Get the Buzz on International Jockeys’ Challenge


On Friday racing fans can meet the jockeys riding at the Air Mauritius International Jockeys’ Challenge, a six-race test that will pit South Africa’s best against a team of top-class riders from abroad.

The jockeys will be at the Betting World outlet at The Buzz Shopping Centre in Fourways from 11am.

The jockeys riding in the Air Mauritius International Jockeys’ Challenge are:

The South Africans

Anthony Delpech

Captain. This Seychelles-born 48-year-old has ridden for South Africa in every International Jockeys’ Challenge held since the event was introduced in 2008. He won the jockeys’ championship last season by 43 wins and maintained a high 22% win rate. That was his third jockeys’ title after 1998-99, when he set the standing record in South Africa for number of winners in a season – 334, and 2002-03. “Bonji” won four Grade 1 races last season. First again on the log and maintaining his high 23.56% winning strike rate this season. Has ridden in Singapore, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Dubai. He rides at 53kg.


Greg Cheyne

This 41-year-old Pretoria-born rider was in the South African team in the 2015 International Jockeys’ Challenge. He has a diverse international CV that includes appearances in Malaysia, Germany, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and most recently in England where he partnered Whisky Baron in his UK debut. His second on the national log in 2016-17 was his highest finish to date, although he was third on a couple of occasions before that. His one Grade 1 victory last season came in the Cape’s biggest race, the Sun Met, aboard Whisky Baron. He is currently 23rd on the log. He rides at 53kg.


Gavin Lerena

Champion SA jockey in 2014-15 and third on the national log last season in spite of spending almost three months in the UK. The 32-year-old Johannesburg-born rider won the Grade 1 Gauteng Sansui Summer Cup on Master Sabina last year, his only win at the highest level in 2016-17. He has ridden in Hong Kong, China, Mauritius, Dubai, England and Zimbabwe. This is the sixth time he will represent South Africa in this challenge and he has also participated in jockeys’ tests in Hong Kong and the UK – the Shergar Cup in 2015. He is seventh on the national log this season with a winning strike rate of nearly 21%. He rides at 57kg.


S’manga Khumalo

Two-time champion SA jockey – the first person of colour to achieve that honour – this KwaMashu-born 31-year-old has ridden in the International Jockeys’ Challenge five times and was captain in 2014 when the local team won by a country mile. Finished fifth on the log in 2016-17 with a winning strike rate of 16.6% and a tally of three Grade 1 wins. Has made a fairly slow start to the current season and is 22nd on the national table. Has represented his country in jockey tests in England and Hong Kong and has also ridden with success in Australia, China, Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. Weighs in at 53kg.


Craig Zackey

The Benoni, Johannesburg-born 22-year-old rides in the International Jockeys’ Challenge for the first time but has already represented his country twice, in the Asian Young Guns in Seoul in 2014 and 2015. Finished sixth on the SA Jockeys’ log last season with 138 winners and won the second Grade 1 trophy of his career, when Nother Russia won the HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes. His best finish came in defeat, though, when the filly was beaten two short heads into third by males Deo Juvente and Legal Eagle in the Premiers Champions Challenge. Is currently 11th on the national log. Rides at 53kg.


Lyle Hewitson

Exceptionally talented 20-year-old apprentice who started out riding in work-riders’ races and, having started his apprenticeship with only five months remaining of last season, still managed to finish seventh on South Africa’s national jockeys’ log. Currently second on the table and there is a possibility he could become the first apprentice since subsequent UK champion Muis Roberts in the early 1970s to win the national title as an apprentice. Biggest win to date came in the Grade 2 Joburg Spring Handicap last month on Wonderwall but has six Grade 3 trophies in his cabinet. His minimum riding weight is 52kg.


The Internationals

Pat Smullen

Represents Ireland. This 40-year-old, who rode his first winner in 1993, has won the Irish flat-racing jockeys’ title nine times and finished second behind Colin Keane in the Irish premiership this year with a 14% winning strike rate. Biggest win this year came in the Moyglare “Jewels” Blandord Stakes (Group 2) aboard Dermot Weld-trained Shamreen. Has won major races in his homeland, England, France and the USA. He has ridden several times in the Shergar Cup, although his team failed to win on any of those occasions. He will be riding in South Africa for the first time. His lowest riding weight this year was 54.5kg.


Seamie Heffernan

Represents Ireland. Finished eighth on the Irish jockeys’ log this year with a 10% winning strike rate. The 45-year-old, who was born in County Kildare, rode in the International Jockeys’ Challenge in South Africa in 2012 when he won a race at Clairwood and helped his team win the test. He has also ridden in England, France and the USA, where he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Highland Reel last year. Rides mostly for Aidan O’Brien and his big-race wins this year include three Grade 1s – the Irish Derby on Capri, the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes on US Navy Flag and the Prix de l’Opera on Rhododendron. Rides at 54.5kg.


PJ McDonald

Represents Ireland but the 35-year-old jockey works in the UK and finished seventh on the Flat jockeys’ log this year. Was recently crowned Flat jockey of the year at Ayr. A former jump jockey, he switched codes after winning the 2007 Scottish Grand National on Hot Weld as an apprentice, and has won around 650 Flat races in his career. Had his best season yet with 81 wins in England to his credit. His first Group 1 Flat race success came on 13 October this year aboard Laurens in the bet 365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket. That was his third win aboard trainer Karl Burke’s charge. McDonald’s lowest riding weight this year has been 53kg.


Corey Brown

Represents Australia. The 41-year-old Taree-born jockey, who started his apprenticeship in 1991, makes his first visit to South Africa riding a high after winning his second Melbourne Cup on Joseph O’Brien-trained Rekindling this month. His first win in Australia’s premier race came in 2009 aboard Shocking. Champion Australian jockey in 2001-2002, he has ridden a lot for Godolphin this year winning on a third of his rides for them. Has ridden in France, Mauritius, Singapore (fourth in the premiership there last year) and Hong Kong. Currently 22nd on the New South Wales’ jockeys’ log. Rides at 53kg.


Martin Dwyer

Represents England. The 42-year-old Aintree, Liverpool-born jockey has ridden in Mauritius but visits South Africa for the International Jockeys’ Challenge for the first time. Has recorded Group 1 wins in England (including winning the 2003 Oaks on Casual Look and the 2006 Derby on Sir Percy), Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Dubai (where he won the 2005 Dubai Sheema Classic on Phoenix Reach) and India. Rides a lot for his father-in-law Willie Muir. Had a 9% winning strike rate this year and finished 47th in the British Flat jockeys’ standings. Was licensed to also ride over jumps this year. His lowest riding weight was 52kg.


Thierry Thulliez

Represents France. The 43-year-old Paris-born jockey, affectionately called “Thuthu”, started his life in the saddle as a jump jockey, winning 17 races over obstacles before moving to Chantilly to ride in Flat races. Although without a Group 1 win and a 6% winning strike rate this year, he is no stranger to big-race success, having won at the highest level in France, Italy and the USA, where he won the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Mile on Domedriver, and his international experience also includes Germany, Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Dubai and Czechoslovakia. Has ridden as light as 53.5kg this year.

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