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The Mariba Magic!

First Gr1 win for Kuruman-born jockey

Beating his good mate and champion colleague Smanga Khumalo in a thrilling finish to Saturday’s WSB Gr1 SA Classic will go down as the nearest thing to the most memorable moment of 29 year old Julius ‘Juju’ Mariba’s  eleven year career in the saddle.

In increasingly deteriorating wet conditions, Red Saxon showed the improvement over the 1800m on his home track to beat the highly vaunted SA Triple Crown first leg winner, Safe Passage.

All smiles – Julius Mariba is overjoyed (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

“It felt like a dream as Red Saxon surged forward down the rail to grab Safe Passage in the final run to the line. The world sort of went quiet, and all I recall at the pull-up was Gavin Lerena, Muzi Yeni and Craig Zackey shouting ‘well done Juju’. I am still pinching myself today,” the elated Dad of two told the Sporting Post in a catch-up on Monday morning.

“When I got back to the weighing room the guys were all so kind and happy for me. What a memorable feeling!” he adds emotionally.

There has to be something in the ‘rides of March’ metaphorical moniker for the Kuruman-born Julius Mariba.

Red Saxon beats Safe Passage (Smanga Khumalo) in a thriller (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

On Saturday 5 March 2022 he steered his first ever Gr1 winner home for trainer and part owner Joey Soma and the Bhana family when Red Saxon found reserves of courage to lower the colours of the fancied Safe Passage.

On Sunday 13 March 2011 Julius steered his first career winner past the now consigned to the scrapheap of history Clairwood lollipop when Mogok’s son Sunday Monday won for trainer Ivan Moore.

“Maybe there is something in March, but my birthday is on 23 October,” he laughs.

But those two major March month milestones, albeit some eleven years apart, are highlights and we asked the clearly chuffed Juju how it happened that he rode a Gr1 horse for a top Gr1 conditioner.

“I suppose you can say that I haven’t ridden a lot of Gr1 horses over the years. It’s all about the opportunities and the breaks along the way. Not that we don’t make our own luck, but my three winners – Happy And Glorious, Great Warrior and African Adventure – for Mr Soma at Turffontein on Durban July day 2021 was probably the turning point in our association. The great man has motivated, driven and supported me ever since. I am most thankful to him for getting me working, no matter whether the sun is shining or it’s raining – he’s a true professional and I’m really honoured to be a part of the team,” adds Julius, whose five winners this term are all for the Soma yard.

He said that after a year in Port Elizabeth, he had moved back to Gauteng and tried his luck at Randjesfontein.

“Most trainers have their dedicated jockeys. And now with the standalone meetings on a Saturday, it is really tough securing rides without support. So I must thank Mr Soma again!”

Julius is excited about Red Saxon and cautioned that we have definitely not yet seen the best of the 3yo son of Red Ray!

The return of the triumphant team (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

“The Classic really all worked out well. Mr Soma had Red Saxon spot on, and I was feeling great. You know professional riding is also about confidence. When Mr Soma gave me a leg up there was no pressure. He just said to me that it was my time to show what I could do. Red Saxon had done his work as there had not been much rain in the build-up. He simply said to me that I must ride my race. And I did. I am still on cloud nine!”

Julius is the ham on the Mariba family sandwich – with two brothers and two sisters on either side of the age spectrum.

He knew nothing about horses and less about racing the day the SA Jockey Academy Marketing Manager pricked the interest and changed the life of the slightly built youngster in the assembly of a non-descript High School in the dusty backwaters of the Northern Cape, 14 years back.

He walked through the doors of the world respected jockey training centre in 2009 alongside Jason Smitsdorff, Denise Lee, Keagan De Melo and Stallone Naidoo.

While racing is a fickle game, and Julius is riding the crest of the wave in the aftermath of Saturday, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park for the young man whose career has vacillated between a tardy start, a winner in New Zealand during the Asian Young Guns Challenge in August 2013, some frustrating times, and now a potential gamechanging Gr1 victory.

Joey and Julius enjoy the moment with the team (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)


Julius, who lives with his fiancé Glodine Visagie and their 4yo daughter in Eden Park in Alberton, acknowledges that with this confidence-boosting success behind him, fitness, no health or weight issues (he goes to scale at 52kgs),  and terrific family support, he has no excuses at all not to go on and emulate his heroes, Smanga Khumalo and Joao Moreira.

“The rock-solid support of a happy family life is very important. I only see my folks in Kuruman about once a year, but my Alberton family are always my greatest fans!”

We asked how he was feted when he arrived home after races on Saturday. It appears there was no ticker tape parade to speak of!

“Well, my family aren’t exactly people who are glued to the television watching racing all afternoon. There was no real fuss as Glodine had been in church at the time of the race and had picked up the result on her cell-phone. But when it all sank in, there was great jubilation!”

And how will the Kaiser Chiefs fan be formally celebrating the big win?

“The jocks have already reminded me that the braai is on me!”

Watch the race replay here:

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3 comments on “The Mariba Magic!

  1. Mike Buck says:

    Top class ride my brother

  2. Gavin Bechan says:

    rode a screamer to out ride khumalo in the finish

  3. Umm,OK. But my point is that I don’t understand what it is about the last sentence you don’t understand? Please explain. What do you mean by “average”?

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