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Bling Chases Hollywoodbets Durban July Double

Can Rain In Holland win it from the 17 barrier gate

It’s been a productive and another character-building season for Hollywoodbets Durban July defending champion jockey Smanga ‘Bling’ Khumalo. He’s in third place on the national jockey log, and things could have been even better had he not lost the ride on current big race favourite See It Again due to a suspension.

But he tells us that he is very honoured and privileged to be riding the Drakenstein star Rain In Holland for trainer Sean Tarry on Saturday 1 July.

Smanga Khumalo and Rain In Holland team up in the Hollywoodbets Durban July (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“It hasn’t been a half bad season at all, to be honest. I have ridden over 150 winners, including two Gr1 wins in Bless My Stars and Rain In Holland, and a good handful of other feature victories. Obviously, the suspensions have been a setback as I lost my SpashOut Cape Derby ride on the winner, and current July favourite, See It Again – but that’s racing! I’m blessed, no matter the ups and downs, to be in this wonderful sport and to achieve success in it is never taken for granted,” he adds philosophically, as he welcomes us and tells that there’s definitely plenty of sentimentality in his engagement for the Tarry yard.

“Mr. Tarry gave me my first Durban July winner on Heavy Metal in 2013, exactly a decade ago and quite astonishingly that was his last victory in this famous race. It just proves how difficult it is to win it. I would love nothing more than to end that barren spell for him!” he adds with steely determination.

A dual national champion, the very charming Smanga is one of South Africa’s poster boy popular riders. He really is a mobile billboard for everything that horseracing has done right in the 21st century.

Turning 38 in November, Smanga reflects on his life and tells the Sporting Post that he has found a deep contentment and  mature balance between family life and the hard-knocks world of horseracing.

Bling wins the 2013 Durban July on Heavy Metal (Pic – Gold Circle)

Like any top jockey, he has had his love-hate tussles with the racing public, but finds strength and solace in coming home to his wife Pertunia Morais, and their three beautiful children Persia, Kaiden and little Evolet.

“Family is important for all of us. I am very fortunate in that respect. While Pertunia and our children will be watching the Hollywoodbets Durban July on television from Johannesburg, I will have my Durban fans – my Mom and Sister – at Hollywoodbets Greyville, shouting me home and probably almost expecting me to ride twelve winners on the day,” he smiles broadly.

It’s no wonder Mom and Sister are proud of Smanga!

After his terrific record-breaking July win on Heavy Metal in 2013, he went on to become the 2013/2014 national champion jockey, booting home 183 winners. He set a personal best 198 winners the following season when finishing second in the 2014/15 championship to Gavin Lerena. He then won the championship for a second time in 2015/2016 with 243 wins.

“It’s a competitive world. We have great jockeys in every racing centre. People are wagering hard-earned cash. It’s all flesh and blood. And emotions and reactions will happen. As long as I am doing my best, then that’s all that matters.”

Smanga says that he has read in the media that if he gets Rain In Holland home, he will join the illustrious ranks of C MacDonald (1900/1901), Syd Garrett (1919/1920), Anthony Delpech (2010/2011) and Richard Fourie (2019/2020), as jockeys to have won the Durban July two years in succession.

However, his victory will be the first time in history a female horse has won the race two years in succession.

We ask him if he believes he really can win it, and what about that widish 17 gate?

“It could have been so much better! Mr. Tarry was right next to barrier draw 1,” he laughs in reference to his stablemate Bless My Stars getting the pole position draw.

“I know he believes in me, though. So he probably preferred to give me the difficult task knowing that I can certainly do the job. It isn’t the worst thing being drawn out wide in the July either, as we witnessed with Kommetdieding – especially when they almost inevitably ease the pace halfway through. I know that I’m on a horse that is prepared by a brilliant conditioner who’ll have her super fit, she stays extremely well and hopefully with ‘luck in running’ she’ll be in the shake up!”

And will there be a pace?

“Judging by the way Dave The King raced strongly from the front in his great Daily News 2000 run, at this early stage I’m expecting him to lead us, and it will be interesting to see if his regular jockey can bring him back. Otherwise it could be another true test of stamina. I’ll do a more thorough analysis closer to the time and happily chat to you and your readers,” he adds helpfully.

Bling won the 2022 Hollywoodbets Durban July on Sparkling Water for Mike de Kock. We asked him how the talented daughter of Silvano compares to SA Triple Tiara winner, Rain In Holland.

Smanga wins the 2022 Hollywoodbets Durban July on Sparkling Water (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“They’re both extremely powerful ladies, and difficult to handle. l don’t think people appreciate what it takes to settle them. That said, their huge hearts drive those magnificent engines. It really is a true pleasure to partner them both, and they’re exactly the kind of horses us jockeys dream of discovering when we rush off to track work in the mornings.”

Asked how the Bling of 2013 had changed to the Bling in 2023, he almost shyly says that he has grown in stature both on and off the thoroughbred.

“I have grown up and improved. I have worked on my physical fitness and my biceps are evidence of that. It helps with the tearaways! And I have a top agent in Monty Mariemuthoo looking after my rides. It helps me so much!”

Asked about other possible winners on Hollywoodbets Durban July day, he says he has no other ‘big rides’, but that was the same position he approached the day from in 2022.

Smanga gives the thumbs-up (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“But I ended up winning the Hollywoodbets Durban July and another two winners, including the colts’ sales race – let’s hope for a repeat!”

As we stand up to say farewell, Bling asks that we record his thanks and appreciation to all the trainers and owners who have entrusted him with their horses.

“Perhaps I can use the Sporting Post platform to thank all those trainers who have entrusted me with their horses, particularly Gavin Smith and Alan Greeff in Port Elizabeth, Joey Soma and Sean Tarry in Gauteng, Dennis Bosch in KwaZulu-Natal and many others.”

A last word or two?

“See you at Hollywoodbets Greyville on 1 July. It’s going to be out of this world! Whoop, whoop!” he laughs. 

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