has done a great job and it’s an honour and privilege to be able to race such beautifully-bred racehorses, thanks to our lease agreement with Ridgemont Highlands.”

Anthony on the phone to the boss after a race to remember (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Taxed on the Hollywood strategy of buying new stock at the various sales, Anthony indicates that is where the next target lies.

“Our team are putting our heads together and trying to buy quality. And obviously our target is now to buy a Gr1 winner!”

Anthony piloted Noah From Goa to victory in the 2015 Cape Guineas for Mike de Kock.

Anthony and Noah From Goa win the 2015 Cape Guineas

On the syndicate’s 2022 Hollywoodbets Cape Guineas candidate Anfields Rocket, he says that it’s all systems go.

Grant Maroun arrives from Randjesfontein on Friday and will be stabled at Milnerton.

Anfields Rocket will be taken to Hollywoodbets Kenilworth next week to have a look at the left-handed turn, as he has only raced right-handed so far.

“I’m not too concerned about his wide gate. The main contenders also have wide gates. Anfields Rocket is versatile, so he can race from any position. He has won over 1000m and has pace too. Let’s see, we could find ourselves bringing up the rear with Charles Dickens and Cousin Casey in the run for home. Then it’s about the gaps, luck, ability. We have engaged Gavin Lerena – he is experienced and has the BMT.”

Podium power – the happy connections pose for SP photographer Chase Liebenberg

On the subject of jockeys, the 53 year old feels, ‘without boasting’, that his presence on raceday in the pre-race and post-race adds value.

“I have been there and done it. I know we all make mistakes and errors of judgement in races. I don’t mind it when it happens and the jockey admits it. But it’s when they make weak excuses that I am not happy. But it’s onwards and upwards from here!”

Watch the replay – if you missed it!

 

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