Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Top jockeys Anton Marcus and Richard Fourie have declined invitations to represent the SA team at the international meeting in November, opening the door for Warren Kennedy and S’manga Khumalo.

The international meeting is scheduled for Turffontein on November 16 and is expected to draw a large crowd to the city track.

“Marcus and Fourie have cited riding commitments in the Cape as the reason they are unavailable,” said Penny Morsner, member relations officer at the Racing Association (RA).

One can understand Marcus’s viewpoint, as it is very much a case of “been there, done that” and his focus has always been on big race winners, but many racing fans would liked to have seen Fourie on the highveld. A Vodacom July win has been the highlight for the popular rider, who turns 34 nine days after the international.

It has always been the policy of the RA to select the top six in last season’s jockey standings, so this meant automatic selection for Lyle Hewitson, Muzi Yeni, Anton Marcus, Gavin Lerena, Greg Cheyne and Richard Fourie.

With Hewitson in Hong Kong, the next two jockeys in the 2018/2019 jockeys table are Kennedy and Ryan Munger.

One feels Kennedy would have certainly got a “wild card” selection if Hewitson had still been here, as the KwaZulu-Natal-based rider has been in outstanding form in recent months. Statistics up to September 18 show him top of the jockeys log with 42 winners — seven more than Yeni.

Munger, who had a good campaign last term, finishing in eighth place in the table with 127 winners, will probably feel miffed that he has lost out in the SA side to Khumalo and Callan Murray.

An injured Khumalo rode in only 543 races last season and finished in 17th place. However, the RA have obviously taken into account that the jockey who won the 2013 Durban July has hit a hot streak recently and is making up for lost time.

Murray recently returned to SA after stints in Hong Kong and Singapore and his services have quickly been snapped up by the powerful Mike de Kock stable, and he won on their four-year-old filly Queen Supreme last Saturday.

Yeni will captain the SA side that will take on an international side made up of Paul Hannigan, Hayley Turner, Rab Havlin, Martin Dwyer, Andrea Atzeni and Manoel Nunes.

Obviously, the RA and the meeting’s sponsors would dearly have liked to have organised a return visit by Frankie Dettori, but it is probably easier getting an audience with the pope than the flamboyant Italian.

Turner has enjoyed a successful year, with the highlight being a Royal Ascot winner in June. She rode a winner for Vaal trainer Steve Moffatt on her last appearance here, so he will be hoping she draws one of his runners again.

The RA have done well to get another Italian, Atzeni, to the meeting as he is a jockey regularly among the winners in the UK — primarily for trainer Roger Varian.

Hannigan, who rides mainly for Richard Fahey, is another talented horseman, while Havlin rides for John Gosden and gets the chance to partner some choicely bred horses.