One of the country’s top workriders, Francis Semela, has been hit with a 90-day ban by the National Horseracing Authority for failing to give his mount a full opportunity to win in a race at the Vaal in August.
The inquiry resulted from Semela’s partnering of Tapanzee in the first race at the Vaal on August 17. He pleaded guilty to the charge, but has the right of appeal. It was established that — at 1,200m — Semela encouraged Tapanzee around the turn against the instructions of trainer Adam Azzie.
At 1,000m, he placed his mount at the rear of the field and between 800m and 400m made no attempt to make up ground on Tapanzee despite the horse showing no signs of being difficult to assist.
Semela was accompanied to the National Horseracing Authority meeting by Workriders master James Maree, who has played an important role in tutoring young jockeys.
Maree will be dismayed that one of his star pupils has transgressed the rules.
The ban has resulted in considerable comment on social media and some racing fans think that Semela should also have been fined.
In a post on the Sporting Post website, "Munny Man" says the Jockey Club needs to investigate "the reasons why this workrider rode the horse against instructions given to him".
"Pleading guilty and getting three months is a cop-out. Grooms should not be treated any differently to jockeys. Had a jockey done what the groom did, he would have been fined and suspended.
"A fine hurts a jockey where it hurts most. The groom should have been fined. Talk about reverse discrimination. If I ever see this groom riding in any race again, I will not have a bet. Once bitten twice shy."
There are two meetings at Turffontein this week and it is surely significant that top rider Anton Marcus is making the trip to partner Stay With Me for the Joe Soma stable in Tuesday’s third race. Marcus studies the form and he will be expecting challenges from Dancing Rebel, Mister Lister and Thanks Again.
The 2016-17 season was the best to date for Vaal trainer Lucky Houdalakis and he will be hopeful of capturing the fourth race with his consistent performer Serenpidity.
Generoso and Candy Kisses are the main dangers.
Piere Strydom was at his best on Secret Star at the city track last Saturday and the Azzie stable will be looking for a similar ride on Madam Secretary in the fifth race. It should be a wide open with Secret Vision, Artemisia and Last Girl Standing all sure to have their supporters.
The sixth race looks a trappy affair for punters, but popular jockey Muzi Yeni could spring a surprise on Chief Sioux. Although Roy Magner’s gelding is not getting any younger, he is seldom far away and could reward each-way support, as well as being a possible swinger bet with Hunting Owl.