The 90-winner rural racing hero Philisande Mxoli was accepted into the South African Jockeys Academy (SAJA) at the beginning of the year and is already making an impact riding work.
Philisande, now 20-years-old, started riding in rural races in the Eastern Cape at the age of thirteen.
Unlike KZN rural racing, in which the racing gait is limited to trotting, the Eastern Cape has races in both galloping and trotting gaits.
Therefore, Philisande arrived at the Academy with experience in riding “short” (short stirrup straps and thus high in the saddle) at a flat out gallop.
Furthermore, he clearly has BMT as he has won the “Berlin November” twice. The latter is the equivalent of the Vodacom Durban July in Eastern Cape rural racing. His winning mounts in the Berlin November were Remember and Final Judgement (not to be confused with the former Glen Kotzen-trained filly of that name).
The rural races take place on fields, as opposed to the racecourses of professional racing, and the distances Philisande was racing over were 1000m, 1200m and 1400m.
Philisande has taken well to the Academy and is enjoying himself.
Lopez Mogongo and his team look for Academy candidates around the country every year and do the assessments. Philisande was one of two picked from the rural racing organisation. He was accepted as he had the right physical attributes, he did well in the fitness tests, he had natural balance and his experience counted in his favour as he already had good hands.
He has been the first of this latest in-take to make it to track and has been riding at Ashburton for the like of Duncan Howells and Belinda Impey and also for private trainer Doug Campbell.
He has impressed a number of watchers and has already been given the responsibility of galloping horses on the grass.
Philisande spoke of his appreciation for this opportunity and said he had been working with the riding masters on adapting his style.
Riding Master Laurence O’Donoghue said, “He is doing very well. He has nice hands and is a good horsemen and is a quiet well mannered and respectful young man. We like him a lot.”
Philisande said he was expecting to have his first race ride next year.
Meanwhile, Joshua Solomons had his first race ride on Sunday at Scottsville, finishing unplaced on the Michael Roberts-trained Master Of Fire over 1200m in a Maiden Plate.
O’Donoghue said this Capetonian now had promise, having overcome some early trials and tribulations as one who had never sat on a horse before arriving at the Academy.
On Thursday Gabriel Pieterse will be making his debut on the Grant Maroun-trained Singaswewin in an Apprentice Handicap over 1000m at the Vaal. Gabriel hails from Lusaka in Zambia. He was a Zambian champion motocross rider and also played polocrosse, so arrived with riding experience.
Two apprentices, Cole Dickens and Tyrell Maharaj, are presently in the UK. They are there for four weeks to complete the International Apprentice Course at the British Racing School campus in Newmarket.
SAJA has partnered with the British Racing School (BRS), through funding from The Childwick Trust, which enables two of its Apprentices to have such an opportunity annually. Cole and Tyrell are the fourth set of South African Apprentice Jockeys selected.
The pair will be based in Johannesburg after arriving home and will start riding in races immediately.
By David Thiselton