Double joy for July jockey

2013-07-08 00:00

FRESH from winning the Durban July a day earlier, S’Manga Khumalo was back in the saddle yes­terday, and won his race at Turffontein in Johannesburg.

His fans in the Midlands will be able to see him race in Pietermaritzburg in a fortnight, but first he needs a break.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Khumalo — from kwaMashu in Durban — said he was extremely scared of horses when he first started riding.

“I never came from a family with a horse riding background. I grew up in the township,” he said.

“In 2000 I was introduced to horse riding, where I made friends with people from all sort of backgrounds.

“Back then, I was very scared of horses. But, once I got to know them, I started to relax and be free around them. We had everything at the [jockey] academy. It was like a school.”

The 27-year-old has not yet had the time to celebrate his big win.

He hopped on a plane to Johannesburg immediately after winning the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday.

“As soon as I get some free time, I’ll head home to celebrate with my family in kwaMashu.

“I’ll be racing in Pietermaritzburg in the next two weeks. But first I need to take a holiday.

“I’ve been racing without a break for the last two seasons. I think I’ve achieved enough so I’ll take a week’s holiday. I’ll take some time to myself just to rest and ­recover.”

Khumalo was just 14 when he was plucked out of kwaMashu High School and enrolled in the South African Jockey Academy.

The academy had sent a Mr Spies to his school in 2000 to ­introduce the sport to township children.

“He spoke to my teachers and he asked me if I would be interested, and I said ‘yes’. I had an interview with the academy and I was accepted,” he said.

He said it had been some time since he last spoke to Spies.

Khumalo, who has been a professional jockey since 2006, said the Durban July was a race hundreds of jockeys aspired to win.

“We can’t all win it. For me, since it was my first July, I was very happy and humbled. It’s such a thrill to win it in my first race.”

Khumalo lives in Johannesburg a stone’s throw from Turf­fontein, with his partner Petunia, daughter Persia (5) and son Kaiden (3).

His mother, Mantombi Khumalo, screamed so loudly when her son crossed the finish line that she lost her voice.

“As you can hear by my voice, I was very happy when he finished,” she told The Witness yesterday.

“I am very proud of my son to have achieved something that would not have been possible had it not been for Nelson Mandela.

“What happened yesterday has never happened, and the whole of the kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal witnessed my son win the Durban July.”

Sean Tarry, who trained S’Manga’s horse Heavy Metal, said he was “chuffed” with the win.

“He’s taken home something in the region of R200 000, so it was not a bad pay day,” Tarry said of Khumalo’s win.

“It’s a fantastic win. He looked like he was quite far back. At 200 metres, he looked like he was in with a big chance.”

Tarry also trained three other horses in the main race — last year’s winner Pomodoro, Whiteline Fever and E-Jet.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

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