The Fight To Be Champion

In Black And White

black_whiteThe two different worlds of the veteran champion and the up-and-coming super talented youngster fighting for supremacy at the top of the South African national jockey log is the stuff of movie scripts – and something that the sport of horseracing should be savouring and celebrating.

In the old days it may have meant a new hairdo, some variety in make-up and a new outfit or two.

In the not so New South Africa transformation has often been a bain for corporate structures since it became a buzz word just over twenty years.

But horseracing can stand a little proud. Even if we have our problems in other sectors of the industry.

While S’manga Khumalo led the charge and was the first man of colour to win the Vodacom Durban July and made history in lifting the 2013/14 SA champion jockey title, there is something about the baby-faced diminutive Muzi Yeni that barks loudly of the underdog on the up.

Generation Gap. Muis Roberts with Muzi Yeni.

Generation Gap. Muis Roberts with Muzi Yeni.


There can surely be no better example of genuine transformation than when the 28yo Claremont-born Muzi Yeni gets to within a heartbeat of 3 winners of the master Piere Strydom, a man who grew up in a a different world in conservative Port Elizabeth and twenty years plus his senior.

Yeni booted home four winners at Flamingo Park on Monday and in terms of pure riding engagements is one of the busiest jockeys in the country.

Strydom has declared that he is not chasing the championship, but if he happens to be in the firing line then he will consider it closer to the end of the season.

Strydom leads the championship with 101 winners from 414 rides with a win strike rate of 24%.

Sihle Botman

Striker Strydom teaching Sihle to ride

Yeni was right behind him with 98 winners from 698 rides with a win strike rate of around 14%.

The disparity in the ratio of number of rides and winners versus individual gross stakes earned shows that Yeni is plying his trade in the lesser centres and the less glamorous races.

His three winner shortfall has him some R7 million adrift of Strydom!

Horseracing Transforming?

In 2013 it was announced that the Department of Trade and Industry would put together a team of facilitators to assist the horse-racing industry to transform.

“It has become clear during the presentations and inputs of various stakeholders that we are not close to achieving inclusivity and transformation in the horse-racing industry. But we are committed to assisting the industry transform, and in order to achieve this we will appoint a team of facilitators who will consult with everyone involved and produce recommendations which will make everyone happy to go forward,” said Minister Rob Davies.

Robin Bruss requested Minister Davies to institute a commission of enquiry into horse-racing in the country in order to “inform an appropriate and equitable dispensation leading to a sustainable growth path for all who participate in the industry”.

Denzil Pillay - racing is transforming

Denzil Pillay – racing is transforming

Bruss added that the unique structure of the horse-racing industry – its categorisation into breeders which is part of agriculture, racing (sport) and gambling (trade and industry), was a barrier to transformation.

Although the Chief Executive of the National Horseracing Authority, Mr Denzil Pillay said the industry was in the throes of transforming itself, the presentation made by the Chairman of the South African Grooms Association, Mr Chopelikaya Simoto, indicated that the two stakeholders are diametrically opposed.

This prompted Minister Davies to offer to appoint facilitators to help bring all the stakeholders closer in order to agree of the way forward before he could make present recommendations and proposal to the gambling council.

A sobering last word from Muzi Yeni:

“Interest in horseracing within the black community seems to be growing very slowly. I will probably be a trainer by the time black interest reaches any great heights!”

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