PHUMELELA, the Racing Association, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust and Betting World have joined forces to present the 2009-10 Work Riders' Challenge, which starts at the Vaal tomorrow.
The Challenge carries R50000 in prize money for the riders and a Racing Association Highveld Feature Seasons award. It comprises three race meetings: Vaal Turf tomorrow, Vaal Turf Sunday, February 7, and Turffontein Standside Saturday, May 1. Work riders will score points in each race at the three meetings as follows: First - 10 points; Second - 7 points; Third - 5 points; Fourth - 3 points.
The work rider accumulating the most points at each of the three meetings will win R5000.
In addition, there are grand prizes for the three riders who score the most points in total across the three meetings: Challenge Winner - R20000; Runner-up - R10000; Third - R5000.
A special award will be made to the winner at the 2009-10 Racing Association Highveld Feature Seasons Awards ceremony.
Abram Makhubo won the Challenge last season in spite of not riding in the final leg. He scored 74 points in the first two legs and finished 13 points clear of runner-up Jackson Feni.
"Phumelela is delighted to welcome Betting World aboard as a co-sponsor of the Challenge," said Phumelela sales executive Clyde Basel.
"We will approach Theta with a view to them co-sponsoring the last leg of the Challenge as they did last year. Their participation was most welcome and we hope to have them on board again."
The Work Riders' training programme is an ultra-successful empowerment initiative that was established by the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust.
The programme is run on the Trust's behalf by trainer James Maree, a former champion jockey, at his Alewynspoort establishment.
It comprises courses for grooms and work riders from Turffontein, Vaal and Randjesfontein training centres as well as private establishments on the Highveld.
Regular trial gallops are held after Highveld race meetings to allow advanced work riders to familiarise themselves with the racetracks and to qualify to ride in races.
More than 230 people have passed the basic course and can ride in races down the straight, while about 50 have graduated from the advanced course, and can also compete in races round the turn.
The programme has improved the earning potential of many grooms and opened new career opportunities for some of them.
Five graduates become professional riders and others have travelled overseas to compete with work riders from all over the globe.