Keagan de Melo the man to watch on Charity Mile Day | The Citizen

One person who won’t need much “charity” on Charity Mile Day at Turffontein Racecourse on Saturday is jockey Keagan de Melo.

South Africa’s new star of the saddle is able to rely purely on his burgeoning talent and fabulous run of form to get himself – and the punters – into the money.

In just the past five days, De Melo, 28, has ridden nine winners – crisscrossing the country by air in pursuit of winning posts.

Leading rider

The Alberton-born ace is the 2022/23 season’s leading rider by some distance, having notched up 79 winners from 334 rides in less than three months. That gives him a phenomenal winners-to-rides ratio of nearly 24%. His places return is an eye-popping 49%.

Racegoers would be crazy not to consider the chances of all De Melo mounts when they place their bets.

In Saturday’s main event, the Grade 2 Allied Steelrode – Onamission Charity Mile – he partners Puerto Manzano, a very consistent top-level campaigner for the Johan Janse van Vuuren stable. The Argentinian-bred  five-year-old is a gutsy and consistent performer at the top level and would be a lot shorter in the betting than his price of 14-1 if he hadn’t drawn the widest starting gate.

Still, as De Melo has often shown, skilled jockeyship can overcome such disadvantages.

Puerto Manzano is a must for inclusion in any Quartet permutation bets on Race 7, which carries a whopping R1.5-million Megapool. He must also go into Pick 6s and Jackpots.

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De Melo started his apprenticeship at the SA Jockey Academy in 2009 and rode his first winner, Western Gem, at Scottsville in 2010. His cheerful, “can-do” attitude has proved popular with owners and trainers and he has secured excellent retainers – initially with trainers Mark Dixon and Dennis Drier in Durban, then with Dean Kannemeyer in Cape Town, Gavin Smith in Eastern Cape and the Wernar brothers ownership on the Highveld.

All the hard work started paying off in 2022, when he rocketed up the championship log in the closing months of last season to finish in third place. The form continued straight into the new term and the red-hot streak meant he had to amend his declaration of not going for the championship title for the time being, due to having a young family to care for. Now the frequent flyer card is in daily use.

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De Melo’s best winning chances on Saturday are in the last two races on the card, Races 9 and 10, in which he hops aboard 33-10 favourite Black Thorn and 4-1 shot Another Level respectively.

Sean Tarry-trained Black Thorn and De Melo won the Gold Vase at Greyville on Durban July day, then finished a creditable fourth in the Gold Cup despite a tough passage. A short rest and a comeback sharpener will have him in prime shape for the 2400m Java Stakes.

Another good companion for the young man is Bon Vivant in Race 3, but this filly has the misfortune of opposing superstar Rain In Holland, who is likely to start at very short odds.

The Citizen Golden Loom Handicap, the big sprint of the day, sees De Melo teaming up with Quantum King. This speedster has won three times and been runner-up three times from nine starts, so clearly has plenty of ability. He has recently been gelded, to keep his mind on the task at hand, and he looks good betting value at 12-1.

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