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Still On The Mark!  | Sporting Post

Emotions ran high at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Friday night. Five-time SA Champion jockey Mark Khan rode home the winner for his former SA Jockey Academy buddy Anthony Delpech. It was a sentimental crossroads of their paths, some 38 years after their training as young apprentices.

Mark is led to Phaka Imali by Anthony Delpech and his daughter Brooklyn (Image – Candies Lenferna)

Mark Khan, who would soon be 54 on September 30th, boasts the athleticism and well-being of a man half his age and rode a typically balanced and powerful finish to win the second race on Phaka Imali in the Global Team Horseracing win evening, for the Hollywood Syndicate.

“It’s interesting how life takes us down different paths. As teenagers we were firm friends – we still are. We had stars in our eyes and big plans and ambitions. Who would have thought life would have taken us both around the world, and here I am driving a winner for one of the country’s premier homeowners’ communities, run by Anthony Delpech? What a rare joy this winner has given me!” Mark told the Sporting Post on Sunday, saying he was blessed to have had the opportunity to enjoy a fantastic career among wonderful people and great horses.

Another multiple national champion, Anthony Delpech, pointed out on Friday night that racing is “nearly impossible to outrun”.

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“Mark has had his injury challenges. He’s a real soldier. In my case, it was no going back after my accident in 2018. I have a relationship with Mark and admire his tenacity,” added the Hollywood syndicate boss.

And that is certainly the case.

Mark Khan announced his retirement from the saddle in 2010 after suffering injuries in a fall last season. But he returned to the saddle in 2017 – starting his first Gr1 ride in over 7 years when Hero’s Honor won the Gr1 SA Derby in May 2018 – a few weeks later he won the Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship on Mighty High.

The old dog struggled a lot and while he enjoyed great success in 2018 and 2019, racing for IRC and others, Covid came along and derailed the world. But in 2021 he drove winners again. Then a bad accident in the starting pits earlier this year threw him back.

“I was out for about three months but am back strong and very fit. My body feels good and although I won my first title with 301 winners from 1600 odd rides, I’m not in that zone anymore or chasing any titles – but I’m very happy to be working in Turffontein and Randjesfontein drive when I am needed.”

Mark feels he has many years left and there are no thoughts, plans or talks about giving up the saddle.

Mark Khan greets the stands after Mighty High won the 2018 Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship (Image – Candies Lenferna)

“Stanley Amos, Karl Neisius and Garth Puller all lived to different ages. You see, there’s no question that there’s a new generation of young drivers – and there are some really top youngsters. But it’s a cycle – we’ve been there once – we thought it would never end. Today it is their turn – tomorrow another up-and-coming generation will follow. It’s like any sport – rugby, cricket, football. It’s our turn. I just enjoy my races and am honored to still be a part of it. My son is in the 11th grade and the university is attractive. So let’s keep working and fighting,” he laughs.

Born and raised in the vibrant Cape Flats community of Grassy Park, with the popular Busy Corner as a well-known landmark, Mark joined the SA Jockey Academy in 1984 alongside future champions Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus.

He rode his first winner on mascara for the late Alan Higgins and has won all our major races over the course of his association with top shipyards including Mark Watters, Geoff Woodruff and Gary Alexander. He has been linked to top horses such as Igreja, El Picha, Faralmond, Nhlavini, Timber Trader, Monet, Shepherds Moon, Hawaiian Wahoo and Stormy Appeal as well as stayer Aquanaut and also won the Cape Derby on Resfa. A Mauritian Champion Jockey in 2000, Mark has also plied his craft with distinction in Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Australia and Macau.

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“Racing has been really, really good for me and I’ve never regretted it,” says the non-drinker and non-smoker, who says he leads “a normal, healthy life,” aside from his weakness for Coca-Cola and chocolate.

Mark, who moved to Gauteng around 25 years ago for work reasons, is married to Rhonda and clearly proud of his children Sandra (26) and Cameron (17). The Khans are staying at the River Club in Sandton.

Asked about the future of racing, Mark says he believes there are exciting prospects on the horizon and things are moving forward.

“I think we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize or be negative. Take the Global Team Horseracing concept. It’s a nice vibe and atmosphere at the track and while there are aspects that probably need adjusting and it’s very fast – despite the fact we only race in alternative races – there’s a concerted effort to do something in the Kind of doing the T20 concept and making it exciting for a wider audience. And there’s no question that horse racing needs to broaden its appeal. Let’s support such initiatives instead of chasing after them,” he suggests.

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