Picture: Russell Roberts. 30/09/2006. © Financial Mail
Picture: Russell Roberts. 30/09/2006. © Financial Mail

Former champion jockey Gavin Lerena will not remember 2018 fondly. A horrific fall at Turffontein in March sidelined him for five months, but his spirits stand to be lifted when he rides the favourite Mardi Gras in the World Sports Betting Grand Heritage race at the Vaal next Saturday.

Lerena is bidding for a hat-trick in the R750,000 race. He won on Irish Pride in 2016 and took this unique 28-runner cavalry charge again 12 months ago on Forest Fox.

Lerena took a heavy fall from his mount, Hakeem, also a Grand Heritage runner, in the Derby Trial at Turffontein on March 31. He underwent immediate surgery for a broken collarbone and shoulder blade.

He has eased his way back into racing and is booked for five mounts on Saturday’s nine-race programme at Turffontein.

World Sports Betting have had Mardi Gras as the favourite for the race since the entries were announced and trainer Johan van Vuuren’s grey will be tough to beat if he is at the top of his game. However, both Lerena and Van Vuuren will be aware that trainer Mike de Kock has a formidable trio in last Saturday’s winner Pietro Mascagni, Hakeem and Mujallad.

The latter, quoted at 11-1 in ante-post betting, will have Bernard Fayd’Herbe in the saddle. Randall Simons will be looking forward to partnering Pietro Mascagni once again as the four-year-old son of Silvano appears to have peaked at just the right time.

Trainer Ashley Fortune

Trainer Ashley Fortune will saddle her first runners in this race with Keagan De Melo booked for Tsitsikamma Dance and Raymond Danielson for Rings And Things.

Zoaves, a member of Geoff Woodruff’s powerful yard, was well fancied for this race in 2017 but failed to reward his backers. He is back for another shot with Chase Maujean in the irons and is a 13-1 chance in latest betting. Piere Strydom will partner King’s Archer for trainer Stuart Pettigrew. This duo have enjoyed considerable success in the past 12 months.

The pick of Lerena’s rides could be Rock Sensation (second race) and Mardi Gras stablemate Myrrh in the first leg of the Pick 6.

Rock Sensation, a daughter of Seventh Rock trained by Candice Dawson, has run second twice in four outings and could fully extend the likely favourite, Pink, who ran well on her debut at the Vaal in July.

Myrrh, a son of Duke Of Marmalade, has a favourable draw in the fourth race and looks like one of the leading contenders along with Sean Tarry’s representative Perfect Pursuit and Bernard Fayd’Herbe’s mount, Indy Ice. The latter will sport blinkers for the first time.

Young Luke Ferraris, grandson of trainer Ormond Ferraris, has been the success story of the new crop of apprentice riders and, having ridden more than 40 winners, will only be able to claim an allowance of 1.5kg.

Even so, the youngster, who has eight booked rides on the Turffontein card, can go close on Blazing Winter, trained by his grandfather, in the sixth, and Aussie-bred Carmalita in the eighth.