Equestrian champions, trainers and jockeys alike are gearing up for the Cape’s most elegant horse racing event, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, which holds its 153rd running on the 11th of January 2014 at Kenilworth Racecourse, with contenders competing for the coveted R1 million purse.
For the jockeys, preparing for race day demands rigorous discipline and stringent dietary control to ensure peak performance and weight control. This often means having to keep up to 10kgs below their regular weight or lose up to 3kgs through cardio exercise in a sweat suit the day before the race.
“If I weigh just 200g more than my designated weight on race day, I will be replaced with another rider and will have to pay a fine, so I take my diet and exercise very seriously – I eliminate carbohydrates and fatty foods, train in a sweat suit and spend an hour in the steam room once a week,” says Jockey Glen Hatt, who is intensively preparing for his ride at The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
A jockey’s commitment begins long before race day and Glen, who normally weighs 70kg, must keep his weight under 60kg for the race, avoiding weight training of any kind, lest he gain muscle mass.
Sometimes required to lose additional kilograms the day before the race or risk disqualification, Glen often consumes no more than a fruit shake for dinner. Ensuring his weight is controlled throughout the day of the race means Glen has black coffee for breakfast and an all-day diet consisting solely of hydration supplements.
To the same end, he avoids water or cold drinks after being weighed on race day as, once he sweats, he cannot afford to regain this lost weight by retaining fluid.
A three-time Queen’s Plate champion with 255 other wins to his credit, Glen – who has trained and raced in South Africa, Australia and Mauritius – names Kenilworth as his favourite racecourse.
“All the jockeys look forward to LQP day as it has become one of the best days on our racing calendar. Even though the preparation is strenuous – it’s all worth it for a win,” enthuses Glen who will be riding top prospect and 2013 Grade 1 Champions Cup winner, the five year old stallion, Jackson, in The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate 2014.
Ordinarily, Jackson’s currently impressive form and race history would increase his handicap, a measure used in horseracing to even the playing field. According to handicap rules, lead pads of varying weights are fitted to horses’ saddles for the race – the greater the handicap, the heavier the lead pads. Fortunately for Glen and Jackson, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate is a weight-for-age race, which means that horses are weighted according to age only and the best horse, usually, wins.
If Glen and Jackson are first to cross the finish line, they will take the title from 2013 victors, Variety Club and rider Anton Marcus. Apart from the R1 million purse, which is divided incrementally between the top four finishing horses, the winner of the L’Ormarins Queens Plate 2014 will also be given the opportunity to race in the $2 million Breeder’s Cup Mile in the USA later in the year.
Although the odds are stacked strongly in his favour, Jackson will face competition in what is considered the strongest field in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate for over a decade. Cape Town Noir is arguably the best miler in the country while some tip the sensational Red Ray to become only the second three year old to win the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate in 34 years.