The World Sports Betting International Jockey Challenge, supported by Sun International and Air Mauritius, takes centre stage at Turffontein this weekend. The big names such as Dettori and Moore may be missing but the international team is made up of some tremendous riders who have proven themselves in the international arena.
Brazilian-born João Moreira was a relatively unknown when still riding in Singapore and part of the visiting International Team of that year, but rode tremendous races on some decidedly moderate horses to help the internationals to their first win. Any anyone who took notice will have made a bundle on Moreira in his first season in Hong Kong.
Given that the four challenge races are lowly handicaps, punters should be wary of the likely outcomes, but the riders will be giving it their all and with the internationals having nothing to go on besides the formbook and trainer’s instructions, their professionalism will be to the fore. There is the old maxim, of “good jockeys don’t need instructions and bad jockeys don’t listen anyway,” so we are in for a great afternoon’s entertainment.
The first leg of the International Jockey Challenge – good riders and not so good horses – could see the visitors off to a big start. Gelding appears to have been the key to Mike and Adam Azzie’s Al Borak who made good improvement first up after the unkindest cut of all. Although drawn wide, Haley Turner can get the internationals off to a flying start along with Fran Norton on What A Joker and International captain Rab Havlin on Jackman.
In the next leg, Starlight Express is a dangerous front runner and is much better drawn than in her last two and seasoned international Martin Dwyer rides for Geoff Woodruff. Local riders could come to the fore with Kirkconnels Lass. She does not have the best of the draw but S’Manga Khumalo has been riding like a man possessed of late. Seven Seas, with South African captain Muzi Yeni aboard, showed up well in his handicap debut when taking on stronger. He is lightly raced from a strong from a strong stable.
The third leg is a wide-open handicap. Bockscar is not the easiest ride but is having his third run after a lay-off and was doing his best work late last time out. The blinkers go on to an old soldier and Gavin Lerena can record the first win for the SA team. Biggest threat could come from the Fran Norton ridden Barron Rooney although this is a seriously difficult handicap to sort.
The final leg of the International Jockey Challenge is another puzzle but St John Gray looks to have a live contender for Haley Turner who is no stranger to the Turffontein winner’s circle. At Hand is in the right space, three runs after a lengthy break, and can get the better of the De Kock’s runner Hellofaride that obliged second time out. He should be progressive in a modest field but it is never easy first time out of the maidens.
The first two juvenile races of the current season make up the first two races on the card where the betting could prove your best guide, while the R1 million Monaco Sprint for maidens kick’s off the Pick 6 but wily trainer Mike de Kock appears to have saved a plum for the winner’s cheque and Battleoftrafalgar looks the ‘right one’.
By Andrew Harrison