SOUTH Africa’s leading jockey, Gavin Lerena, will be leaving for the UK at the end of next week to take up what could be a three-month stint for trainer Charles Hills at Lambourne, the training centre in West Berkshire, about two hours west of London.
Lerena (31), who received plenty of praise after his 285-1 double in the Shergar Cup at Ascot last August, including being hailed as “a brilliant rider” by former UK Champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa, has expressed his wish to ride in the UK several times. He was given this opportunity after some negotiations with suitably connected individuals in the UK racing industry.
Gavin’s father Tex Lerena commented this morning: “Gavin will spend his first few weeks settling in, meeting with an agent and finding a place to stay so that his wife and son can follow him when all the loose ends are tied up.
“We know things won’t be easy, he has ridden successfully in the UK and knows many of the top jockeys from riding against them around the world, but of course when you’re a new boy they make sure that things are no walk in the park, as Michael Roberts and others will attest to.
“The obvious aim is to secure as many good rides as possible so he can prove himself, so we’re hoping to secure a good agent to help Gavin. He wants to compete more actively on the world stage and this is where it starts.”
Gavin Lerena, who leads Anthony Delpech by eight winners at the top of the National Log, told Turf Talk: “The package was kindly put together by racing writer Neil Morrice, we are grateful for his help. I am looking foward to it, it’s hard to leave the SA title three quarters of the way through the season, but I don’t want to regret passing by a UK opportunity. It really is the platform for bigger things.”
Lerena’s application to ride has been accompanied by a variety of official documents and a thorough medical checkup. He said: “When we rode in the Shergar Cup we had special permission and clearance to ride, but this process has been a lot more complicated. But the adventure has started and we’ll see how it goes, I will give it my best shot. I haven’t ridden for Charlie Hills before.”
Hills’ training complex at Faringdon Place centres around three large American Barns which house 150 horses between them. The gallops are situated adjacent to the yard which allows the horses to gain access to the gallops without walking along roads.
Hills has saddled 12 winners so far in the UK flat season, that runs from April to November. He is the son of the legendary Barry Hills and took over the yard from his father in 2011. He trained his first classic winner within two years when Just The Judge won the Irish 1,000 Guineas. She was swiftly followed by European Champion two year old filly and Breeders Cup winner Chriselliam. The best horse to have passed through his hands so far is the European Champion sprinter Muhaarar, who became the first three year old sprinter ever to win four Group 1 races in one season.
Harry Dunlop, Clive Cox, Jamie Osborne and Richard Hughes are among a dozen or so other trainers who ply their trades at Lambourne.