It’s one of the most thrilling sights in racing – two top jockeys fighting it out up the straight, neck and neck all the way to the line.
Anton Marcus and Richard Fourie did just that in the 2 500m maiden at Kenilworth on Saturday. Throughout the last two furlongs they steadily drew six lengths clear of the rest as they stylishly asked their mounts for everything, and without any excessive or unnecessary use of the whip. In Auro and Long Reign responded with everything they had and it was only by a head that the latter got the verdict on the line.
Fourie said: “Anton is not an easy guy to beat but I felt I always had the measure of his mount. I know it looked on the TV as if he headed me but he didn’t.
“That said, it’s lovely to ride against champions like him because he wouldn’t be out of place anywhere in the world. I know I’ll be pleased if I can ride like him when I am his age.”
Marcus, who will be 50 in May (Fourie is 34), for once flew back to Durban empty-handed despite three of his four rides starting favourite and the other second favourite. But he was unlucky not to win the 1 400m maiden on Morse who finished fast to take equal third with only a few centimetres covering the first four. The stipes report revealed that he had had to ease his mount after a couple of furlongs to avoid him clipping the heels of fifth-placed Alfred’s Legacy. This cost him much more that the margin by which he was beaten.
First time blinkers apparently did the trick for the winner – the Glen Kotzen-trained 10-1 shot Final Appeal who was well handled by Morne Winnaar riding his 24th winner of the season.
First time headgear is – or should be – an important tool in the punter’s armoury but, regrettably, it is not flagged as such in the racecards, newspapers or racing websites. It is not fool proof but it often enables a horse to show improved form. In addition to Final Appeal, On Captain’s Side won the first at 47-20 for Greg Ennion and M.J. Byleveld – the first occasion on which he raced with ear muffs – and the Adam Marcus-trained 7-1 shot Winter Shadow (Anthony Andrews) took the 2 500m handicap wearing cheek pieces for the first time. In every case either the trainer or the jockey said that the headgear had made the difference.
Adam Marcus, incidentally, is expecting further improvement from the Lammerskraal homebred Hildegarde who led two furlongs out under Corne Orffer to justify 13-10 favouritism in the 1 100m handicap. “She appeared to be quite limited early on but we brought her down in trip and she hasn’t looked back since,” he explained. “We are looking for black type next.”
The talented Liam Tarental celebrated his return to the fray by getting up close home on the Paul Reeves-trained Skidoo in the Racing Association Handicap. “I broke my leg riding work last June. The doctor said I would be out for three months but for some reason it took a lot longer,” said the 21-year-old who was riding the 36th winner of his career.
It was also a day to remember for Sandile Mbhele as he rode his first winner as a fully-fledged jockey when going to the front two furlongs from home on Fours A Crowd to complete a Kotzen double in the last.
By Michael Clower