GAVIN Lerena’s retainer by Mauritzfontein and Wilgerbosdrift Studs means the ride on Hawwaam will likely be available to another lucky jockey in the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge on May 4 at Turffontein as he is probably going to have to ride Cascapedia, reports DAVID THISELTON of Gold Circle.

Lerena has just come off a seven day suspension last week and faces two more suspensions, but depending on how his appeals go and his success rate over the next few weeks, he might still chase the National Jockey Championship title.

He said, “I have a lot of ground to make up but if I am in contention I will definitely go for it.”

He has ridden 126 winners to date at a strike rate of 26,20% and is 27 winners behind leader Muzi Yeni.

Lerena felt the interference caused by Hawwaam to Approach Control at the 200m mark in the Grade 1 SA Classic was “nothing serious”, and he couldn’t attend the enquiry due to replacement rides picked up for Greg Cheyne in Port Elizabeth.

He was surprised to receive a seven day suspension all the same. Hawwaam shifted in slightly when powering past Approach Control and jockey Craig Zackey appeared to stop riding for a stride. However, Lerena is hoping the enquiry is re-opened so he can state his case.

Lerena will be appealing against a ten day suspension he received for his ride on Cascapedia in the Grade 2 Hawaii Stakes over 1400m at Turffontein on March 2. The big mare finished a narrow second, but Lerena was charged with failing “to ensure that she did not cause interference to other runners shortly before the finish line.”

Lerena will be travelling to KZN to ride in the big SA Champions Season races and will monitor the National Jockey Championship log before deciding whether to give it a full go in the last two months.

He was full of praise for the Silvano colt Hawwaam and confirmed he was one of the best he had ever ridden.

He said, “He makes it up so quickly, it feels as if he is not even touching the ground. If he can just learn to relax like he did in the SA Classic nothing will beat him.”

He is not sure yet whether Hawwaam will be running in the big one, the Vodacom Durban July, and said if he was not going to line up he would like to be on Rainbow Bridge.

Lerena has won the SA Championship once, in the 2014/2015 season, and he turned an intriguing tussle that year with S’Manga Khumalo into a one horse race when riding a record 42 winners in the month of June. So if he does decide to chase the title the frontrunners will have reason to feel a bit nervous.