Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

The Durban July dream of journeyman jockey Sihle Cele looks to have been shattered.

Former champion jockey Gavin Lerena has revealed to Business Day that he has been booked for three-year-old Kommetdieding, who has a big fan following in the Cape.

Asked whether he had a July mount, Lerena replied: “Yes, Kommetdieding. I was booked about two weeks ago.”

Racing can be a tough profession and — right now — no-one knows this better than Cele. The Cape-based jockey had ridden the colt to four consecutive wins in his home province, but in KwaZulu-Natal the son of Elusive Fort has tasted defeat in both the Guineas and Daily News 2000.

Kommetdieding is trained by Harold Crawford and his daughter Michelle Rix. They could not be contacted for comment on Sunday but, if confirmed, it means they have opted for a more experienced rider in SA’s most famous race.

Now an 8-1 chance in ante-post betting, Kommetdieding has become something of an equine idol in the Cape presumably because of his unusual Afrikaans name.

Bought by Reynolds for just R55,000 as a yearling at the 2019 Klawervlei Farm Sale, Kommetdieding looked to have every chance when third behind stablemates Linebacker and Rascallion in the Daily News 2000.

After that grade 1 race, there was considerable debate on social media whether the stable would stick with Cele for the July or engage one of the top jockeys such as Lyle Hewitson or Warren Kennedy.

However, it is Lerena who has got the nod and it is an early birthday present for the highveld rider who turns 36 on the eve of Durban July day.

Of course, middle-of-the-road jockeys losing big-race rides to top jockeys such as Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore is nothing new in European racing where a Derby or Arc De Triomphe win can be hugely rewarding financially.

In another July move, trainer Paul Machett has declared that his star filly War Of Athena will bypass the July in favour of taking on Captain’s Ransom in the grade 1 Garden Province Stakes at the same meeting.

“When you have a young prizefighter, one doesn’t throw them into the ring with streetfighters. You allow them time to develop and mature and we can come back next year and win the July,” said Matchett.

“We will rather take on her own sex and clash with Captain’s Ransom in the Garden Province, that should make for a fascinating contest,” he said.

The final field for the 2021 Vodacom Durban July will be announced at a function at lunchtime on Tuesday. A total of 18 horses will run with two emergency acceptors.

The War Of Athena decision is sweet music to the ears of the three-year-old’s regular pilot Muzi Yeni as he now has a real chance of landing a big race double on July day. As usual he will be aboard Matchett’s filly in the Garden Province and he rides the July favourite Got The Greenlight for trainer Joe Soma.

While the ante-post market suggests the Garden Province is a match between the Justin Snaith and Matchett stables, it might be a mistake to discount the chance of Adam Marcus’s filly Princess Calla.

Yes, she has been beaten by both Captain’s Ransom and War Of Athena in the KwaZulu-Natal season, but she finished second on both occasions and it is hard to envisage her not finishing in the first four.

So — if punters can get evens about Princess Calla finishing in the first four — it is surely a safer bet than backing the favourite, Captain’s Ransom, at the same price.

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