Both Luke Nolen and Jeff Lloyd were on hand to attend the Air Mauritius & Attitude International Jockeys’ Weekend draw ceremony at The Ravenala Hotel on Wednesday, but like most of the other participants, they were not sure about the cards they were dealt.
The only two jockeys among the 12 (five were not present as they only arrive on Thursday) riding at the annual series this Saturday and Sunday who could either grin or grimace whenever their horses’ identities were revealed were Imran Chisty, the joint Mauritian champion jockey (with Steven Arnold who has opted out), and Swapneel Rama, the top local rider.
They know the form, have the advantage of inside knowledge, and would therefore have a good guide on their 10 balloted rides from the 15 races (eight on Saturday and seven on Sunday) set down for decision.
But like Pierre Charles Boudot (France), Hayley Turner (England) and Craig Zackey (South Africa), Nolen and Lloyd could only shrug their shoulders even when the knowing crowd approved or sighed when reacting to some of their allotted rides. Defending champion Maxime Guyon (France), Mickael Barzalona (France), Robbie Fradd (South Africa), Matthew Chadwick (Hong Kong), Elione Chaves (Brazil) were not at the draw as they had not arrived yet, and are only due on Thursday.
First photo show the seven jockeys who attended the draw ceremony. From left to right, Pierre Charles Boudot (France), Jeff Lloyd (Australia), Luke Nolen (Australia), Hayley Turner (England), Swapneel Rama (Mauritius), Imran Chisty (India) and Craig Zackey (South Africa), picture Michael Lee
While Lloyd, who is revered as a demigod by the Mauritian racing industry for his five champion jockey titles, can tap into his old network to get some low-down, Nolen does not know anyone, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done his homework.
“Obviously, I don’t know much about my rides. I will probably speak to the trainers on the day,” said Nolen who was bundled straight to the draw with wife Alicia after landing at the end of a 16-hour flight from Melbourne only a few hours earlier.
“I spoke about the track with Stevie Arnold who is already back in Melbourne. Luke Currie is a good friend of mine and he rode in Mauritius with a lot success, and he also gave me a few pointers.
“I will probably walk the track either on Friday or on Saturday itself.”
From Nolen’s 10 rides, Sunday’s book seems to be better than Saturday’s with Blue Jeans, Saracen King, Maxamore and Seven Fountains considered as his best chances. Only Gold Medalist stands out for the regular partner of legendary Australian mare Black Caviar on Saturday.
Lloyd is likely to be one of the early favourites, arguably more for sentimental reason than anything else, but it’s also true he has had a lucky hand with some of his mounts.
On Saturday, the likes of Nadas, Emaar, Answeringenesis, Our Jet and Student Grant should get lots of market support. Sunday’s Final Cup, Chosen Path, Aficionado and Seeking The Dream can also give the legion of fans of the “Guv’nor” something to cheer about.
“I’ll definitely have a chat with some people, like Philippe Henry (his former trainer in Mauritius) as he helps with the training of a couple of hem (Student Grant, Final Cup and Chosen Path),” said Lloyd.
“I’ve also got one (Nadas) for Ricky Maingard (one of his first mentors in South Africa and now a trainer based in Mauritius) and will also speak to Patrick Merven (on Seeking The Dream).
“I’m just happy to be here in Mauritius. It’s a unique place, and Mauritius racing is very different, very unique.”
Incidentally, Lloyd, the Brisbane champion at the last two seasons, was leading Fradd by seven winners before he flew in with his family, but that gap has been whittled down to one winner after Fradd brought up an amazing haul of six winners at the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
Lloyd, who mounted a late challenge to topple Jim Byrne at his first Brisbane title, said he relished such close competition, especially coming from a friend like Fradd.
“Robbie is a good friend and there is no pressure at all. Well done to him on his six-timer today,” said Lloyd.
“We’re both doing well in Australia. He also did very well in South Africa and is riding as well as ever in Australia, it’s all good.”