Il est venu et a conquis le public turfiste dès sa première monte au Champ de Mars. Quelque part, comme pour perpétuer une vieille et bonne tradition du coup d’essai, coup de maître de tout jockey étranger (ou presque). Le Sud-Africain Muzi Yeni, 30 ans, que Ricky Maingard est allé chercher à prix d’or à Durban en remplacement de Rye Joorawon et à la non-acceptation de l’État d’Andrew Fortune, a vite justifié la confiance placée par son nouvel entourage en signant un doublé avec panache lors de la 13e journée. Ce sympathique jockey, à la corpulence de son compatriote Johnny Geroudis ou encore de l’Australien Chris Munce, est lui aussi parti pour faire vibrer notre vieil hippodrome. En attendant, decouvrons ce light weight (poids de forme 51 kg, mais il oscille des fois entre 52-53 kg) qui a commencé son apprentissage à la South African Jockey Academy un matin de 2003. Une académie qui a formé Karis Teetan et Nooresh Juglall entre autres.
Yeni et Danielson : même promotion
Muzi Yeni est entré à l’académie des jockeys en Afrique du Sud à l’âge de 16 ans. Ce natif de Durban, 1,47m pour 51 kg, est issu de la même promotion que Raymond Danielson (sous contrat avec l’entraînement Alain Perdrau), soit une année après celle de Brandon Lerena (Gilbert Rousset) et une saison avant Robert Khathi (Shirish Narang). À la SAJC, il s’était vu attribuer un special award comme étant un jockey venant d’un non racing background. Auteur de quelque 1200 victoires, il termine régulièrement dans le Top 5 sud-africain, accédant une fois au troisième rang. Il a ramené plusieurs gagnants de courses de groupe, dont quatre Groupe 1 dans la Robertson Cup et la Sansui Summer Cup, entre autres. Celui qui a roulé sa bosse au Brésil, à Macau et en Grèce est cependant connu pour être un globe-trotter particulier, ayant exercé ses talents dans les quatre coins de son Afrique du Sud.
Du 1er août 2016 au 11 juin 2017, il a comptabilisé 117 victoires pour 1280 montes et occupait la septième place, le leader Antony Delpech menant le bal avec 150 victoires (713 montes). « When I left South Africa, I was doing quite well and I was riding five times a week. I won two feature races before I left, one in the Durban season, and the other in Johannesburg. I think i’ll have taken my SA form to Mauritius », dit-il, visiblement très content de sa première journée au Champ de Mars.
Yeni et son premier doublé
Skip The Red : « I was drawn two, just saw the track very sharp on top and said let me be as close as possible. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by other horses. The other horse flew up to almost catch me but Skip The Red showed a lot of guts. Once I turned from home he was a bit lost but he found his footing and he quickened smartly. He’s a nice horse and won well. »
Top Jet : « He’s a nice grey horse. With a good position as I was well drawn, things went as expected. Top Jet was slow last time, this time I got him out and got one to lead me. He pulled me into the final straight and found a way. Even if he hung in a bit, I had to give him every chance. I’ve done everything to keep him straight. He won convincingly and there’s definitely more in the tank. »
Yeni et ses autres montes
« Chinese Gold was disappointed, he was flat. At the 900m, I was already battling to stay with them and I just think M. Maingard must check him out. Billy Bojangles didn’t give a good kick as the winner shifted out when he turned home. I had to wait a bit, I think I would have run a place. Tigre Libre ran a good race and I think with more distance he would finish a lot closer. »
Yeni et son challenge mauricien
« Fortunately I’ve been call over by M. Maingard, obviously a top trainer and lot of success. It’s a priviledge to be called upon, obviously it’s quite expensive to get me through here so soon, but he paid the cost and luckily he didn’t look for someone else. I am quite a small guy and when I walked on the track it didn’t look so tight but when you’re on top of a horse it looks very tight.
I’ve got many offers in the past to come to Mauritius but I felt I wasn’t ready and now with my age I think I was ready with the tight track and my experience helped me a lot to get through. M. Maingard took me for a walk around and showed me a couple of videos and it helped a lot to ride good races on this track. The track is tight but fast, slightly tricky and certain horses will suit the track and I think nice compact horses with a good turn of foot will always do well here. I was able to have good draws today and I think it helped a lot to make my life a bit easier as well. Being small, they do say it is a bit easier but some horses are a bit strong and being small is not always right but I got a lot of experience, I’ve won a lot of races in South Africa, won a lot of big races and it helps a lot.
I didn’t come here early because I was a bit worried, not experienced enough. I’ve been racing for very long at home so it does help a lot, I can drive the horses. I’m old enough for a jockey to do well. I followed mauritian horseracing for many years on TV, so I was aware of the crowd. I’ve also been here on holidays once, and I came to the Champ de Mars. Obviously on a horse, it is a great feeling to win a race anywhere. I rode for a very long time in Durban where there are lot of short straights. I’m very sharp getting the horse into gear and I think it is my strongest point. Win a race in this striking position in Mauritius is something phenomenal. I like to cheer the public as I love people. It’s my job. My objective here is to keep M. Maingard happy. »