Picture: The Alec Laird-trained Royal Guide will be one of the horses Gavin Lerena will be looking forward to riding this season (Candiese Lenferna Photography).
Gavin Lerena has started the new season the way he ended last i.e. in fine form.
On seven wins already, he is only one behind the early national log pacesetter, Muzi Yeni.
He has done it at a terrific strike rate of 35%.
Muzi goes for the championship every season and keeps up a high riding rate and demanding travel schedule.
The question is whether Gavin will attempt to emulate the latter this season?
Gavin said, “Every jockey I think wants to go for the championship at the start of a season. If I can get the support I will definitely go for it.”
There are usually bonuses which come with winning a championship, which he said helped the cause, but asked about the R1 million bonus offered by Hollywoodbets to beat Anthony Delpech’s record of 334 wins in a season, he replied, “I think that is a bit difficult. In those days there were a lot of double headers, there was racing everyday, winners in Zimbabwe counted … so I think that would be quite difficult, but I will give it a bash.”
Gavin said he would be prepared to travel to all of Durban, Cape Town and Gqerberha with the right support.
He said, “Support is support, but you need healthy support. You need to travel with chances. So I am hoping to try and form some relationships in the other centres.”
However, there is nothing wrong with his status quo and, as he said, the most important part is that he is really enjoying his riding at present.
This is partly due to the work he has done on his weight.
He is certainly looking streamlined and athletic in the saddle.
He said, “I’m feeling good. I’ve worked on my weight and everything else has fallen into place nicely and I’m enjoying my riding.”
Jockeys agent Wade Viljoen, who previously worked for Ryan Munger, is helping Gavin with his rides and they are always looking to get on to top horses.
Gavin finished last season with a flourish. In a tussle that had been tight between a few jockeys through most of the season, he drew clear in the Highveld championship, a title he has won multiple times.
He had 108 wins around the country last season at a strike rate of 16.85% for 6th place on the national log.
However, 92 of those wins were on the Highveld, which was 20 clear of both Keagan de Melo and S’Manga Khumalo.
He also had the highest strike rate of the top ten on the Highveld log at 17.73%.
Lerena has ridden in Hong Kong before and it is the dream of a lot of jockeys to become established on the island due to its lucrative stakes and huge crowds.
He said about ambitions of a return to Hong Kong, “That’s always on the cards, but my family are in a very good space. Our kids are doing well at school, so it would be difficult to leave, but you never know.”
Gavin should be prominent on both the national log and in big races this season as he is riding at the top of his game.
His father Tex pointed out Gavin was a jockey who loved to ride work and provide feedback to trainers.
If a championship chase does not materialise, his value will be felt in a number of Highveld yards.