Team South Africa Captain, Anton Marcus
(Photo : Reuters/Shine2010)
“ARE JOCKEYS SOUTH AFRICA’S BEST SPORTSMEN?”
Mike MoonIn this morning’s The Times, Mike Moon poses the question, “Are jockeys South Africa’s best sportsmen?”
What is South Africa’s best sporting code? Don’t laugh, but a good case can be made for horse riding. The country’s jockeys, as a group, are arguably the best in the world.
The Springboks might win the occasional tournament, but their dominance is always fleeting and vulnerable to admin white-anting. Graeme Smith talks a good game, but does anyone believe the Proteas can mentally shackle that jailbird spawn from Down Under? Not really. Our pro golfers have a good claim to being South Africa’s most accomplished sportsmen - relatively, numbers-wise etc.
But the little guys are also pretty big, so to speak. Wherever South African-trained jockeys go, they succeed.
The great Muis Roberts was champion of Britain, Basil Marcus topped the log seven times in racing-mad Hong Kong, and countryman Dougie Whyte is now on his way to a 10th straight Hong Kong championship. Felix Coetzee, Barend Vorster, Weichong Marwing, Kevin Shea and Greg Cheyne are other South African riders who’ve ridden ‘em to sleep overseas.
This remarkable record makes tomorrow’s International Jockeys Challenge at Turffontein a compelling contest. The challenge covers four races on the 10-race card, with points accumulating, and mounts allocated via a seeded draw to even things up.
The showdown between the six-man South African team and a star-studded European squad offers locally based jockeys a great chance to test their talents. And they have a good chance of repeating last year’s victory over the internationals.
Not a few racing pundits reckon that SA captain Anton Marcus is the best jockey in the world at the moment. That’s a big statement, but if you’ve seen the manner in which he has booted home winner after winner in recent months, you give it credence.
Piere “Striker” Strydom is one of the world’s great judges of pace in a horse race and would be a globe-trotting star if he didn’t like it so much at home.
Also in the South African ranks are the aforementioned Felix Coetzee, and fellow ex-SA champ Anthony Delpech, with tons of experience between them. Young thrusters Richard Fourie and Gavin Lerena make up the team.
Reigning SA champion jockey Andrew Fortune is injured, but has been made team manager.
The Bok jocks won’t want for a motivational team-talk: Fortune, a recovering druggie, gives inspirational chats at rehab clinics. And boy, can he talk. At the Equus awards this year, he had hard-bitten racing luminaries tearful at his acceptance speech.
A bonus tomorrow is a fifth challenge race that matches the Euros against an “emerging” local team - Muzi Yeni, Brandon Lerena, Aldo Domeyer, Raymond Danielson and S’Manga Khumalo.
An intriguing day’s racing if the weather plays ball.