The timing of Siya Kolisi’s Springboks big victory in Japan a fortnight ago has inspired the dynamic Winning Form-sponsored Muzi Yeni to lead the South African team with fire and passion at the World Sports Betting International Jockey Challenge supported by Sun International and Air Mauritius, at Turffontein on Saturday.
A multiple Northern Cape Champion Jockey and runner-up in the hotly contested South African national championship title chase last season, Muzi told the Sporting Post this week that he was privileged to lead some of the greatest jockeys in the world against a top international team.
“On Saturday, our national pride will bury the hatchet of our daily competition where there is no give or take on the track. That said, we are still riding for individual owners and trainers and it’s a case of each man for himself under the unity of the flag of our beautiful country,” said Muzi.
The South African team is made up of the top four finishers on last season’s log, two wild cards and a reserve.
Reigning champion Lyle Hewitson is unavailable as he is contracted to ride in Hong Kong. Richard Fourie declined the invitation due to other commitments, and Anton Marcus, although apparently keen to represent his country, could only confirm his participation closer to the event. So was excluded.
Muzi Yeni is Captain and currently third on the national log. He is a regular on the South African team competing in international jockey challenges. He is undoubtedly the most hardworking jockey in the country having saddled up 616 times since the start of the season on 1 August.
Gavin Lerena is no stranger to team racing, having represented SA in five International Jockey Challenges on home soil, winning the Longines International Jockey Challenge in 2015 in Hong Kong, and representing the Rest Of The World team at the Shergar Cup a few years back. He was SA champion jockey in the 2014-15 season.
Warren Kennedy (pictured below) currently leads the national log. Last season he broke through the 100 barrier mark, riding 139 winners at a strike rate of 12,2% and finished 7th on the log. He also scored his first Gr1 win, riding the Gavin van Zyl-trained Gabor to victory in the Thekwini Stakes at Greyville on Super Saturday.
Greg Cheyne, a multiple East Cape Champion jockey, is well-travelled, having raced in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Korea and Macau. He boasts more than 100 international victories.
Callan Murray has proven that he has the big match temperament. Four months after being crowned Champion Apprentice for the 2015-16 season, he bagged a Gr1 treble on Champions Day in 2018. He has also made his mark in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. This season he has combined magnficently with the Mike de Kock team and comes off two big feature winning weekends.
S’manga Khumalo was crowned South African champion jockey for the 2013-14 season. He repeated that feat in 2015-2016. He wrote his name into the history books in 2013 when becoming the first black jockey to win the prestigious Gr1 Vodacom Durban July. He is showing a renewed enthusiasm this season and some of his old fire is evident.
Wayne Agrella fills the role of reserve and is a former South African national champion apprentice of 2002/3. The 37 year old is one of the strongest riders in the game and has reinvented himself this term as first choice rider to the powerful Dippin’ Blu Team in the Eastern Cape.
The International Team
Rob Havlin is the Captain. He was a member of Team UK at last year’s International Jockey Challenge in Singapore. He has ridden around 900 domestic winners, partnering more than 1000 winners worldwide – in countries like the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Singapore and South Africa.
Paul Hanagan has twice been crowned champion jockey on the Flat in Britain, riding 165 winners in 2011 to defend his title, having won his first title with 191 winners in 2010. Among his major wins are the Gr1 British Champions Sprint Stakes with Muhaarar in 2015, the Gr1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes with Taghrooda in 2014, the Gr1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere in France with Wootton Bassett in 2010 and the Gr1 Dubai Golden Shaheen aboard Muarrab in 2016.
Martin Dwyer has recorded major wins worldwide, most notably aboard Phoenix Reach. They teamed up to win the Canadian International Stakes in 2003, the Hong Kong Vase in 2004 and the Dubai Sheema Classic in 2005. He has twice been the recipient of the Flat Ride of the Year award, in 2003 for winning the Jockey Club Cup with Persian Punch and in 2006 for his Vodafone Derby win upon Sir Percy.
Hayley Turner, pictured alongside, became the first woman to ride 100 United Kingdom Flat race winners during a calendar year in 2008. That year she was only one of five jockeys to ride in over 900 races in the UK. She currently boasts over 780 career wins. In 2011 Turner became the first female jockey to ride an outright Gr1 race winner in Britain, when partnering Dream Ahead in the Darley July Cup.
Andrea Atzeni won the St. Leger and Moyglare Stud Stakes in the same weekend in 2014, followed by the Dewhurst Stakes and his second successive Racing Post Trophy the following month. In 2015 he won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the Luca Cumani-trained Postponed and the St. Leger for a second successive year on Qatar Racing’s filly Simple Verse. He has won major races in France, Italy, Germany, UK, Republic of Ireland, UAE and Canada.
Franny Norton was born in Belle Vale on the outskirts of Liverpool. No one in his family was into horseracing but he was tiny and after the constant refrain of ‘you’d make a good jockey’ he decided to give it ago. An avid boxer in his youth, Norton was also picked to join the England boxing camp ahead of the Commonwealth Games. He also has a black belt in Judo.
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