Bling’s Lockdown Thank-You

Champion drops the reins for a keypad

The lockdown days tick away. We should have completed the Gauteng autumn season and begun the wonderful KZN winter campaign, where it’s an absolute pleasure to ride in front of my former hometown crowd, the most passionate bunch in the country.

Former SA Champion jockey S’manga ‘Bling’ Khumalo writes that he is laying in bed, and with the kids taking an afternoon nap, it dawned on him to put finger to keypad and hopefully bring a smile to all those industry roleplayers who have given him a livelihood and ultimately put food on the table for him and his grateful family for nearly two decades.

S’Manga Khumalo makes history in the 2013 Durban (Pic-Jackie Clausen)

Of course I fully understand the dangers out there with the coronavirus and I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to every single person who has lost loved ones throughout the world and may God grant you the strength in your time of need.

It has often been said that our industry is closely knit, meaning us racing people live in our own world and I couldn’t agree more, especially as this is the only sport where humans (jockeys) ride the animal.

I’ve followed many different forums during lockdown on various websites blaming those who ultimately brought our industry into bankruptcy, and I fully understand the opinions, facts and anger shared.

To be honest, my job has been to ride work at the crack of dawn, improve my skills, follow instructions – often instincts – win races and conduct myself in an acceptable manner, on and off the track. I believe I have done a decent job of that and have kept out of the politics of racing. That said, the fact that many professional and passionate people spend hours a day airing their views on our industry is nothing short of remarkable.

We race 7 days a week. Every day is a brand new episode, new headline makers, yet people never ever get tired of talking about our sport in South Africa. Can you think of another industry/sport that gets this amount of attention?

So, yes we are in our small little ‘bubble’ with numerous issues. But the passion and love for the game, and in particular the thoroughbred, is second to none. South African racing folk are born  normal but are changed in an astonishing way due to their amazing bond with the thoroughbred. For many, they’ve worked with these incredible animals their whole life and want to die alongside them. That’s what makes our industry and its people unique.

Speaking of unique, passionate and remarkable people, I first want to say THANK YOU to the Oppenheimer/Slack families for their R1 billion contribution to the Solidarity Fund and of course R100 million assistance to the horseracing industry.

Another classic Bling ride (JC Photos)

You wouldn’t find more passionate families within our sport. If I didn’t know them well, their magnanimous gestures to help the country and horseracing would have surprised me! They, under the banners of Mauritzfontein and Wilgerbosdrift Stud Farms, have sponsored me for nearly a decade and it was through their guidance and backing that I claimed both my Championships. I’ve seen their incredible generosity first hand and now the rest of the country and the world gets to see it.

The next THANK YOU is for the beloved grooms, whom I’ve worked so closely with for all my years. These incredibly hard working men of racing are the first link between horse and trainer. They take exceptional care of the animal, who becomes a part of their daily lives. It really is such a remarkable story of how much they have learnt about the thoroughbred and I have the utmost respect for their opinions.

THANK YOU to our awesome trainers in South Africa for your amazing contribution to our sport! Of course, Mr. Laird, Mr. de Kock, Mr. Ferraris, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Payne and others have shown the world that our  trainers can hold their own anywhere.

I’ve had the honour and privilege to have ridden for some of the most successful yards in the country from Mr. Laird (currently stable rider), Mr. Tarry, Mr. de Kock, Mr. Snaith and others whilst I’ve also enjoyed decent success for smaller stables. My honest opinion is that all trainers have remarkable knowledge of the thoroughbred, though their methods may differ.

S'manga Khumalo receives his gloves from HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges

S’manga Khumalo – Hong Kong hero

I sincerely hope that all our yards survive these tough times for the sake of the trainers and their staff.

THANK YOU to the owners, who love the thoroughbred and the sport unconditionally, and most of whom who continue to pay their monthly keep during these trying times. I’ve heard via my agent/manager that Mr. Laird’s patrons have been incredible during this period of non racing and that is awesome news.

I have been fortunate to become close friends with owners who are purely in this game for the love of it. Hey, we all know that you can’t make a profit from owning racehorses. A special mention to Mr. van Niekerk, Mr. Wernars, Mr. Vahab and also the Oppenheimer family who own many thoroughbreds, not least of all the unbeaten Summer Pudding, who waits anxiously to pursue Triple Tiara glory.

SA Triple Tiara candidate Summer Pudding (Pic -JC Photos)

In the same breath I THANK YOU the Racing Association for your wonderful gesture in reducing the burden for our owners during these harsh times.

THANK YOU to the NHA, and in particular their CEO Mr.Vee Moodley for your sterling efforts in trying to get racing up and running again.

THANK YOU to the Media!

Sporting Post, your daily coverage of all things racing is remarkable. From your Daily Snap Puzzle – sadly I haven’t managed one correct answer because I only got involved in horseracing at the turn of the millennium – through to your Hong Kong coverage of Moreira vs Purton, updating us with South African goings on as we wait with bated breath.

Don’t worry Mr. Andrew Bon, I’ve seen and appreciated your fine work during lockdown, the Randjesfontein video and others. The delivery is hardly surprising given your continued passion for our sport. A mention also for Racing It’s A Rush and Turf Talk who continue to promote our industry.

THANK YOU to our wonderful Breeders whose progeny have lit up South Africa’s name on the world stage on numerous occasions. You’ll have your chance to showcase your talents again soon!

It would be remiss of me not to say THANK YOU to Mr. Tex Lerena, who handles many of our jockey’s affairs and he ensured that we benefit from government’s Covid19 relief fund by handling all the paperwork timeously.

I’ve saved my penultimate THANK YOU for those whom I believe are the most important people in our industry, our passionate punters who continue to support our sport.

S'manga at Ascot

S’manga at Ascot

Your love for the adrenaline rush when backing a winner is what drives this industry, your passion and respect for all its representatives, from jockeys to trainers, owners, grooms and media isn’t unnoticed. Your enthusiasm at the track is contagious and demands that us jockeys up our game in response to the buzz and excitement.

Sadly, we’ll race behind closed doors when racing restarts.

After all, it’s a new era. But you can rest assured that we can’t wait to have you’ll at the track when permitted. We also spare a thought for everyone else not mentioned above but play a significant role in our amazing industry from the on and off course staff, to the wonderful veterinarians, right down to the feed merchants, I salute every single one of you.

And my last THANK YOU is reserved for the government when they hopefully allow us to race at level 3, maybe come June 1. We just can’t lose any more majestic animals due to euthanasia and we simply cannot afford to lose any more jobs.

By the way, the rest of the world is racing successfully behind closed doors!

This sport has given me a life thanks to all the stakeholders mentioned above and I cannot THANK YOU all enough for your incredible contributions.

The horseracing industry will recover from this disastrous setback and we’ll look back post Covid- 19, realising that yes the people in our industry are different, not normal, weird to the rest of the world – but they have enormous hearts, strength and courage to weather any storm and most of all an incredible love for the thoroughbred.

I leave you with the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Cheers to you all.


Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname – no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the EditorThe Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Popular Posts