Jack Milner: The work riders take centre stage at the Vaal on Thursday for the first leg of this season’s Work Riders’ Challenge.
This event is held over three meetings during the season and was introduced in order to upgrade the quality of the work riders.
With R50,000 in prize money to be won it is also an incentive for some of the most important people in racing who often do not get the level of recognition they deserve.
Some of these professional work riders are in hot demand among trainers both locally and abroad and the programme has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the earning potential of its graduates.
The riders accumulate points for each win and place – 10 for a winner, seven for second, five for third and three for fourth. The work rider who comes out with most points at the end of the three legs will come away with the R20,000 first prize. Second place earns R10,000 and third place R5,000.
As an added incentive there is R5,000 up for grabs for the winner of each leg.
The meeting comprises eight Maiden Plates but what has become a feature of the Challenge is that trainers are quite happy to allow their better horses to participate in these races.
Mike de Kock, one of the top trainers in the world, has made no bones about the fact he has some top-class horses this season. It is worth noting he has four well-bred first-timers carded to race at the Vaal and all of them have been entrusted to Chamu Mabaya, one of the consistently top work riders.
There are two who really stand out on breeding and they are Mawsoof, a three-year-old son of Trippi, in Race 1 and Yaamen, a son of Silvano, in Race 5 over 1200m.
Mawsoof is bred and owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum while Yaamen is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and bred by his Shadwell Stud.
One needs to keep an eye on the betting but they are not coming up against the strongest opposition and could have a gentle entry into the world of racing.