It’s the post July blues for racing fans as we dip into the sobering downer of the bread-and-butter diet again after a humdinger on Saturday. A competitive MR 93 Fillies & Mares heads the Vaal programme today and it could give a young apprentice, already labelled the ‘new –age S’manga Khumalo’, a winning opportunity.
The Amanzimtoti-bred Apprentice Mpume Mjoka may not be clocking the Lyle Hewitson fractions quite yet – and has only ridden 4 winners from his 128 rides.
But he gets a serious chance from trainer Stan Ferreira, who saddles a trio of decent fillies in the R106 000 1000m speed contest.
A 4kg claimer, Mjoka rides the Gr3 Mangolia Handicap winner Kwinta, a strapping daughter of Kahal in the ten-horse field.
It was the astute brain of present-day trainer and former jockey Botes who commented after Mjoka recently rode a winner for him: “Anyone can ride a horse, but top jockeys have three things in common – balance, power and timing. Of those, timing is the most important and this is what makes a jock like Andrew Fortune so good.
“It’s not hard to identify a good rider early in his career and I believe Mpume Mjoka has all three attributes. I spotted him winning on a horse for Mike Azzie – he rode a well-judged front-running race and I have no doubt he will ride many winners. To my mind, he is a top jockey in the making. He has 16 wins to go as a 4kg claimer and if I have my way I will use him for all 16 wins!”
Botes added: “Years ago, long before he became champion, I saw that S’Manga Khumalo had the mettle to go the top, but he had a habit of letting his mounts go too early. I sat him down one day and explained to him how important timing is and how he should be working on this aspect of his riding.”
He joked: “S’Manga has become too in-demand to ride for a small stable like mine, but I’d gladly grab Mpume Mjoka and book him on my runners while I still can!”
Mpume was still on the school benches at Ganges Secondary School in Merebank, Durban, when S’Manga first won the Durban July but takes his next step to fulfilling a dream at the Vaal on Thursday.
His mount Kwinta is a full sister to two solid sprinters in the stakes winning Eastern Greeting and Kalaam – both were also trained by the experienced Stan Ferreira, and won seven races between them.
Stepped up to 1400m after winning the Magnolia, Kwinta showed versatility with a good win, before finding the mile on the far side with a fifth in the Acacia and was then mostly outgunned in the Gr2 Senor Santa and the Camellia when an average of six lengths off in both races.
With Mjoka taking 4kgs off, she could come right in the picture here.
Her stablemate Lumya is a bundle of speed and is capable – but looks held by Kwinta on their Camellia clash.
Third of the Ferreira trio is the one-time winning 3yo Tripadvisor, who gets a 2,5kg claim but looks to be up against it.
Andrew Fortune rides topweight Crown Of Roses for the hot in-form Gary Alexander Racing team.
The daughter of Tiger Ridge never runs a bad race and is knocking hard for her sixth win – even though she has a big weight to lumber.
Scott Kenny’s Cataluga is 2,5kgs better off with Crown Of Roses for a three length beating last time and is a fast improving daughter of Fort Beluga.
Seventh Symphony, Tapaway and Evening Breeze could be best of the rest.