Elione Chaves returns aboard Act Of Loyalty at Thursday's trackwork.
Elione Chaves returns aboard Act Of Loyalty at Thursday's trackwork.

By Michael Lee

Finally riding in Mauritius meant so much to Swedish-based Brazilian jockey Elione Chaves that he was even prepared to give up on his champion title fight.

Granted, the 33-year-old already has eight champion jockey trophies sitting on his mantelpiece at home, but race-riding is all about winning no matter how often you smile at the camera at the prize giving ceremonies.

When Chaves was offered a job as a Club jockey at the Mauritius Turf Club back in October, hehad a nice buffer of nine winners over Per-Anders Graberg in the Scandinavian jockeys’ premiership. As such, hecould afford to skip a few meetings for the sake of experiencing a new racing centre halfway across the world.

Unfortunately, the Mauritius gig never came off after his work permit application hit a snag. Worse still, he had already informed trainers and owners in Sweden he was not taking any rides as he packs his gear in readiness for the new adventure in the tropics, but the time between jobs has seen his lead dwindle in no time – only two winners.

With the Mauritius Turf Club’s invitation to participate in the Air Mauritius & Attitude International Jockeys’ Weekend on December 2 and 3 still on – no work permit required then - Chaves did not have to think too long either.

“I told Per-Anders who is a good friend of mine I was going to Mauritius and will miss a few meetings but I will be back for the last two and we’ll see what happens!” he said, still hopeful he can peg Graberg back for a ninth hurrah.

“This was too good a chance to miss, I’d rather come to Mauritius, a country I’ve heard so much about.I’ve never ridden in a jockeys’ challenge and I finally get to ride in Mauritiuswhere I thought I would have ridden earlier, but it just didn’t happen for some reason.”

Keen as mustard, Chaves defied the jetlag after his long-haul flight from Sweden via Paris with wife Dina (a Danish trainer in Sweden) and four-year-old son Gabriel to still show up for trackwork at the Champ de Mars on the next morning on Thursday. Craig Zackey, who arrived one day earlier on Tuesday, was the only other IJW 2017 jockey to take a few test drives around the track.

Trainer Soun Gujadhur gave Chaves a first warm-up spin aboard Ryder Cup (not racing at the IJW meeting) before giving him a leg-up on one of Chaves’ leading chances, Act Of Loyalty.

The 950-race winner jumped off with a big thumbs-up as the Gujadhur father-and-team of Soun and Gopal huddled around him for his feedback.

“The horse felt good. It’s a small track with very sharp bends, but it will be all right as we have a similar track in Malmo, except that it goes the other way,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to a few trainers like that of my ride this morning (Gujadhur) and Mr Vincent (Allet - Dealer’s Charm and Netflix) and they gave many details about the track.

“I don’t know much about my rides as you would imagine, but I will try my best. I’m really looking forward to the experience of an international meeting.

“If things work out okay on the work permit, I hope to be back as a Club jockey next year.”

After riding in Brasilia, Goiana and Sao Paulo for six years, Chaves was lured to Sweden by another Brazilian jockey Rafael Schistl in 2009.

The reception from the people from the land of the fjords was to say the least, frosty at first, language barrier being the No 1 issue and all. But the pluckyjockey got out of his comfort zone chasing for rides and soon the ice was broken.

Mastering English and a little Swedish as years went by, Chaves made a meteoric rise to the top at his new stomping ground.

Besides his eight Scandinavian (includes Sweden, Norway and Denmark) champion jockey titles and around 650 races there, Chaves also notched several big race wins in Scandinavia namely three at Group 3 levelin Sweden, the Stockholms Stora Pris, the Pramms Memorial and the Oslo Cup as well as six Listed races, including the Swedish Derby and the Norwegian Derby.

Chaves has also ridden in Germany, Dubai, mainly for leading Norwegian trainer Niels Petersen when he campaigns in the Middle East, and most recently Singapore where he chalked up 12 winners from 116 rides from January to April 2016, including scoring at his very first ride, King Of Thieves, on January 15.