Apprentice Luke Ferraris lands plum ride
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DURBAN - Luke Ferraris was at his South African Jockeys Academy residence two or three weeks ago when receiving a phonecall out of the blue from trainer Eric Sands to ask him to ride Rainbow Bridge in the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes.
It was a big moment for the twice South African champion apprentice, who will become a fully-fledged jockey on January 10 next year.
Sands, the ultimate professional, plans his big horses' chief targets from a long way out and whilst he could have kept Rainbow Bridge's incumbent jockey Warren Kennedy aboard for the Green Point he knew the latter would likely be unavailable for the Sun Met due to his association with the Paul Peter yard and Equus Horse Of The Year Summer Pudding.
Six-year-old Rainbow Bridge has only had 18 career starts and Ferraris will become the seventh jockey to ride him.
Sands made his point about jockey changes quite clear earlier this year.
He said, "If jockeys don't come and ride work or put in the work I will take them off and I will also take them off if they are not suited to the horse. I don't pay their rent and they don't pay mine."
Young Ferraris has a chance to grab a golden opportunity with both hands because Sands has already displayed his loyalty to jockeys who fulfil his criteria.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic Sands had to look beyond the top echelon to find a rider for Golden Ducat and after two great rides in the Vodacom Durban July and the Grade 1 WSB Champions Cup Donavan Dillon has been kept aboard.
Ferraris has already fulfilled the first criterium by going down to Cape Town to ride Rainbow Bridge in work "a few times".
If he passes the acid test in Saturday's race, he could find himself aboard the Ideal World gelding for two of the country's biggest races, the L'Ormarins Queen's Plate and the Sun Met.
Rainbow Bridge could well be the best horse in the country over 2000m and this opinion is backed up by a fascinating fact unearthed by racing statistician Jay August.
The Hollywoodbets Greyville course record for 2000m of 119.6 seconds has stood for more than 20 years, set by London News in 1996, but August measured Rainbow Bridge going through 2000m in a similar time in this year's blisteringly fast Vodacom Durban July, and if anything it was marginally quicker. Those who believe he did not stay the 2200m trip will have to absorb that statistic and reassess his performance.
Ferraris, commenting on Rainbow Bridge's main Green Point preparation gallop, said, "He felt good and finished the gallop well."
Sands spoke earlier this week to Michele Wing Of Racing News Social TV and said Rainbow Bridge would be fitter than he was when winning the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge but with the Queen's Plate and the Met his main aims he would not be at his peak. He said his career showed that his second run after a layoff tended to be flat and this would unfortunately coincide with the Queen's Plate as he missed an intended race two weeks ago due to a skin rash. He expected Rainbow Bridge to give a good account of himself on Saturday.
Ferraris has won one Grade 1 to date, the Allan Robertson on Miss Florida, but will have more than one opportunity to add to that number this Summer as he has kept the ride on the Mike de Kock-trained star Malmoos for the Grade 1 Cape Guineas.
He said this Captain Al colt's recent work had been good and his win last time out in the Grade 2 Avontuur Estate Concorde Cup had been particularly impressive as he "was still green".
Ferraris is hoping to land the South African Apprentice Championship for a third time and looks likely to do so.
With a month to go before his apprenticeship ends, he has ridden 49 winners and is 30 clear of the pair in joint second place, Joshwin Solomons and Kyle Strydom. The latter pair will have the opportunity to make up the leeway from January 10 next year until July 31, but both will have to increase their respective strike rates to overtake the target Ferraris will set.
Ferraris' ultimate aim is to ride in Hong Kong but he called that a "long term goal."
His parents David and Pam follow his career very closely from Hong Kong where David is a prominent trainer.
However, his chief critic is his legendary grandfather Ormond.
The unflappable Luke was asked to confirm that the latter's criticism was constructive and he replied, "Sometimes".
So, it would appear he has a good mixture of willing to learn and self-confidence, two normal ingredients in the making of a champion.