Hong Kong Jockey Club World Pool Champions Cup (Group 1)
THE Hong Kong Jockey Club World Pool Champions Cup at Greyville last Saturday should have been a chance for South African racing to display its wares to the world. Instead it provided an excessive-use horror show.
The number of times a jockey can hit a horse in a race in South Africa is 12 - a number way in excess of international thinking, let alone the views of animal rights activists - yet both Richard Fourie on the narrow winner Jet Dark and Gavin Lerena on runner-up Kommetdieding exceeded that figure.
Lerena, a former South African champion, can be excused only his second offence in 12 months but Fourie beggars belief. He is a top class jockey, much in demand by the leading trainers and has had an incredible run – this was his ninth Group 1 of the season – but only two races earlier he had been fined R20,000 (€1,176) and suspended for a week for exceeding the limit when winning the Mercury Sprint on Captain’s Ransom.
The stipendiary stewards reported that the Jet Dark win was the 13th time Fourie had broken the whip limit rule in the last year and the seventh time in the past two months. They fined him a further R35,000 (€2,058) and gave him an additional 10 days. Lerena was fined R10,000 (€588).
Believe it or not, Fourie wasn’t the worst offender. Sean Veale, fourth in a two-year-old Group 2 earlier on the card, was found guilty of breaking this particular rule for the 22nd time inside 12 months and four races later he did it again! He was fined a total of R6,000 (€353) and suspended for four Durban racemeetings.
Clearly the penalties are nothing like severe enough.
Both Jet Dark and Captain’s Ransom are with last season’s champion trainer Justin Snaith but this time he had to give best to Paul Peter who topped the lists for the first time in his career. Warren Kennedy, who rides a lot for Peter, was champion jockey for the second time.
Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud was the leading owner while Mary Slack and her daughter Jessica Jell’s Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein Studs combined to be the top breeder while Silvano was again the champion sire.
Rachel Venniker became the first girl to top the apprentices table. She is with former UK champion jockey Michael Roberts and her achievement made a mockery of the National Horseracing Authority’s much-criticised plan to give female apprentices a weight allowance.
Former Coolmore sire Oratorio - winner of the Eclipse and Irish Champion in 2005 - added to his big race tally last Saturday when Canadian Summer gave Darryl Moore and Jason Gates their first tase of Group 1 glory in the Thekwini Stakes.
Ballysax winner Casey Tibbs continues to leave his mark on South African bloodlines and he is the maternal grandsire of Cousin Casey (by Vercingetorix) who won the mile two-year-old Premiers Champion Stakes in the manner of a future star.