Shooting Stars

Vaal 28 July

Log Leader. Anton Marcus may have poached a winning lead.

Anton Marcus was all smiles as he grabbed the spotlight at the Vaal on 28 July with five superb winners to cement his claims to the Champion Jockey title as this season draws to a close in three days. Less enchanted was Trainer Ian Jayes who launched a scathing attack on Phumelela, the RA  and the National Horseracing Authority, after he had trained Be Speedy to win the jackpot opener.

Now seven winners ahead of Anthony Delpech after a wonderful day at the Vaal, where he admittedly had a far more attractive card of rides, Anton Marcus now looks to have caught the crest of the wave at the right time. It is interesting to note that his lead means a positive turnaround of almost forty wins in the past two months over Delpech , and he now looks a good thing on a richly buttered roll to lift the title as the sun sets on Turffontein on Sunday.

There is naturally a lot of inflamed debate doing the rounds at the moment as to who is the better rider. They both have their supporters. Avontuur’s  Delpech has declared that they are ‘mates’. Their riding styles from the grandstand  are not very different, although Marcus is a stronger protagonist of the whip than Delpech.  They are both brilliant jockeys. Of that there is little doubt.

Marcus comes across almost nonchalantly, while the Seychellian appears more stressed and intense. Marcus has a far wider spread of rides and stable support and, other than his Steinhoff-Jooste retainer, he rides for a wider spread of stables.   Delpech is attached to the powerful De Kock yard and rides mostly for that awesome outfit in Gauteng and KZN. Mike De Kock has had  155 winners this season so far but his speciality is the big races. That reflects in Delpech’s superior stakes income which is over R4 million higher than Marcus. The latter’s winning strike rate though is 28% versus his counterpart’s 21%.

Everest. Anthony Delpech has a mountain to climb.

Marcus has shortened dramatically in the betting to win the championship, as he stands on 230 winners against 223 of his challenger. With three meetings left, he has 27 rides versus Delpech’s 28. There is little to choose between them, but the margin of seven winners may be the decider. Mental strength and a bit of luck in running could also  swing it. It adds a lot of interest to our daily fare and next week is going to feel rather quiet by comparison!

In stark contrast, the less glamorous side of racing also reared its head at the Vaal today when outspoken trainer Ian Jayes stepped in front of the cameras after his barefoot mare Be Speedy got up late under the young star JP Van Der Merwe to win the MR 64 Handicap over 1400m. Tellytrack interviewer Dave Mollett deserves credit for handling the exchanges with aplomb and allowing the trainer to speak his mind and not resorting to cutting things short with a ‘Big Brother scissors’, as we have witnessed in the past. Unfortunately the Jayes post-race interview was not included in the evening’s replays of the Vaal meeting. We don’t necessarily agree with unwarranted criticism in the public domain. But was it really unwarranted? Was it malicious? And the subsequent censorship? We can’t really support that approach either.

We label Mr Jayes as ‘outspoken’ purely on the basis that he is a man who is not scared to open his mouth and voice his opinion on issues  that are frustrating him and his colleagues. What is more puzzling is , why are the other trainers, some of whom apparently share Jayes’ aggravation, so quiet and seemingly frightened to speak up?  Or does it just not make  good business sense or common courtesy to castigate the authorities ?

Be Speedy won a very nice race but came in here under a merit rating of 54 and also as a reserve runner. For the second time in as many weeks, Jayes voiced his disapproval of the handicapper’s low rating of this type of moderate filly. He said he knew many trainers with similar horses in their yards and that owners were being  denied an opportunity to run their horses and earn their way, as they were consistently eliminated. He also asked why the other bottom weight reserve runner was set a weight as high as 54,5kg?

Jayes  didn’t mince his words at all. He asked when the powers  would ‘wake up’ to the needs of owners and trainers. He took a swipe at Phumelela, the National Horseracing Authority and even asked what the Racing Association were doing to act in the interests of owners. He said they were all clueless. The handicapping, the programming – even the track management that saw them halve the size of the Vaal track. “ Must we shoot the horses rather?”, he asked in obvious anger.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the views of this experienced trainer, the question begs as to why capable accomplished professionals feel inclined to resort to verbal attacks on public television? Does it not say something about the simmering frustration on the ground at our industry leaders and their lack of communication and PR?  This is a public horseracing website. We don’t take sides.  Those bodies are welcome to address Mr Jayes’ concerns. Let’s wait and see what happens.

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