MUZI BEFORE FIRST KRANJI RIDE SUNDAY
You can tell right away Muzi Yeni has been there and done that when it comes to jockeys’ series.
When asked about the next one coming up in Singapore, the Premier Gateway International Jockeys Challenge on Tuesday, his first reaction was typical of a dab hand:
“Don’t ask me about my rides. I haven’t got a clue!” said Yeni.
It may sound like a paradox, but most jockeys who know the ropes, would also take a leaf from Forrest Gump – it’s like a box of chocolates.
Still, the pint-sized but pocket dynamite of a jockey, who finished runner-up on the South African national log last season, boasts an impressive record in such contests for someone who prefers not to delve too much into his mounts.
Four times the Victor Ludorum at the South African International Jockeys on his home turf, while overseas, he rode a winner in Korea and had one participation in Macau.
Money King, Dreamweaver, Moritz Eclipse and Mr Dujardin are the horses the lightweight rider has drawn in the four races designated for the inaugural challenge, which is actually a spin-off of the South African version he is so familiar with.
Perhaps not quite with his rides, but at least the ground is not an unknown quantity anymore.
Yeni, along with Lyle Hewitson (captain of Team South Africa and last season’s champion jockey while third-placed Aldo Domeyer could not make it at the last minute) had a first taste of Singapore racing at the just-concluded Group 1 Raffles Cup meeting on Sunday, albeit both without winning.
“I watch Singapore races on TV broadcast back home, and I had also already done my homework before riding here. We also have Polytrack in Port Elizabeth, but this one looks more cambered and is a real quick track,” said Yeni who has also ridden in Brazil, Greece and Mauritius.
“When we were told we could ride here at the Group race meeting, I put my name forward, together with Lyle and Aldo.
“It’s always great for any jockey to ride in a Group race anywhere in the world. It was therefore an honour and privilege to come and ride here on such a big stage.”
Unfortunately, Nova Strike, his ride in the Raffles Cup (1600m) who was a $82 chance, was well beaten by Debt Collector. His six other rides on the undercard did not win either, four of whom were at three-figure quotes, while his two best performances were a third and a fourth on the better-backed Eye Guy ($19) and Kirks Ryker ($35) respectively.
Now that the 1,300-race winner, including six at Grade 1 level, has a better insight of the track, it goes without saying he would hope for Team South Africa to win, and, why not, another Victor Ludorum – but the bare minimum would be at least one winner to tuck under his belt before he heads home.
But one thing the 31-year-old Durbanite is not overawed by is the big names in the other Teams – Team Asia, Team Australia and Team UK. The nine-time Northern Cape champion jockey definitely respects such luminaries like Joao Moreira, Hugh Bowman and Hayley Turner, but he has self-belief in his own ability.
“I’ve taken part in many such series back home, won the Victor Ludorum four times, rode a winner in Korea and also took part in one in Macau,” said Yeni.
“I’ve ridden against the Frankie Dettori’s and Christophe Soumillon’s, and the current teams on Tuesday are also made up of top jockeys.
“What I enjoy about such series is the mix of different jockeys from around the world. It’s also a privilege to represent your country and be part of a team.
“Last year was one of my best seasons with a second place as my highest finish ever. And now I’m invited to this great series in Singapore, I can only hope at least one winner comes my way.”
Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club