Frankie Dettori returns, bringing crack foreign team with him
As soon as the six visiting riders taking part in the Air Mauritius International Jockeys’ Challenge landed at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday, one of their first tasks was to locate a newspaper and scour the racecard.
The reading material would no doubt have come in handy for the short flight to Port Elizabeth, where the first of two legs starts today.
Fairview is hosting what promises to be a thrilling first day of a crack team of international riders against a strong South African team.
The second leg takes place at Turffontein racecourse on Sunday.
The visitors will be captained by Frankie Dettori, making a return for the first time since 2009, and features Hayley Turner, Pat Cosgrave, Rab Havlin, Fergus Sweeney and Aurelien Lemaitre.
“Good to be back,” Dettori said after his arrival in South Africa.
“I’ve tried to bring a winning team with me and try to win this year because your boys are hard to beat in your own back yard.”
The South African team will be led by S’manga Khumalo with Muzi Yeni, Anthony Delpech, Aldo Domeyer, Grant van Niekerk and the in-form Gavin Lerena filling the remaining slots.
The South African team has a proud history in this competition, having won six of the eight renewals.
One thing most racegoers are hoping to see at either venue is Dettori’s trademark flying dismount – he has promised to deliver should he manage to get into the winner’s box.
“If I win a race, of course you will. Hopefully we’ll get that straightened out,” Dettori said in reference to the fact that he is still to get off themark in two appearances in this competition.
He featured in the inaugural event in 2008 and returned the next year.
“I heard I’ve got one favourite [today] – not sure about Sunday, but there’s time to get organised, get as much information as we can and get ready for the weekend.”
This weekend is also a chance for Turner to return to race-riding and the English jockey admitted that the lure of competing in this event was enough to draw her back.
“This is my third time now. I loved it last year, it was brilliant. That was my last ride before I retired. “They asked me to come back this year and I couldn’t say no,” she said.
“I haven’t been on a winning team either. We are determined to win it this year. “Apparently, I’ve got some good rides. We’ve got a bit of time to do our homework and fingers crossed.”
Turner, recently awarded an Order of the British Empire by the Queen, touched on the team format and the difference it made, as opposed to the usual status quo where it was everyone for themselves.
“You’re a lot happier when you pull up if you don’t finish anywhere, but one of your team members win.”
“We all want to win, but finishing second isn’t too bad if it’s one of your team members getting up ahead of you.”