For me this has been a topsy-turvy year. I started off with a broken collarbone, then came back, had some winners and even won the Vodacom Durban July. Then I was off again for a month because I hadn’t healed properly.
I came back in September, rode some winners, travelled to France to ride Harry’s Son and since then have had a few more winners.
Winning my fourth Durban July had to be the highlight of the year but I found the trip to France also very exciting. It was quite an eye-opener to see how they operate there.
Obviously breaking my collarbone was my biggest disappointment but not far behind that was being left out of the South African team who participated in the International Jockeys’ Challenge.
Next year I’m looking forward to a better year, as long as I can stay in good physical condition. Maybe I can crack a couple of good horses to ride locally but from an international point of view Harry’s Son is now out of contention as he was hurt badly in his last start and has been retired. Hopefully something else will pop up.
There are still seven months to go in the jockeys’ championship and right now there are seven or eight riders in contention.
Naturally injuries happen and that is something you cannot predict. That has been the case with both Andrew Fortune and Anthony Delpech. Fortune had a big enough lead to stay in contention but he is prepared to travel and that’s what it takes to win a Championship.
Delpech is apparently out for about eight weeks.
Right now we are travelling up and down to Cape Town to benefit from their season and in two weeks’ time we run the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. With Legal Eagle and Marinaresco both entered we could be in for another thrilling finish. Both are likely to meet again in the Sun Met on 28 January and that that should be yet another humdinger.
At this stage It’s My Turn remains my Met ride and I hope he has a very good second run before we compete in the R5-million race.
On Saturday we race at Turffontein on the Standside track. We might not have the biggest fields but racing is quite competitive.
Race 1 is a work riders’ race and it is seldom I find my best bet in these kinds of races but Moss Gas, on exposed form, certainly has the beating of this field. The dangers are Goodness Me and Tandana.
Race 2 is a Maiden Juvenile Plate and bar one horse, the field is unraced. All we can do when taking our Place Accumulators is follow the betting, especially on those trainers who have already had juvenile winners as it gives you an idea of the quality of their horses.
Race 3 is a Maiden Plate and the highest rated horses are Arlington and Barbarella Nights, who both have to be included in all bets. Unfortunately they also have the worst of the draws. So the horses you can consider who have only had one run and could improve a lot are Storm Ruler and Starpath.
Pick three of those mentioned for the PA and for Pick 6 put in all of them as well as Jackman.
I’m riding Arlington who has a bad draw but does have an obvious chance.
Race 4 is a tough Maiden Plate and the horses with the best form – Silver King and Raasmaal – have not run for a few months. But as this is a sprint race both could quite easily produce the goods. On the other side of the coin both may need their runs so it could be wise to include a horse who is racing fit and that is Timeofthevikings.
I’m riding King Of Mani whose form is not particularly exciting. In fact, when I called, I wanted the ride on stablemate Timeofthevikings who I think could be a decent place bet. For the PA go with the three and for the Pick 6 you could also include Prince Of War.
Race 5 is a Conditions Plate for fillies and mares so you should go for the best handicapped horse. In this case that is Rebel To The Fore but unfortunately she ran badly last time. For the PA Hashtag Strat looks the best back up.
As this is a competitive race include Movie Show as she did compete against the colts and geldings last time out.
For the Pick 6 you quite easily go with the field but if you don’t you could include Spanish Kiss. Even though her form is poor of late she has dropped quite considerably in the merit ratings and has a 4kg claimer up.
Race 6 is a Pinnacle Stakes and once again you have to lean towards your highest merit rated horses. The best handicapped runner is Duffi’s Call but he has earned his rating in Zimbabwe, which might not be as strong as SA merit ratings. For that reason I’m leaning towards Bulleting Home and Romany Prince. They could be good enough for the PA and for the Pick 6 include Prospect Strike who could improve in his second run from a rest.
Race 7 is another Pinnacle Stakes and the best handicapped horse is Flying Ice but she is having her second run after a layoff and is coming back in distance. As a result I’m leaning towards Sensible Lover and Crystal Glamour. They should be good enough for the PA.
For the Pick 6 Flying Ice must be included in case she produces her best form. Trophy Wife could race fresh and win this on ability. Kilauea I rode last time and as she had no speed, she can enjoy this 1400m.
I also rode Wukkin’ Up last time. She had no luck as she was caught wide and also ran loose before the start, which would not have helped her chances.
For the Pick 6 consider all of those.
Race 8 is a handicap and we have many horses with chances but the horse who has dropped in the merit rating and jumps from No 1 draw, which is vital over this course and distance, is Shortstop. He should go off at good odds and should beat some of these more fancied runners.
Shortstop’s danger is probably Alaadel but he did not beat a strong field last time. However, he was running around in the finish and that obviously affected his chances so he could improve even more.
Those two should be good enough for the PA. For the Pick 6 consider Golden Man, Yankee Captain and Shotgun Rider.
I ride Arpad who was well beaten by Golden Man in his last start. The reason I’m not on Golden Man is that he had an engagement during the week and was not certain to run in this race. Naturally I would have preferred to ride him.
But let me make it clear for all punters, trainers and owners that just because you lose out on a ride, it does not mean you give up on the horse you’re on. I often find it a misconception that when a jockey is not on the horse he first wanted to ride he will give up on the horse he is riding. In fact, you really want to beat that horse.
Often I have been on what I thought was the wrong horse but have ended up winning the race. I’m sure other jockeys have had the same experience.
This will be my final column of the year so I would like to wish all readers a merry Christmas, a happy New Year and successful punting in 2017.