where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2018-09-25 21:58:05  
Domeyer wins Jockeys Title, Australia wins Team

In the climactic build-up to the fourth and final Leg of the Premier Gateway International Jockeys Challenge, South African jockey Aldo Domeyer in the individual title and Team Australia emerged as the narrow but worthy champions at Kranji on Tuesday night.


You could throw a blanket on all four Teams going into the decider, with Team South Africa on top but with Team Australia, Team UK both within striking distance and Team Asia just a little further adrift, but still in with a shout if its trio of jockeys conjure up some magic under their Magic Man Joao Moreira for a late flourish.


In the Silver Saddle category, Team UK’s Robert Havlin was just one win ahead of Domeyer (50 vs 49), but three Australians, Kerrin McEvoy (36), Vlad Duric (34, but representing Team Asia) and Mark Zahra (28) could still topple the eye-balling pair while South Africa’s Lyle Hewitson (21) and Muzi Yeni (20) and Team Asia’s Moreira could theoretically and mathematically still make it - provided the ones at the top drop the ball and fare poorly.

Given the various permutations and scenarios underpinning a Team championship, the more obvious cliffhanger was the less complex individual champion category.


With Havlin saddling up on the $19 favourite Eagle Eye for Ricardo Le Grange in the $100,000 PGI Jockeys Challenge UK, a Kranji Stakes B race over 1600m, the Scot was in the box-seat while Domeyer faced a stiffer task on paper with $144 shot Twickenham.


As is often the case, the final showdown didn’t go down to the wire between the two main protagonists. It was Havlin’s offsider Irishman Fran Berry, who all night, had had a subdued time on a track he does master well for having plied his trade at Kranji for three months in 2009-2010, but who saved the best for last aboard old stager McGregor.


Even though the Magic Albert eight-year-old was a last-start winner, he did not have many admirers at $60, but he certainly had the luck of the Irish floating him to the line under a masterly ride from Berry.


While the win could only hurl the former John Oxx stable jockey further up the table, but not the very top, all eyes were cast on the run-on to see where Havlin and Domeyer had ended up.


As it turned out, Eagle Eye let his rider down by finishing ninth for only four points while Twickenham surprisingly finished ahead of him in sixth for seven points. That three-point differential in favour of the South African could only mean one thing – he had leapt over Havlin to finish two points ahead, to be unveiled as the inaugural victor, or as they call them back in the Rainbow Nation, the Victor Ludorum of the PGI Jockeys Challenge 2018 first edition!

Calculators had to be whipped out for the Team trophy, and after the final running order was printed, and points allocated, it was Team Australia who garnered the most points with McEvoy again their saviour thanks to a fast-finishing second aboard Mighty Kenny, while Hugh Bowman, after a quiet night, finally delivered when it mattered with a fighting third place on Absolute Miracle with Zahra one spot behind in fourth on Robin Hood for a net tally of 37 points.


It was more than enough to overtake the South Africans who collected only 12 points, but with Berry maxing it out with 30 points, they were not yet out of reach from Team UK. With bated breath, the final points were locked in, and revealed that Hayley Turner’s eight points on Magnificent Gold and Havlin’s four points on a disappointing Eagle Eye were not enough to beat the Aussies.


With 42 points, Team UK bridged the seven-point deficit they had on Team Australia before the grand final, but just fell short by two points at the wire.


So, Team Australia is the big winner on 119 points, with Team UK a worthy runner-up on 117 points while Team South Africa took third on 102 points and Team Asia finished fourth on 76 points.

The last-gasp win by Domeyer, arguably the rank-outsider in the pre-contest analysis, given his poor draw, certainly gave a resounding proof that jockeys’ series often make a fool of form experts.


“I actually took a look at my rides, and didn’t want to study them in too great detail as it would just put myself down,” he said.


“I just thought I would go out there and see what happens - and things just fell my way.


“It’s amazing because the same thing happened to me in a jockeys’ series in South Africa. I thought I drew poorly and I won the Victor Ludorum!


“A big thank you to the Singapore Turf Club and PGI for putting this event together. It hasn’t sunk in yet, maybe when I get back home tomorrow, then it will!”

To the loud chants of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” at the presentation dais and wearing – aptly - their yellow jerseys, Bowman, McEvoy and Zahra raised their trophies aloft to the Kranji crowd applause.


Even if the armband-wearer and Zahra did not win any race, it was the collective spirit which mattered more to them.


“I’m very proud to have represented Australia. I was lucky to have not only world-class riders on my side, but also very good mates,” said Bowman who already boasts a Shergar Cup Silver Saddle in 2007, the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship in Hong Kong in 2016 and the International Jockeys’ Weekend team title in Mauritius in 2014.


“It was a great team effort, and Kerrin obviously did very well with a winner and two placings, but we all worked together to bring up points for all of us.


“Of course, from a personal point of view I wished I had ridden a winner too as racing at the end of the day is an individual sport, but we won as a Team and that’s what matters.”


Zahra for one could not wait to have a good feed and then celebrate the team victory.


“We were competitive in all the races and that’s what won us the contest,” said the Victorian jockey.


“It was clean racing throughout and I also enjoyed the good camaraderie among the jockeys. We’ll go out and have a nice dinner and then probably enjoy the rest of the night!”


If there was one jockey, who was just as chuffed as the three Aussies and Domeyer, it had to be Berry, a recent Group 3 winner of the Stockholm Cup with Thundering Blue in Sweden on Sunday.


With Havlin winning the first Leg, Team UK was the only squad to have knocked in two wins from the four races set for decision, but at a personal level, Berry just so wanted to ride at least one winner at a place he last visited eight years ago and brought up four winners.


With a face that read “mission accomplished”, the affable Berry was hoping PGI would book his ticket next year!

“I was hopeful I could win a race, and now I’m so thrilled to be here and get a winner,” said Berry.


“Rab rode a winner earlier, I would have copped some stick from him if I didn’t ride one myself!


“It’s also great I rode a winner for Michael as I knew him from the last time I rode here. The horse took about 450m to get through his gears, but once I pushed him forward, I was happy where he was.


“He was very genuine in the straight and just kept finding. If they want me to come back year, I’ll definitely be up for it.”


With the winning jockeys just flying in like shooting stars, perhaps the more insightful feedback had to come from an inside player at Kranji, and there was none better than Clements, who won two of the four races, with Safeer scoring earlier with Domeyer, but who is also the President of the Association of Racehorse Trainers Singapore (Arts).


“McGregor won at his last start and is having a good prep this year. Fran Berry gave him a great ride,” he said.


“It’s a great idea to have such jockeys’ series here, and it’s put us back on the world stage.


“Going forward, there have also been a few learning curves for all of us, and hopefully we can make it even better next year.”

Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

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