S’Manga Khumalo, who this week will pass through the 1 000-ride marker for the season, says that it was in February that he really decided to put his foot down in earnest and go for a second successive jockeys’ championship.
He explained: “I was doing quite well for Sean Tarry at the stage and his horses were really flying. I thought ‘I’m still young and I’m still fresh. From now on I must try and travel everywhere as I did last season and hopefully it will pay off.’
“But I also said to myself that, if it goes the other way and I don’t win it, I can still be happy because at least I have won it once before.
“Going round the country, getting rides and support, has shown me that I just have to give it a try. It’s not like I’m riding just in Jo’burg, I am riding everywhere and getting the support.”
He admits that he makes a conscious effort not to worry about how Gavin Lerena and the others are doing, or get concerned when they ride a double (or worse, a treble!).
He said: “I have to try not to let any of that get to me because, if I do, it is just going to put the pressure on. I have to make sure that I enjoy what I’m doing and just carry on doing the best I can.”
Lerena, his nearest pursuer and now almost certainly his biggest danger, still bears the scars of three seasons ago when his once commanding lead was gradually whittled away. On the final day of the season he was pipped on the post by an Anton Marcus double. He was left devastated and famously declared “I am heartbroken.”
He said yesterday: “At the beginning of the season every jockey wants to go for the championship but what happened that time made be a bit scared of doing so because I didn’t want to lose again. But it also made me more determined.
“I just made up my mind to ride as many winners as I can this season and make sure that I enjoy doing so.”