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Picture: Maritzburg College Old Boys Tony Jelinski (right) and Craig Eudey lead in Stawberry Bear after his promising win under Serino Moodley on Sunday (Candiese Lenferna).

Tony Jelinski fitted the bill for that racing saying “a long time between drinks” when arriving at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday, but he left a happy man with his passion for the sport invigorated.

His strapping Mike Miller-trained grey Stawberry Bear fought off the multiple-placed maiden Lazy Guy to win by a cosy 0,90 lengths over 1200m under Serino Moodley.
Tony said, “My previous winner was on February 26, 2017, with a horse called Main Player (Main Aim) who was brought home in the rain by ‘Bonji’ Delpech over 1750m at Scottsville. I had thought of throwing it in, but you know once the bug has bitten it is hard to. I am not a punter, I might just put a couple of 100 on my own horses, but I love the game. I love the horses and the camaraderie with my mates. I am at Summerveld three times a week, so know all of the jockeys, the apprentices and the trainers.  I love it.”
Strawberry Bear, a two-year-old colt by Flying The Flag, had made a promising debut over the same course and distance.
Tony said, “We thought he would win on Sunday, considering he had shown good pace on debut before being jostled at the 400m mark and having to shift all the way to the inside and yet still finishing a close fourth. I was very stoked he won.”
Tony grew up in Pietermaritzburg and was at school at Merchiston Prep with current trainer Doug Campbell.
He later went to Maritzburg College, famous for its prowess in all popular sports, particularly rugby. Nevertheless, Tony was obsessed with horses from a young age.
He said, “We lived in the city, but from the age of 8 or 9 I was always on my cousin’s farm at Bishopstowe riding ponies. I used to ride in the Royal Show pony shows and then every New Year Pietermaritzburg had a four day horse show which I would also ride in.”
He recalled, “Later, when I was about 13 or 14, I began riding work for various trainers.”
He used to ride the “no-hopers” or “mediocre” horses for about 400 metres.
He recalled it being quite scary and chuckled, “I held the record for falling off! I fell off more than anybody else!”
He then began riding in Gymkhana races at Richmond, Lion’s River, Otto’s Bluff, Boston and Karkloof. 
He said, “I wanted to become a jockey, but my Dad was against it and in fact it was Anne Upton who told me I would be wasting my time. She was right because by matric I was weighing 70kg and playing rugby.”
He said, “But anyway growing up I was obsessed with horses until about the age of 14.”
He vividly recalls the horror of his first ever Gymkhana meeting when a horse called Double Green broke a leg and it is an aspect of the sport he still finds hard to handle.
After his race-riding days were over he used to buy hacks just to be able to go and ride through the cane fields.
Many years later in 2011 his accountant Craig Davies invited him to the Garth Puller yard at Clairwood.
Craig had for a long time been involved with Clairwood’s most famous racing family, the Passmores.
Brian Passmore was still training horses at the time, although they were officially trained by legendary jockey Garth Puller, who had just taken out his trainers license.
Thus in 2012 Tony had his first racehorse, the Badger’s Drift-gelding Umbani, trained by the late Brian Passmore although Puller was the official trainer. 
Umbani made his debut the following year and won fourth time out by 2,75 lengths over 1000m at Clairwood on January 21 2014, converting 10-1 odds under Ant Mgudlwa.
Tony said, “So that was where it all started and I have now owned 34 horses in total, some not too good and some very good.”
He said the best he owned was probably the Puller-trained Fortissimo (Fort Beluga), who won by 2,5 lengths on debut at odds of 33/1 under Mgudlwa on the Greyville poly in September 2014. He won twice more in his first five starts. However, Tony recalled him to be a difficult customer and he was sold to Mauritius after running for him eleven times for three wins and four places.
He also owned the Puller-trained soldier Rio De La Plata (Windrush), who had 47 starts for five wins and 17 places.
Tony is still good friends with Garth, but opted for the adage “a change is as good as a holiday” recently.
He is now excited about Stawberry Bear and seven other horses he owns with the Millers and with the two he has with Dennis Drier.
Included among those ten is one by the stalwart sire What A Winter.
There is currently bounce in the popular industryman’s step when he arrives at Summerveld for his regular morning visits.
He is also pleased to be surrounded by Maritzburg College Old Boys as both Miller’s and Drier’s assistant trainers, Craig Eudey and Stuart Ferrie, went to the famous Pietermaritzburg school and so did jockey Gareth Wright and also Vaughan Marshall, who rings next to Drier during Champions Season.