Sleepy Hollow – Bo’s One Horse Town Of Choice!

Lightning Jimmy realises a dream

The happiest racehorse trainer in South Africa on Sunday. That’s the only way of describing Sboniso ‘Bo’ Ngcobo, a qualified Mechanical Engineer, and former Fireman, who celebrated his first winner – and that with the solitary horse in his Summerveld stable – just a stone’s throw from the dusty streets of the township where he played as a young lad.

Using the well-worn horseracing clichés of passion and commitment feels near ridiculous when reflecting on the raw and unflinching dedication to duty of the 48 year old, who has just one horse – yes, one horse – in his yard.

Bo Ngcobo and Smanga Khumalo join Lightning Jimmy in a memorable photograph (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)(

“I really do only have the one horse and a solitary staffmember. But I am there every day at 05h30 and spend the same amount of time at my yard as many trainers with packed barns,” laughed the delighted horseman, as he chatted to the Sporting Post in the aftermath of Lightning Jimmy’s knockout win in the opener at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in the KZN Capital City of Pietermaritzburg – also known as ‘Sleepy Hollow’ or the ‘City Of Choice’ – on Sunday.

Ridden by former SA Champion jockey Smanga Khumalo, the 3yo Fort Stud-bred Lightning Jimmy just kept on doggedly at 20-1 to hold off the attentions of the well-fancied 8-10 Plattner galloper Trippi T, whose winning turn surely can’t be far off.

The Willow Magic gelding, who races in a partnership of Bo and his good friend and client Mbuyi Mkhize, the nephew of Dr Zweli Mkhize and, like Bo, a past Chairman of the KZN Rural Horse Riding Association, was earning at his eleventh start and Bo indicates – albeit in hindsight for the rest of us – that he felt his charge would run a place.

Smanga Khumalo keeps Lightning Jimmy rolling to beat the fancied Trippi T (Calvin Habib) in a thrilling finish (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“I would be lying if I said I thought we could beat the Andre Nel horse, but I was convinced we’d finish in the top four. Lightning Jimmy had turned the corner this past week, and he appears over his knee issues.”

He went on to add enthusiastically that Smanga Khumalo had ridden a really top-class race.

“What a proud day for all of my family, and for all those that have believed in me!” he said, as he suggested that the length of the list of people who had supported him, was too long to even begin to mention.

“My biggest supporter, my wife Wendy, was down with the flu and I am sad that she missed a day I have dreamt about forever. She has been an enormous source of help as she works hard to contribute as a breadwinner, in a family where Dad is a racehorse trainer, with one horse,” he added emotionally as he also recounted the wonders of the teacher that is YouTube, and the therapeutic benefits of ice.

Enjoy the replay:

“I don’t have big name owners with cash to burn. And thus I cannot pick up the phone to the Vet every time I have an issue. So I have learnt to sit for hours and educate myself on YouTube on basics like using ice on horse’s legs, for example. I have also had some excellent teachers along the way, but there is nothing like solving an issue by finding solutions and reading.”

Bo and Wendy have four sons, ranging in age from 25 to 8 years of age, and the family home is situated at Zwelibomvu in the Emabhaceni district.

“I have quarters at Summerveld in view of the long hours involved with looking after even just the one horse, and I enjoy the support of a wonderful wife and the passionate racing folk at Gold Circle, who have been so good to me.”

Bo is congratulated by his colleague, Michael Roberts (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Bo was born in 1976 – a tumultuous year in South Africa’s history – and grew up in the poverty-stricken environs of the Imbali Township near Pietermaritzburg.

Unlike many who fell by the wayside, he was fortunate to be educated at Adams College near Amazimtoti, and went on to rise up above the obstacles that he faced,eventually qualifying as a Chemical Engineer at Mangosuthu University Of Technology.

He worked in a variety of jobs after qualifying, but his Grandfather – the racing man in the Ngcobo family – had planted the seed, and despite doing well enough at some big companies, including Nampak Tissue, Bo’s heart was not in it, and he kept dreaming of a Lightning Jimmy!

“I actually had dreams of becoming a jockey, but at the time, there was no real appetite for somebody like myself to join that career route. And maybe I am fortunate – look at me today. I enjoy food too much,” he laughs.

On 1 March 2015 his incredible journey began under the mentorship of leading KZN trainer Tony Rivalland, and in 2022 Bo wrote his exams and passed the requirements to become a trainer.

“I was supported early on by Mrs Mary Slack, and did my best with the few horses I had . I am deeply indebted to the wonderful lady, but today, courtesy of Lightning Jimmy, I move forward in the hope that maybe another owner will see fit to give me a break. If I had even five horses, I would be doing cartwheels. It would be a privilege. I am not suggesting I am any more entitled to support than the next man, but I would just love the chance to prove myself. My heart and soul is in this. Believe me!” he said.

What a great story to bring the curtain down on the racing weekend!

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