(30 July 2014)
S'Manga Khumalo will be officially crowned Champion Jockey just after 5pm tomorrow and it will be an achievement celebrated by all in the racing fraternity and many outside of it as he is not only the first black person to do it, but has also shown the hallmarks of a true champion.
Gary Player's famous quote; "The harder I practice the luckier I get," is really all about work ethic and Khumalo's capacity for the latter is not only illustrated by his full book of rides this week, long after he had the championship sown up, but also by his frequent flyer miles. Willingness to travel is a prerequisite to winning the championship and Khumalo has kept up an exhausting schedule throughout the season. He is based on the Highveld but is virtually as regular a rider as any in all of KZN, Port Elizabeth and Kimberly and has also made the odd foray to Cape Town. The public probably do not appreciate how taxing the travel is, as they are likely unaware that on many days of Khumalo's season he was riding work early in the morning in one province and race riding the same afternoon in another. His agent Justin Vermaak also deserves credit for making almost all of those journey's worthwhile. Khumalo's light weight has also helped as he has been able to ride in close to 1400 races this season.
Another quote that applies to him is the one from General George S Patton, who said; "Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom."
Khumalo has done a lot of bouncing in the past few seasons from injury and in that regard this season was no different.
However, he has never before had to contend with the low of being handed a 60-day suspension by the stipendiary stewards, a ban that threatened to derail his championship bid after an appeal against it failed halfway through the season.
The stipendiary stewards can be commended for the harder line they have taken this season, but appear to have chosen the wrong case to emphasise it as there appeared to be many mitigating factors.
Khumalo was reportedly devastated when the appeal against the suspension was dismissed.
A further appeal to the High Court effectively bought him time to win the championship, but was not made for that reason. Rather, Khumalo is adamant of his innocence and the High Court process will come at an enormous monetary cost if the appeal is once again dismissed.
Despite all of that hanging over his head, Khumalo came back admirably and was soon at his best. He had the support of most of the country behind him.
This season he did not reach the high moments of last, when winning all of the Sansui Summer Cup, the Presidents' Champions Challenge and the Vodacom Durban July.
His confidence was so sky high after becoming the first black person to ride a July winner that he proceeded to ride the Jackpot in a Turffontein meeting two weeks later and he just needed to win the last race that day to make it the Pick 6 too. That meeting was really the one that set up the championship bid as it showed that he was not just a big race rider but also had the consistency, like an Anton Marcus, to ride winner after winner at any meeting where he had the necessary fire power.
He proved it again early in the new season when riding a four-timer at Turffontein on August 8 and another five-timer just four days later at Flamingo Park. He took an early lead in the title race and has never let go of his grip.
Richard Fourie threatened to catch him at one stage. The latter is not only a jockey of world class ability, but his level of professionalism matches any. His fall in the Rising Sun Gold Challenge effectively ended the exciting tussle with Khumalo that was brewing, but at least had a consolatory side as Fourie's finely conditioned physique allowed him to pull through without serious long term effects and he went on to land his first Vodacom Durban July, albeit via the boardroom.
Khumalo won two Gr 1s this season, the Laurie Jaffee Empress Club Stakes on the Gavin van Zyl-trained Along Came Polly and the SA Nursery aboard the Sean Tarry-trained filly Carry On Alice. There were also five Gr 3s, one Gr 2 and a Listed event among the 185 winners he had ridden at time of going to press.
Khumalo's nickname "Bling", given to him by commentator Alistair Cohen due to the gold jewelry he likes to wear, has stuck and the name will hopefully be heard in the main media news over the next few days or weeks. His winning of the title is a great day for South African racing.
(28 July 2014)
Last Saturday’s washed-out Kenilworth fixture is to be held this coming weekend when there is no scheduled Cape Town racing.
Phumelela racing executive Patrick Davis, speaking on Saturday, said: “I am going to add a new meeting to next Sunday alongside Turffontein and I am trying to salvage the whole card.
“But my problem is that we will have crossed into a new season with two-year-olds becoming three-year-olds and the weight-for-age changing so we need to start again. My thinking at this stage is that we will re-open entries on Monday and declare on Tuesday.”
Saturday is effectively full with meetings already scheduled for Clairwood and Flamingo Park, hence the decision to go for Sunday when the feature will be the Final Fling Stakes, originally scheduled for the 19 July meeting which also had to be abandoned. But the Final Fling is no stranger to such switches; last year it also had to be moved to the new season when its original date was rained off after only four races.
Last Saturday’s meeting was called off shortly before 8.00am after racing liaison officer Teresa Esplin inspected the course with three jockeys, a trainer and an assistant trainer.
She reported: “We walked it from the 1 800m start to the finish. It was not as heavily waterlogged as it was the previous weekend but the going was inconsistent. Some areas were OK but you would then find yourself in very soft ground and the sudden change makes it dangerous for horses.”
