Coronavirus pandemic regulations bar jockeys from travelling between provinces during the month of June, leading to some head-butting over jockey bookings for big races.
The two ex-champions declared their regular stable jockeys to ride horses at both Saturday’s Turffontein meeting and Sunday’s Greyville fixture – which boast three Grade 1 races apiece. But the suits said no.
The problem is, coronavirus pandemic regulations – under which racing was allowed to resume behind closed doors – bar jockeys from travelling between provinces during the month of June.
So, riders Gavin Lerena, Lyle Hewitson, Callan Murray and Luke Ferraris won’t be allowed to jump on a plane to Durban to fulfil planned Sunday engagements after competing in Joburg on Saturday.
Piling frustration upon frustration, new rules announced this week allow the crack foursome to make the trip to the coast on Wednesday next week, just two days later. The revised regs permit jockeys to make one regional switch in July – which they and several others will surely make for the lucrative winter season.
Tarry and De Kock, perfectionists and serial winners who like to get everything just right in their preparations for big races, argue that a slight bending of the rules should be allowed – in the interests of their horses’ owners, punters and the integrity of the studbook record. Horses should run to their optimum potential, which includes having the best possible assistance from the saddle, they argue.
What difference will two days make? Also, handlers, horses and trainers are allowed greater freedom of movement between provinces than jockeys – why the discrimination?
But rules are rules, say the worthies of the National Horseracing Authority. Everyone has had to put up with irritating and irrational lockdown rules, they add, warning further that racing does to want to put the restart of racing in jeopardy by poking the bear that is the all-powerful National Coronavirus Command Council.
If the spectacle of 20 feature races across South Africa at the weekend were not enough, this touch of controversy has added to the excitement.
Tarry is the worst affected, with 10 horses carded for Greyville on Sunday – all still without jockey bookings as of midday on Friday. In the Gold Challenge, he saddles smart Cirillo, second in the race in 2019 and overdue a big win, and outsider Matador Man, always capable of an upset.
In the Daily News 2000, he sends out Dingaans victor Shango, who was an unlucky runner-up in the SA Derby, and well-regarded Tree Tumbo; and in the Woolavington 2000 it’s Keep Smiling and Victoria Paige, both with realistic winning chances.
De Kock has less of a logistical headache with just two runners at Greyville. Most importantly, Pomander goes for him in the Woolavington following a good second place in the SA Oaks.
The problem for the Randjesfontein neighbours is that most in-demand jockeys currently domiciled in KwaZulu-Natal are already engaged in Sunday’s big races – such as champion-elect Warren Kennedy, “KZN King” Anton Marcus, Craig Zackey and Keagan de Melo.
Sometime Cape Town ace Bernard Fayd’Herbe is floating around Durban with two feature-race rides. Doubtless, his phone has been ringing about other possibilities.
East Coast stalwart Sean Veale has a vacant slot for the Daily News, while up-and-comer Serino Moodley has spare capacity. Among the other jockeys available to the Joburg conditioners are Gareth Wright, Stuart Randolph, Anthony Mgudlwa and Eric Ngwane, all of whom have decent credentials.
Expect to see a flood of jockeys into KwaZulu-Natal as the door opens later next week: from the Highveld, the above-named quartet along with Muzi Yeni, S’Manga Khumalo, Piere Strydom and others; from Cape Town, Richard Fourie, Aldo Domeyer, Greg Cheyne and, possibly, newly temporarily-licenced Grant van Niekerk.
Meanwhile, from the avalanche of feature races over the next few days, the “must-watches” are Saturday’s Premier’s Champions Challenge at Turffontein starring another stirring clash between De Kock stablemates Hawwaam and Soqrat; Sunday’s Gold Challenge with tyros Do It Again, Vardy and Rainbow Bridge; and, on the same Greyville card, the Woolavington as unbeaten fillies Summer Pudding and Lady Of Steel eyeball each other.
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