Racing Industry Bids Farewell To Gift

He joined the South African Jockey’s Academy in 1995

Gift Funeka

Gift Funeka

Gift Funeka, who in the year 2000 became the first black jockey to ride in the Durban July, died on Friday.

Funeka was rushed to hospital with severe internal pains and died a short while after being admitted.

Funeka booked a place in the 2000 July aboard the Anil Maharaj trained New Zealand-bred His Nibs after winning the Gr 2 Greyville 1900 on the seven-year-old gelding at odds of 20/1.

The Greyville 1900 was his biggest career win.

However, he also gained a huge amount of respect for the brave and highly successful comeback he made to the saddle about two years ago, having been off for about four-and-a-half years due to a bout of meningitis which affected his balance for some time.

Trainer Dorrie Sham was instrumental in helping him renew his license and he became associated with her Fairview yard.

Sham had a long friendship with Funeka and admitted she regarded him as an “extra son.” Funeka had a winner for Sham in his second comeback meeting and finished the 2013/2014 season with 20 winners at a strike rate of 6,73%.

Gift Funeka steered Nile Symphony to a feature win in August 2014

Gift Funeka steered Nile Symphony to a feature win in August 2014

In the first part of the 2014/2015 he became associated with the likes of the George Uren and Des McLachlan/Duncan McKenzie yards, and he also had rides here and there for the like of Alan Greeff, Glen Kotzen and Mitch Wiese.

He was clearly held in high regard and consequently landed a position with the powerful yard of Yvette Bremner, having ridden two winners for her in his early handful of chances for the yard, a 50/1 shot in Leta’s Bonnet and a 28/10 favourite in Benedict.

He finished last season with 40 winners at a strike rate of just over 9%.

He had not ridden since the second Fairview Friday meeting of this season due to illness.

Funeka joined the South African Jockey’s Academy in 1995 and rode his first winner at Scottsville in April 1997 aboard the Clodagh Shaw-trained Dale Vision, a day he described as the happiest of his life. He went on to ride 48 winners as an apprentice.

One of Funeka’s nicknames was ‘Mnotho’, which means money, and was given to him by the grooms who said that whenever the money was down he would bring it home.

Funeka was born and grew up in Kwa-Mashu as one of a family of three boys and is survived by his wife Ntombi Viv, son Nkosinathi and daughter Nkanyezi.

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