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Lunga’s Ready To Train A Winner!

First runners expected on Tuesday 28 February

After close on 25 years in horseracing, and managing a few potholes in the long and winding road along the way, Transkei-born Lunga Gila will proudly celebrate the launch of his training career when he sends out his first runners at Fairview on Tuesday 28 February.

The 40 year old family man says with a broad smile that he has paid his ‘school fees’.

Thumbs-up from a man who is chomping at the bit!

Lunga had a long stint as the right hand man of former trainer Mitch Wiese at the Fairview stables.  He then worked for the Glen Kotzen-stable, running the satellite yard in Gqeberha. When Kotzen closed the yard in 2015, Gila joined him at Woodhill in Paarl and later ran the Kotzen satellite yard in Durban.

Kotzen wished Lunga well, describing him as a ‘very likeable person, diligent, with good stable management skills’.

Prior to his abortive trip to set up shop at Randjesfontein, Lunga was in charge of the satellite yard of KwaZulu-Natal trainer Kom Naidoo at Fairview.

When we spoke to him on Tuesday, he was excitedly prepping his new barn next door veteran Cliffie Miller at Fairview.

“For the past few weeks Jacques Strydom has been assisting me with stabling, but I have the keys for my barn and I have ten horses arriving at lunch-time today (Tuesday), together with the four I already have,” he adds enthusiastically.

He has 28 boxes and is hoping to increase his string over the next few months.

“I have been very fortunate to get good support and also have a great team to back me. When I left Gqeberha I sent some of the guys up to KZN. My staff are key – we work well together and they know that I am there for them,” he adds.

Asked about which jockeys have been riding work and who he will be using, Lunga concedes that being a small yard means he uses the jockeys that want to ride for him.

“The big yards can offer the top jockeys so much more. At my first meeting I hope to give Wayne Agrella and Ryan Munger a ride or two.”

Dressed for success – Lunga is hoping to make a success of his new venture

And will he be starting on a winning note?

“Now you are putting me under pressure! We are always trying our best, believe me!”

The charismatic horseman is a likeable straight-shooter and has clearly put the bizarre events of Randjesfontein in November 2022 behind him.

After reporting the behaviour of his only owner Mano Pandaram to the National Horseracing Authority out of concern for possible contraventions of regulations, the welfare of his horses, and his own reputation, Lunga found himself without a licence and ironically on the receiving end of negative publicity that threatened to ruin his dream of running his own yard.

The National Horseracing Authority subsequently imposed an interim suspension on horses in the name of the owner, and that were under the care of Lunga until 30 November 2022.

The devastated trainer told the Sporting Post at the time that he was actually never allowed to be the trainer but was confident that an investigation would reveal the truth. As demonstrated by the fact that he now holds his trainer’s licence, he was exonerated and shown to have acted correctly.

It had been a huge setback and led to something of an industry outcry. And it wasn’t an easy decision for Lunga to leave his beloved Eastern Cape and relocate to Gauteng in the first place.

As veteran journalist Henk Steenkamp reported recently, Lunga handled the situation very professionally.

He subsequently thanked the people that supported him through that difficult time in a statement on Monday.

“To my fellow trainers, friends and supporters, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you that stood by me and gave of your unconditional support and advice during my time of turmoil in recent months.It was greatly appreciated and I honestly cannot thank you enough. Here’s to many successes and winning ways to us all,”said the much happier looking trainer.

Lunga is keen to fill the boxes and start sending out winners and can be contacted at [email protected].

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