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Marcus rewrites history and wins July for Kantor

  • Sport13July
Jockey Anton Marcus is rewriting the record books of South African horseracing.
by JACK MILNER | Jul 12, 2018

Last Saturday, when he rode Do It Again to victory in the Vodacom Durban July, he became the first jockey to have won South Africa’s premier race on five occasions.

Going into the race, he was one of only four jockeys to have ridden four winners. The other three were Harold “Tiger” Wright, who retired some 50 years ago, Piere Strydom and Anthony Delpech. Delpech was injured so he did not ride, but Strydom also took part in the R4.25 million race over 2 200m at Greyville Racecourse.

Marcus’s other winners are Dancing Duel (1993), El Picha (2000), Dunford (2005) and Hunting Tower (2007). Do It Again ran in the colours of Investec’s Bernard Kantor (who steps down from his managing director post in October). Kantor has had winners of big races all over the world. He recently had a horse compete in the UK Derby, which was sponsored by Investec. However, this is the first time he has managed to win the Durban July.

Kantor owns Do It Again with Nick Jonsson and Jack Mitchell. This horse was a strapping individual at the National Yearling Sales of 2016. Jonsson made him his pick of the sale, but bloodstock agent John Freeman had also selected him in unison with Mitchell. Kantor was also interested in the horse as he is a shareholder in Klawervlei Stud farm where Twice Over, the sire of Do It Again, stands.

Instead of bidding against one another, they agreed to go in as a partnership and secured the colt for R1.1 million. They recovered their outlay in one swoop as the winner’s cheque for the Durban July is R2.5 million. Do It Again is trained by Justin Snaith in Cape Town, and he ended up with the amazing achievement of having trained the first three horses past the post.

Kantor was still enjoying the victory long after the race was over. “What an experience,” he said. For Marcus, this victory was more than just a record fifth Durban July. He also believed that his Durban July win brought up his 100th Grade 1 victory.

Every feature race is categorised, with the highest rated being Grade 1. Every horse is given a merit rating based on its performance, and for a race to be declared of Grade 1 standard, the average merit rating has to be of a particular level. If it drops below that level, the race will be reclassified as Grade 2 or Grade 3, depending on how far the average merit ratings go down.

However, Marcus discussed all the Grade 1 races that had been demoted to Grade 2s and 3s. “I just remembered,” said Marcus, “that I also won the Gold Cup in 1991 on Icona. That was a Grade 1 race at the time and I never included it. So, I’ve actually ridden 101 Grade 1 winners.”

That means his 100th Grade 1 winner came in this year’s L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate horseracing event at Cape Town’s Kenilworth Racecourse in January, when he rode Legal Eagle to victory for the third time over the 1 600m track.

While the record for Grade 1 victories of 393 is held by riding legend Lester Piggott in a career spanning almost 50 years, Ryan Moore, who is currently rated the world’s best jockey by most pundits, has only ridden 116 Grade 1 winners.

Speaking about his record fifth Durban July victory, Marcus said he never really thought about it, maybe because he believed he was lucky to win the race. “This was more about luck than anything else. It was jockey Grant van Niekerk’s decision to take (favourite) African Night Sky around the field and into the lead that won it for me.

“Had he not done that, Jeff Lloyd, who was riding Made To Conquer, would have been able to control the pace and probably could have gone clear in the straight and won the race by five lengths. Had Grant not gone, I doubt I would have been able to run a place because the pace was so slow.”

For the record, Marcus’s first Grade 1 win came on Blue Cossack, which he rode as an 18-year-old in the Mainstay International at Durban’s Clairwood Racecourse for Cape trainer Alan Higgins. Three of his Grade 1 wins were achieved overseas.

Marcus injured his wrist in May and battled to get fit in time for the Durban July. “I’m now going to give my wrist more time to heal and I doubt I will ride before the Gold Cup meeting on 28 July at Greyville.”

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