IN his blog this month, Mike de Kock urges in-form jockey S’Manga Khumalo to set his sights on winning the South African Jockeys Title.
I have been most impressed lately with the riding feats of jockey S’Manga Khumalo, so much so that I am dedicating this month’s blog to this up-and-coming young rider.
S’Manga Khumalo has quietly gone about his business in his eight years as a licensed jockey with an excellent average of 64 winners per season since 2005/6, his highest mark being 85 winners ridden in 2010/11.
S’Manga has been injured and on the sideline for weeks at a time, several times during his time as a fully-fledged rider, which makes this average even more commendable.
Recently S’Manga also proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he has the proverbial ‘bmt’ (big-match temperament), winning three of South Africa’s four richest races in one season, including the Vodacom Durban July earlier this month.
S’Manga Khumalo after his 2013 Durban July win on Heavy Metal. (Gold Circle).
This jock is balanced and strong, he’s a good judge of pace and he’s not scared. S’Manga has only ridden a handful of horses for me and I don’t know him all that well, but I am told that he listens to instructions with no prima-donna like antics to annoy trainers, a big plus in my book!
Last weekend S’Manga continued his good run of form with five winners at Turffontein, including the four legs of the Jackpot, and another four successes at Ngong on Sunday, tallying 12 winners in six days if one includes last Tuesday’s Vaal meeting.
S’Manga said after one of his winners at Turffontein: “When you’ve got the confidence you’ll always ride a good race because you give your horse the confidence.” I fully agree. This jock is hungry and confident, and the proof is in the pudding.
A few thoughts crossed my mind at the weekend.
It is evident that the South African racing industry has come a long way along the path of transformation over the last 20 years. The Jockey Academy continues to produce world-class riders who now count members of the black, coloured and Indian communities among them. S’Manga aside – Muzi Yeni, Nooresh Juglall, Randall Simons, Grant van Niekerk and a few others can hold their own in any company.
S’Manga should be recognised and promoted as one of South Africa’s top black sportsmen, with sponsorship packages to match the kind of celebrity that goes along with becoming the first black jockey to win the Durban July. It was encouraging that the national newspapers and some radio stations gave prominence to his historic July win.
In closing, I’d like to encourage S’Manga Khumalo to go for the National Jockeys Title next season. With his ability, temperament, work ethic and the right demeanour he has four of five boxes ticked. The fifth will be his willingness to travel, because if he doesn’t make a consistent attempt to secure good rides around the country, he’ll never write the title behind his name.
I believe that the vast majority of trainers, me included, will support S’Manga if he goes on the title chase next season. We need to keep the racing game vibrant and interesting and a first black champion jockey will stand our industry in good stead.
Approaching the prime of his career, this is S’Manga’s time to launch a serious bid for the crown. Go on, lad, you’ll have a host of supporters rooting for you.
If you bump into S’Manga before I do, please relate my challenge and encouragement. Let’s get him fired up so he can rise to the task.