Michael Rows His Boat Ashore

Michael Mahiakola hits the boards running

Corpus Christi RA presentation

The winners – Brian Wiid, Bonnie Maponya, Andrew Fortune, Chichi Maponya, and Michael Mahiakola are all smiles (JC Photos)

An epic tale of perseverance lies behind the fascinating story of debut winner Corpus Christi at Turffontein on Saturday.  A power partnership of two successful businessmen and the never-say-die approach of a young man with the gift of the gab, who never made the cut as a jockey or Tellytrack employee, but who was determined to train racehorses, unfolded as Andrew Fortune steered another winner home.

This is one story where the legendary Fortune really just plays a minor role as the winning jockey.

The star is 31 year old Johannesburg-born Michael Tshetso Mahiakola, a father of two. He is veteran trainer Brian Wiid’s assistant  – and a guy who has both impressed and irked some folk on his short but colourful racing journey so far.

Saturday’s winner Corpus Christi was one of three horses purchased by Herman Brown Snr on behalf of Dr Richard Maponya and Edward Bouwer – two power players whom Michael Mahiakola brought together – after an introduction to Dr Maponya by Tellytrack’s Nico Kritsiotis.

But the story starts some 20 years ago.

Turffontein

Michael went to school  just a stone’s throw from Turffontein and he often visited Tony Nassif’s yard to spend time with the horses.

Being small of stature, the natural progression was to become a jockey.

After he matriculated in 2003, he joined the South African Jockeys’ Academy in 2004. After the initial 18 months at the academy in Durban, he was sent to Zimbabwe.

He eventually landed up back in Joburg after deciding, following a fall, that race-riding was not his game.

Nico Kritsiotis - saw potential in Michael

Nico Kritsiotis – saw potential in Michael

After hitting brick walls in his endeavours to break into racing, he impressed Nico Kritsiotis sufficiently and was given a contract at the racing broadcaster.

“Michael is nobody’s fool and he has a sparkling energy and enthusiasm that is infectious. I could see though that he wanted to work with the horses. I was happy that he made contact with Michel Nairac in Durban and off he went with my encouragement to go and live his dream,” says Kritsiotis.

Training

Gold Circle Chief Executive Michel Nairac was also as taken as Kritsiotis and he brought local trainer Mike Miller on board and agreed to pay Mahiakola a stipend while he learnt the ropes.

Miller enjoyed the raw recruit’s passion and will to learn and after some valued guidance from Gavin Van Zyl and Herman Brown senior along the way, Michael was ready to take on the world.

He obtained his assistant trainer ticket in January and is well on his way to carving out a career in one of the toughest professions on earth.

“Mike de Kock has said that you never stop learning in this game – I’m willing to keep on learning. And with great men like Dr Maponya on my side it should be easy to target other businessmen,” he said.

Shut Doors

Corpus Christi lead

Corpus Christi is led in by Michael and Brian Wiid (JC Photos)

On Saturday Mahiakola reflected on a rollercoaster few years and paid tribute to Mike Miller, Brian Wiid, Herman Brown Snr, Michel Nairac, Graeme Hawkins and Nico Kritsiotis –“these guys believed in me when others shut doors”, he said proudly.

Nico Kritsiotis, who has played the role of mentor and sounding board to Michael, was elated after Corpus Christi won on Saturday:

“I am so pleased. He talks a big game and is aiming high – but with his drive and passion, the world is his oyster. And with these powerful businessmen behind him and believing in him, who knows where he could go?”

Mike Miller summed it up well: “He’s a hard worker and has the gift of the gab, which is half the battle in this game.”

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