Jockey Grant van Niekerk — sacked by the Hong Kong Jockey Club in April after a conduct-related matter — will try and get his career back on track at Kenilworth on Saturday.
Van Niekerk, 28, has a number of fancied mounts for top stables — including the four-year-old filly Cruise Along for trainer Candice Bass-Robinson in the Casey Bloomberg Ladies Mile and Flatware for trainer Justin Snaith in the Winter Solstice Stormsvlei Stakes. He has also been booked to partner Royal Return for trainer Eric Sands in the grade 3 Abe Bloomberg Legal Eagle Stakes.
Following an inquiry, the National Horseracing Authority (NHA) announced it had granted Van Niekerk a licence to ride from June 19 to September 18 subject to certain conditions. One of them is that he must enrol in and complete an anger and stress management course as determined by the NHA.
Before the incident with his girlfriend in Hong Kong in April, Van Niekerk was riding high and in fifth place in the jockeys log with 37 wins. His mounts had earned HK$56m (R125m) and he had already bettered his 2018/2019 tally of 31 wins.
Horseracing gets huge coverage in the former British colony with the South China Morning Post employing a number of racing writers. In an article after the Hong Kong Jockey Club's decision to withdraw Van Niekerk's licence, the paper showed little mercy for the young SA rider.
It said: “There might be a shortage of riders in Hong Kong right now because of the coronavirus crisis, but standards cannot be compromised. The 28-year-old’s conduct fell well short of what is required.
"Hopefully Van Niekerk is coming to grips with the monumental mistake he's made, takes full responsibility, feels genuine remorse and understands the opportunity he's thrown away. Millions of dollars have gone begging."
Meanwhile, the career of the world’s best-known jockey, Frankie Dettori, goes from strength to strength and — after emerging as top rider at Royal Ascot last week — the 49-year-old has been given the mount on Investec Derby favourite English King. The race will be run behind closed doors at Epsom on July 4.
Announcing that Dettori would take the ride on his Lingfield Derby Trial winner, trainer Ed Walker said: “Frankie is going to take over from Tom Marquand, which is obviously a big blow for Tom. Owner Bjorn Nielsen has got the connection with Frankie through Gold Cup winner Stradivarius.
“There has been a buzz with him winning like that at Lingfield and having one of the leading contenders for the Derby has really upped the excitement in the yard.
“No crowd is going to be a benefit to all of the horses, not just him. It is a shame really, because one of the great things about the Derby is that it is the ultimate test — mentally, physically and why it is such an important race for the breed.
"Horses have to be well balanced, they have got to stay, cope with the prelims which won’t be the same as normal, but it wouldn’t quite be the Derby if it wasn’t at Epsom,” Walker said.
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