Sunday’s meeting will also feature the mile Pinnacle Stakes in which the remarkable Blarney Bay will attempt to make it five out of six since joining Mike Robinson. Fortunately the Cape Town weather forecast is for mainly dry weather up to and including Sunday.
(30 July 2014)
Ada van der Bent
At Greyville on Saturday, Justin Snaith and S'Manga Khumalo were officially crowned the season’s champion trainer and jockey, while Klawervlei Stud finally ended Summerhill’s stranglehold on the champion breeders’ title. As for the champion stallion, add to that the name of Jet Master.
Despite his untimely passing in 2011, the ill-fated champion regained the crown he relinquished to Silvano in 2012-13 and such has been his dominance at the top of the sires log, he had wrapped up his seventh sires title in eight years half-way through the season. Acknowledged as the most successful South African-bred stallion of all time, he will finish the season with earnings close on R20-million, more than R4-million clear of runner-up Dynasty. He would arguably have broken the existing stakes record of just under R21-million set by Silvano were it not for the misfortune of losing top prospects Yorker (exported), Master Of My Fate and Jet Explorer (both injured) during the second half of the season.
On Saturday, Jet Master capped a memorable season when two daughters Jet Belle and Jet Aglow fought out the finish to the Gr 2 Golden Bracelet at Greyville. The pair features amongst a splendid haul of 16 individual stakes winners this past season for their late sire, the standouts amongst which are Gr 1 winners Yorker, In The Fast Lane and Fly By Night, who between them, accounted for six top level victories.
Yorker stamped himself a genuine candidate for Horse of the Year honours with a Gr 1 treble in the Sansui Summer Cup, Champions Challenge and H F Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes, in addition to which he was runner-up in the Gr 1 J&B Met and in his final South African start, ran third in the Gr 1 Gold Challenge.
In The Fast Lane looks a shoo in for the champion three-year-old filly of the Year award, having garnered a Gr 1 double in the Gr 1 Cape Fillies Guineas and Woolavington 2000, prior to finishing a creditable fifth in the Vodacom Durban July.
The year-older Fly By Night improved dramatically in the latter part of the season when she put up two stellar performances during the KZN winter season. The Mike Bass-trained miss came within a shorthead of handing likely sprint champion Via Africa a rare defeat in the Gr 1 SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville and proved that was no fluke when she flew to victory in the Gr 1 Mercury Sprint at Clairwood. On that occasion, she defeated veteran Copper Parade, who had previously lowered the colours of Via Africa in Turffontein’s Gr 1 Computaform Sprint.
Judging by Saturdays’ Gold Cup meeting, Jet Master should continue to cast a long shadow over the South African racing industry.
Juvenile sons Jayyed and Mljet did their sire proud when involved in a blanket finish to the Gr 1 Premiers Champion Stakes. The former, still a maiden, went down by a shorthead, while a wide draw arguably cost the hitherto unbeaten MLJet a chance at victory, having to come from virtually last at the top of the straight to deadheat for third, just a head behind the first two. Both colts look set to make their presence felt at three.
Likewise, the filly Jet Set Go, also a member of her sire’s final crop, rates a fine classic prospect after showing her male rivals a clean pair of heels in the recent Gr 3 Champion Juvenile Cup in just her second start.
Amongst the older brigade, Jet Belle is rumoured to stay in training, as will this season’s Gr 1 Woolavington 2000 third Touching Sky. Add to that Gr 2 winner Master Sabina, stakes winning miler Lockheed Jetstar, the stayer Storm Warning and exciting sand prospect Jet Jamboree, all of whom will continue to keep their late sire’s name in the limelight.
(30 July 2014)
Justin Snaith, celebrating becoming the first Cape Town-based trainer to win the national championship for 24 years, is already eyeing next season’s targets.
He said: “My main aims are going to be the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the J & B Met but it will be hard because most of the best horses are based in Cape Town.”
Reflecting on his championship, he said: “Winning it from Cape Town is virtually impossible and that makes it all the sweeter but, really, I still don’t know how we managed it without having a single runner in Jo’burg. It has been a roller-coaster of a season with the biggest highs and the biggest lows.”
He was referring, at least in part, to winning the Vodacom Durban July with Legislate only to lose three horses and a groom when a float had a fatal accident on the way back from Durban.
Snaith,39, brought to an end four consecutive seasons at the top for Mike de Kock and he sent out 194 winners, six short of his target of 200 but only four less than last season’s record-breaking 198. He won the 2012 Queen’s Plate with Gimmethegreenlight but has yet to win the Met.
He added: “We were very much on target for the 200 until we lost two meetings in Cape Town and otherwise I have no doubt that we would have got there.”