For every two minutes of glamour, there is probably eight hours of blood, sweat and tears in the mix.
Winning Form sponsored Muzi Andile Yeni is officially South Africa’s hardest working jockey and he tells us there are two short-term goals in his professional sights as we head into the final month of the 2018/19 season.
The 32 year old multiple regional champion wants to win the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday – and the SA Jockey Championship title is another career bucket list item that beckons boldly.
The tussle between the Clermont born bundle of dynamite and the reigning SA Champion Lyle Hewitson, as well as senior past champion Anton Marcus, has been a fascinating sub-plot as the sun sets on an action packed twelve months.
And the Yeni numbers tell an extraordinary tale of dedication and commitment – he’s a travelling salesman workaholic in every sense of the word.
The competitor has ridden close on 1600 horses this season for 185 wins (at time of writing) at a 12 percent win strike-rate. He runs places on 36 percent of his rides.
Muzi’s mounts have accumulated earnings of over R 17,5 million.
He tells us that working most days and living out of a suitcase has it’s downside.
“I am trying hard to build my career and win the SA championship and have never been afraid of hard work. But it takes its toll on one’s family life and there has to be a balance. I don’t think I will stop trying till I have ticked the title off on my CV. For now, I appreciate all the support from the various yards across the country. One cannot do it without the horses and the backing of loyal owners and trainers,” he adds.
Muzi has come on leaps and bounds since November 2003 when he won his first race at the 12th start of his career aboard Storm King for Mike de Kock at Clairwood.
On Saturday he will ride the fancied 3yo Barahin for the same multiple champion trainer.
“I have to class this as probably my most competitive July day duty list for as far back as I can remember. I have some really good rides and it is an honour and privilege to have been given the call-up by one of the world’s top trainers in Africa’s greatest race,” he adds.
Muzi rode Thundering Jet into fourth place at his first July ride in 2009.
In 2011 he rode Solo Traveller for Justin Snaith and says that, but for traffic issues, he should just about have won the race.
He says a jockey never gets used to the atmosphere on July day at the ‘Theatre Of Champions’.
“It’s a buzz and the atmosphere is electric – unbelievable. The adrenaline pumps for horse and rider. There is no quarter given. It’s our biggest stage. We all want to win the big one . I am really excited about my chances of pulling it off,” he adds with a hint of nervous movement in his voice.
He was particularly pleased that Barahin has pulled a very decent 6 draw – from a tactical viewpoint.
“Barahin is a horse who lacks early toe, so I have no doubt that we will drop him out. It’s the way he races.The nice thing about the 6 gate is that we have all the serious opposition around us – including my stablemate Hawwaam and last year’s winner Do It Again. So I will be able to see who is doing what throughout the race.”
Muzi says he sees some pace in the race, which will certainly favour his mount’s prospects.
“He won the Jubilee well and has been prepped to perfection by Mr de Kock. I will be making up the ground late and hope to be cutting them down. One needs a bit of luck in running – it’s a tough race every year. Based on the betting, he is probably my most competitive July ride to date.”
Muzi’s other July Day rides:
Basilius – second race:
“I rode him when he was pipped by Gr1 winner Van Halen in the Durban Dash last time. That day he cantered down on the poly and he appeared to love the surface. He has a good draw here. He is fit and is a massive runner in this race.”
Bize – third race:
“She is a really smart 3yo. She stays well and was not disgraced in the Triple Tiara build-up races. She has beaten the boys before – although this is the Consolation July and it won’t be easy. But we have a nice draw and handy galloping weight. Include her in all bets.”
Singforafa – fifth race:
“She is a super-quick filly who won the Strelitzia at Greyville and then went quickly again when beaten under a length into third in the Gr1 Allan Robertson. She tries the 1400m for the first time. It may be a stretch but I will have that stamina question in mind. The Spies horses are always fit.”
Invidia – sixth race:
“Ashley Fortune’s Invidia is probably one of my best rides of the day and I was really impressed by his turn of foot when he won his post-maiden over 1400m at Turfontein three weeks ago. He should enjoy Greyville. This is a Gr2 that is never easy to win – but we have the draw on our side!”
Thanksgiving – eighth race:
“I won his maiden on him. He is no slouch on his day. I believe the 2000m of the Daily News was a touch far for him last time. If one looks at his excellent Dingaans second and his performance in the KZN Guineas, then his ability stands out. He is not far off the best of his age. And there are no Hawwaams in the line-up on Saturday!”
Elusive Heart – ninth race:
“I don’t know too much about her but a glance at her form suggests she has plenty of ability. She is Gr1 placed at this track and ran right on top of the placed horses in the Tibouchina Stakes. It’s a tough race and we are well drawn. But we are always going out to do our best.”
Kaydens Pride – tenth race:
“He won the Gatecrasher Stakes last time. I believe he is a very smart horse with a bright future – I think very highly of him. The race is over 1300m and I feel he would be more effective over a mile. We are well drawn though and should be right there – I do respect Wave and African Warrior, though.”
Hey Boy – eleventh race:
“He loves Greyville and is in good form. He ran just off Gr1 winner Van Halen last time and we bump him again. It’s a race packed with speed and our good draw won’t do any harm.”