Crime hits racing as jockey Karl Zechner bolts to Australia
Gauteng jockey heads overseas after wife and young son are held up at gunpoint on a Joburg highway
Everyone has heard of the “brain drain” because of the country’s crime — now we can add “jockey drain” for the same reason.
Gauteng jockey Karl Zechner has moved to Australia after his family were the victims of a robbery on a Johannesburg highway just before Christmas.
“My wife, with my young son, were held up at gunpoint on a highway around Christmas time. We had been contemplating moving to Australia but the decision was completed after this,” Zechner told Racing.com.
“After such a traumatic event I immediately got the ball rolling for my visa and this will see me based in South Australia for at least two years,” he said.
Zechner, 32, has ridden in New Zealand and Mauritius and is following in the footsteps of former SA champion jockey Jeff Lloyd whose move to Australia proved an outstanding success.
In 2016, Zechner and trainer Mike Azzie were the toast of racing fans when three-year-old Abashiri won the Triple Crown in the colours of owners Adriaan van Vuuren and his wife Rika.
After bringing the horse from the rear of the field to win the SA Derby, Zechner said: “He's a champion and you'll never see good horses beaten, they always put their heads down at the right time.”
Winning trainer Azzie commented: “We are blessed to have a horse like this — racing needs champions.”
However, after those glory days in the first half of 2016, events unfolded like a soap opera. Despite Azzie wanting to bypass the Durban July, Van Vuuren insisted the horse should run and he finished last.
Later that year, Van Vuuren made headlines when he was accused of defrauding Telkom subsidiary Trudon, of R500m. In March 2017, he was found dead in a Pretoria hotel.
The father-and-son team of Mike and Adam Azzie send five runners to Tuesday's meeting at the Vaal and their best chance of success may lie with their two runners Royal Reward and Bianca in the second race.
Gavin Lerena has ridden a host of winners for the Azzie stable and he has been booked for the Duke Of Marmalade filly who is drawn in pole position and can improve after finishing five lengths behind the winner on her recent debut at Turffontein.
Stablemate Royal Reward, the mount of Craig Zackey, should appreciate the step up in distance after finishing sixth of 16 on her second outing in January.
Of course, both Azzie runners can only hope for places if there is any confidence surrounding Mike de Kock’s Aussie import Wallaa. The filly was placed in her two starts at the beginning of the season, but has not raced since October.
Another runner with a serious shout is Storm Report who represents the in-form stable of Candice Dawson. The worry about the Captain Al mare is that she has been sidelined for six months.
Seven Patriots represents the Azzie yard in the seventh race — the Egoli Mile — but the son of Soft Falling Rain will do well to earn a place cheque behind fancied runners Marshall, Indy Go and Viper Jet.
Marshall has chalked up three wins from four starts for the De Kock stable, but the gelding has to concede 8kg to Sean Tarry’s runner Viper Jet.
While pundits will be quick to point out that Viper Jet only won a Work Riders event, he met Marshall at level weights at Turffontein in August and was beaten only half a length. At Tuesday’s weights Tarry's three-year-old has to be fancied to come out on top.
Indy Go, another inmate of Dawson’s stable, has been placed in his last three outings and his third behind Dingaans victor Shango looks useful form. Even so, the exacta selecting Viper Jet to beat Marshall looks the way to bet.
The 38th Asian Racing Conference gets under way at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Tuesday.
The Sporting Post reports that “the Asian Racing Confederation has produced a programme of incredible depth to discuss and address a broad number of challenges facing racing on a global scale”.
1st Race: (14) Ideal Wolff (12) Expressfromtheus (1) Minister Without (2) Untamed Tiger
2nd Race: (12) Wallaa (7) Bianca (3) Storm Report (11) Royal Reward
3rd Race: (3) Colour Of Light (1) Touch Of Fate (12) What A Joker (10) Varimax
4th Race: (14) Alicante (3) Miss Tycoon (11) Pink (8) Emerald Bay
5th Race: (9) Village Deep (1) Out Of Your League (4) Highlander (3) African Adventure
6th Race: (6) Tobefair (5) Ballet Shoes (4) Rabia The Rebel (2) Jamra
7th Race: (9) Viper Jet (1) Marshall (2) Indy Go (3) Valetorio
8th Race: (4) Top Rank (1) Ideal Day (8) Podcast (2) Written In Stone