SOUTH AFRICA’S best riders square up against some of the best in the world in the two-leg The Citizen International Jockeys’ Challenge.

The first leg will be run at Turffontein on Friday night with the second meeting taking place at Kenilworth on Sunday.

Current champion jockey Anton Marcus captains the Proteas, with Andrew Fortune, Piere Strydom, Anthony Delpech, Muzi Yeni and Gavin Lerena making up the balance of the team Christophe Soumillon will captain the international jockeys’ team and will be joined by Ireland’s Kieren Fallon, Hayley Turner from Britain, Umberto Rispoli from Italy, Halis Karatas of Turkey and the exciting young William Buick, who replaces injured American Martin Garcia,.

Each meeting has four races devoted to the challenge - Races 3, 4, 7, and 8 - and the team with the most points will be the victors. In addition, there will be an individual jockey’s prize for the rider who accumulates the most points.

The points will be allocated as follows: 1st - 30 points; 2nd - 15; 3rd - 12; 4th - 10; 5th - 8; 6th - 7; 7th - 6; 8th - 5; 9th - 4; 10th - 3; 11th - 2; 12th - 1. Should a jockey not ride in a race, he will be allocated seven points.

While South Africa have won the first two internationals, based on their rides, this contest looks mighty close. Overall, it appears that Karatas could have the best rides and could win the opening leg at Turffontein, and perhaps two more at Kenilworth.

He could get his team off to the perfect start if he can guide home Mr Black Tom in the opening leg, Race 3 at Turffontein. Karatas rode in the Challenge last year but says he is now a little wiser about local conditions. "Last year I was a rookie. This time I know what to expect and I will be able to help my team. Hopefully we will win it this time.’’

Mr Black Tom has only run three times for a win and a 1.75-length fourth. However, his last run was his second following a layoff of almost a year, so he is sure to improve. There was a lot to like about the way Act Of Parliament won last time out and he could give Lerena the second position.
While Marcus may not think so, he could lead the way for his team at Turffontein. Castanelli is ultra-consistent and it would come as a surprise should he not place. And in Race 7 he rides Valor, who looks to have a winning chance.

Hayley Turner is the rose amongst all the thorns and is very highly rated. She is delighted that some people see her as a role model for other female jockeys. "It’s nice for them to see that it is possible to succeed in what has been a man’s world. It gives them the light at the end of the tunnel.
"For me it is great to be recognised internationally and be invited to events like this with these top jockeys.’’

Turner could get off the mark in Race 4 where she rides Good On You for Charles Laird. The son of Strike Smartly won his only start by 4.25 lengths and can only improve for that run, The three-year-old is perfectly drawn at No 2 in this race over 1400m.
Stable companion High Accolade, ridden by Piere Strydom, could follow him home with Ozymandias and Muzi Yeni in third.

Valor looks the runner to beat in Race 7 with Officer Class and Fallon his main threat and Turner could be third on outsider Riot Command.

Soumillon could strike in the final leg, with well-performed Badger Lake. He is the reserve runner in the Victory Moon Stakes - so could get in there should any runner be withdrawn. Should he take his place in this line-up, one can expect a bold showing from the son of Badger’s Drift in his first run for the Mike de Kock yard. If he fluffs his lines, then stablemate Immelman and Lerena could take the honours. Caribbean Coast and Rispoli could claim third, At least trainer Erico Verdonese will be able to give him instructions in Italian.

Matters appear a lot tougher at Kenilworth but Karatas has two good rides - in Race 3 aboard Because U Said So and Race 7 aboard She Wolff. Because U Said So takes a big drop in class in this MR 69 Handicap and should get the better of Strydom aboard Theatre Cat and Marcus on Mastery.

She Wolff Justin is most consistent and should get the better of Breeze Bar (Turner) and Barcelona Winter (Lerena).

Race 4 is over 2400m and looks a tactical affair. Delpech on Another Giant gets the nod to hold off Grey Cossack (Fortune) and Lividus (Buick) in third.

Marcus could close out the Challenge on Genius My King, who ran seven lengths off Tales Of Bravery and Pocket Power last time out in a Pinnacle Stakes. Fallon on consistent Lancelin looks second best and Shimmering Flame (Yeni) could complete the Trifecta.

Soumillon summed up their feelings about this year’s event. "We hope to win but if we don’t, we will be back next year to try again.’’