WHEN Gavin Lerena is at the top of his game he is wonderful to watch, and punters seem to be happier because it’s easier to win. He brings home fancied runners with more regularity than the average rider.

Gavin’s had only 30 rides since his comeback on 8 September. He’s won 12 races for an amazing 40% winning strike rate, with an additional 14 places and a win/place percentage of 86.6%! A four-timer from five rides at Turffontein prompted an impressed race caller Alistair Cohen to tweet, “I’d have a few bob on Gavin Lerena to be champion jockey this season.”

Gavin would be the first to admit that he’ll have to deal this term with a motivated and strongly supported Richard Fourie and the indefatigable Muzi Yeni, so he is focused first on getting stronger and healing to the full. He’s selecting his rides carefully and not just getting on anything. The winners will come by themselves and if he’s in contention a few months down the line, he may put his head down for a title challenge.

Schippers, fluent win from off the pace. (JC Photos).
Schippers, fluent win from off the pace. (JC Photos).

“I’m feeling good, doing plenty of exercise, pilates and so on, getting physio and while my collarbone is only about 40% healed, the doctor’s happy enough,” Lerena said on Sunday.

He said he was nervous on his first ride back at the Vaal, on 6 September, as he had to break through the pain barrier and force himself to ride work a few weeks before the meeting. “I didn’t sleep well the night before, had a few butterflies but all went well and things have improved rapidly since then. There is no pain.”

After a heavy fall, months of pain, agony and hard and monotonous recovery work, how has he manged to stay motivated and isn’t the prospect of another fall always at the back of his mind?

“I have my family to support me and my faith to drive me, so it’s a case of focusing. It’s mind over matter,” said Gavin.

He was impressed on Saturday with his mounts Schippers, who quickened well to win (“she was the only one to come from behind and win well”), Prince Of Kahal (“he’s a better horse gelded, I got him in from a wide draw and he won a good race”) and Twelve Oaks (“a small filly who was courageous under a big weight”).

Headline photo: Prince Of Kahal wins (JC Photos).