Popular jockey Muzi Yeni, who is heading the national riders’ log, gets a chance to show his talent on the international stage when he represents Team SA in the Premier Gateway Challenge in Singapore on Tuesday.
Four teams of three riders each from SA, the UK, Australia and Asia will compete in four races at the Kranji track.
Much depends on the rides Yeni is allotted, but if he does well there has to be a chance of 31-year-old Yeni eventually following the route of young jockeys Callan Murray and Grant van Niekerk, who have moved to Hong Kong.
In an interview in January Yeni said his main ambition was to ride overseas. He said: "If I can finish in the top three in the jockeys log I’ve got a better chance of being able to apply abroad and get into countries like Hong Kong. That’s the goal."
Yeni, who travels all over the country in search of winners, has started the new campaign in outstanding form. He has ridden 31 winners in the first six weeks of the season and ridden in 281 races — 91 more than his nearest rival, Ryan Munger.
Perhaps this season, with champion Lyle Hewitson having missed the start of the campaign and Anthony Delpech also sidelined through injury, affords Yeni his best chance of capturing the SA title for the first time.
Yeni’s teammates in Tuesday’s Challenge will be Cape-based Aldo Domeyer and reigning champion Lyle Hewitson. Still an apprentice, Hewitson has had a race against time to get fit for Tuesday’s contest as he has been sidelined for several weeks after injuring his knee in a fall at Fairview in Port Elizabeth in July.
Team Asia will see the return to Singapore of former Kranji favourite Joao Moreira, who is now riding in Japan. He is a former four-time winner of the Singapore championship and has also won the Hong Kong title three times.
Moreira’s teammates are senior Singapore jockey Vlad Duric and Troy See from the junior ranks. The Brazilian will not want to leave the meeting without a winner.
Team UK, captained by Hayley Turner, one of the best female jockeys in the world, has had an enforced late change with Fran Berry stepping in for injured rider PJ McDonald. He fractured his left ankle and right heel when thrown off a horse in a paddock accident at Newcastle racecourse in August.
McDonald commented at the time: "It just goes to show the ups and downs of this game. I rode a double at Newcastle last night, got my 100th winner of the year and an hour later I’m on a stretcher in hospital.
"It’s one of those things, and you have to take the rough with the smooth. I know there’s a lot of people worse off and I just need to keep going and get myself back as soon as possible," he added.
Rab Havlin, who rides for top trainer Michael Stoute, is the other member of the UK team.
Berry has been in fine form in the UK in 2018, winning the Chester Cup in May on Magic Circle and also capturing the Henry 11 Stakes at Sandown on the same horse. This victory prompted connections to enter the six-year-old for the Melbourne Cup in November.
Team Australia will be captained by Hugh Bowman, who came close to winning Sunday’s grade1 Raffles Cup at Kranji with his frontrunning mount only caught in the dying strides. He is best known as the regular partner of champion Australian mare Winx.
Bowman, four-times champion jockey in Sydney, will have the experienced Kerrin McEvoy and leading Melbourne rider Mark Zahra as teammates.