Work riders down to the wire

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The third and final leg of this season’s Work Riders’ Challenge will take place at Turffontein Racecourse on Saturday 12 May.

The Work Riders’ Challenge, held over three meetings, was introduced in 2008 by Phumelela, the Racing Association and the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust to showcase the talents of riders who have graduated from the Work Riders’ Training Programme.

The programme is funded by the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust and run by former champion jockey-turned-trainer James Maree.

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.

Phumelela stages work riders’ races nearly every week and, apart from earning riding fees on every horse they partner, they compete for the jockey’s portion of the prize money. The Work Riders’ Challenge carries a total purse of R50,000.

Riders score points for their finishing positions and the rider who scores the most points in each of the three legs gets R5,000. The rider who accumulates the most points over all three meetings gets R20,000. The runner-up is given R10,000 and the third rider gets R5,000.

Leading the log going into the final leg is Goodman Dadamasi on 75 points. He has been ultra-consistent this season earning 37 points in the first leg and 38 in the second. His closest challenger is Chamu Mabaya on 57 points (33 and 24), with Phelisile Mongqawa third on 45 points (25 and 20).

“The practical experience they get from these races you cannot buy with money,” said Maree. “It sometimes takes time but they are riding with lots of confidence.”

Commenting about leader Dadamasi Maree, added: “He is a very patient rider and is good on horses who need to be held up.”

Some of the work riders who have gone on to make their names in the higher ranks are Serino Moodley, Calvin Habib, Diego de Gouveia and, most importantly, Lyle Hewitson, who could well win the SA jockey championship this year.

Louis Nhlapo, who started as a work rider and then went on to ride at the highest level, is currently a stipendiary steward in Gauteng.

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