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A Champion Milestone

Has a chance longshot ride in the Woolavington

Winning Form-sponsored jockey Malesela ‘Keratile’ Katjedi was crowned Champion Apprentice at the Highveld Feature Season Awards in Sandton on Saturday.

The 19 year old dedicated the trophy to his late father, ‘LJ’ Katjedi who tragically passed away 18 years ago, having qualified as a jockey only eight days earlier.

Keratile was just 18-months old when his Dad passed on. The young man’s love for horse riding was inspired by his grandfather, Amos Katjedi, who told him about the SA Jockey Academy when he was only ten-years-old. The rest, as they say, is history.

Keratile receives his trophy from Riding Master, Robert Moore

Keratile proudly receives his trophy from Riding Master, Robert Moore (Pic – JC Photos)

Saturday evening’s function was an emotional occasion for the talented young jockey from Naboomspruit, and some highly deserved acknowledgement for hard work, dedication and commitment since he registered his first victory on the David Nieuwenhuizen-trained Golden Tune at the Vaal on 13 January 2022.

Talking to the Sporting Post afterwards, a pleased as punch Keratile said that he had prepped an acceptance speech, but that he went completely blank as he stepped up to the microphone.

“I had an idea that I was getting the award, so I wrote down a few thoughts, and made sure that I was going to show appreciation to all the right people, and demonstrate my deep humility and pride in what was a milestone in my short career. But then I stood there and forgot everything. I then spoke from the heart, which is probably the right place to speak from anyway, I suppose. And it was so good to have my Mom Nora and my Aunt Phina there to share the evening with me!’ he adds emotionally.

It’s a big seven days for Keratile, as he partners the Drakenstein bred and raced Listed Stormsvlei Stakes winner Future Girl for trainer Brett Crawford in the TAB Gr1 Woolavington 2000 on Saturday at Hollywoodbets Greyville.

We asked him how it felt to have a ride in the maiden Gr1 race of the 2024 SA Champions Season.

“It’s an honour and a true privilege to wear the Drakenstein Blue in a top level race. And if Future Girl repeats her run in the KRA Listed East Coast Cup, where Saartjie only got to us late, then she must have a chance of going very close, even if we are out of it on paper in a high quality field. I always go out positively,” he adds confidently.

Keratile is based at the Johannesburg branch of the SA Jockey Academy, alongside Siyanda Sosibo, Nirvan Nastili, and the currently injured Trent Mayhew. Due to the location of the academy, most of the work riding is done at Randjesfontein.

“I have found that things have picked up for me since I moved to Johannesburg and I really try and get to as many trainers as possible to ride as much work as the time allows. James Crawford has been very kind and helpful to me, and Kabelo (Matsunyane) and I chat a lot about tactics, and we do post-race analysis too. It helps to improve my riding, and is valuable for the next time I jump on the same horse.”

We asked him if he has to watch his weight.

“I am one of the very lucky ones. I keep fit and I can eat properly and ride at both ends of the weight spectrum. I realise that I am still young, but don’t take advantage or push the boundaries in terms of my diet,” he smiles.

So did he crack the champagne open and celebrate afterwards on Saturday evening?

“We had a great time, but no champagne as I had to make sure I got the family home safely,” he adds.

Talk of driving home was our cue to ask him about his independence and social life, his family, and the Keratile that has a life outside of racing.

“There is great camaraderie at the academy, but I also try and go home to Naboomspruit as often as I can. It’s under two hours away and we are very family oriented people.”

Does he make use of public transport?

“I have a vehicle that was gifted to me by my family. It’s definitely not fast or smart, but it’s reliable and I will never sell it,” he laughs as he tells us about his trusted hand-me-down Toyota Corolla, that gets him from A to B.

When asked how he would market a career as a jockey to future generations, Keratile adds maturely that it’s ‘simply the best job in the world’.

“Where does one get to work every day with beautiful animals, in the outdoors, and in an international sport that creates so many opportunities? It’s not a job. It’s a passion. I am living my dream, and sure, I don’t need to eat frugally and watch my diet, which is a dark downside for many guys, and there are dangers. But a positive mindset and hard work makes the sky the limit.”

Has he got a nickname?

“I have many. Keratile, MK, even the Jedi – the last four letters of my surname. I don’t mind. As long as nobody’s arguing or being nasty, they can call me anything they choose!”

He tells how he has enjoyed the support of so many and asks for the chance to thank his benefactors and supporters.

“The Hollywood Foundation has been hugely instrumental in my success as they took the financial burden of my academy fees off my grandmother’s shoulders. Winning Form is a top brand and massively supportive sponsors. Then I have mentioned my wonderful family, the owners, the trainers and our inspirational Riding Master, Mr Robert Moore. There are just so many kind people that have been behind me,” he observes.

Keratile expects to come out of his time between August and December this year. On his future plans, he says he wants to stay on the Highveld.

“Family support is all important. And I have built relationships with trainers and owners, which I’d like to try and grow. I have lots to learn, and this is a good place with great people, to build a solid foundation,” he concludes.


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1 comment on “A Champion Milestone

  1. Eric Fordred says:

    Your father would have been so proud of you and your achievements, well done to you Keratile and to Robert Moore for his mentoring of past and future champions.

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