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Thu Apr 24 16:19:14 SAST 2014

Marcus up there with the best

Mike Moon | 03 August, 2012 06:330 Comments

GRUMPY old men tend to have a gold-tinged view of the past.

I know I do.

In general, things aren't as good as they used to be. However, even the most curmudgeonly among us must admit some modern things are better than what went before. Like the "interweb". And Woolworths dinners.

And, and . oh, I'm sure some new-fangled thingymebob will come to me eventually.

Then there are things that are just as good as in the good old days. Like beer. And jockeys.

I chatted to a retired jockey the other day, a top rider in his day and a man of the hard-bitten "old school". He was scathing about today's knights of the irons, suggesting they are spoilt, lazy brats as they no longer work their fingers to the bone in stables and are not forced to ride "work" - also known as training gallops.

He has a point about hard work being character-building, but I'm not sure this translates into today's jockeys being less capable in the saddle than their predecessors.

The renowned South African Jockey Academy training gives young lads a far better grounding in life skills than did the tough, old apprentice indenture system. And, on the riding skills front, no one can argue with the quality of a string of world-class academy graduates - Gerald Turner, Michael Roberts, Basil Marcus, Jeff Lloyd and Doug Whyte, to name but a few.

When pressed about the cream of the current crop, my old jock conceded that Anton Marcus is rather good. Indeed, Anton's style mirrors his own - full of forcefulness and determination.

Actually, I reckon Anton is up there with powerhouses of the past, like Charlie Barends in the 1960s and Bertie Hayden in the 1970s. He might even have a bit more finesse than them.

Of course, there are jockeys who rely more on judgment of pace and "feel" than on strength.

Piere Strydom is in this category - a worthy successor to wizards of old such as Tiger Wright and Marty Schoeman.

The 2011-2012 racing year ended this week, with the national jockey championship providing a cliffhanger.

In the end, Anton Marcus pipped Gavin Lerena by just one winner.

(I refuse to accept that my punt on Lerena put a hex on the chap. After all, superstition isn't what it used to be.)

Jockeys nowadays might be a little less hardened than when they were made to shovel horse poo all day, but the evidence of superb riding in recent weeks suggests today's top riders are not far off the titans of yore.

And they might have rather better social graces.

In a victory interview, Marcus said: "You know, in the end it comes down to the chap who gets the most opportunities and the person who gets the luck.

"I would like to thank all the jocks who have helped both Gavin and myself."

Most gracious.

TURFFONTEIN, SUNDAY: 15,16 x 2,4,8 x 9 x 6,10 x 2,3,5 x 12 (R72)

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Marcus up there with the best

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Thu Apr 24 16:19:14 SAST 2014 ::