Mike Moon
Horse racing correspondent
2 minute read
21 Jul 2021
5:49 pm

SA’s jockey talent: Quo vadis?

Mike Moon

How long before other local heroes, such as S’manga Khumalo, Lyle Hewitson, Muzi Yeni and Luyolo Mxothwa, seek greener pastures?

No sunshine, but no rain. That’s the weather forecast for Cape Town on Wednesday, when racing is scheduled at Kenilworth. Picture: iStock/ quentinjlang

One should play to one’s strengths, we are often told. But can we really make that work?

South Africa is very strong in the rioting and looting department – but all that effort doesn’t seem to get us anywhere as a nation. We’ve been stealing, burning and maiming for decades but things haven’t got any better, have they?

South Africans also excel at golf. At the recent Open Championship at Royal St Georges in England, there were 13 of them in a 156-man field; at the 2021 US PGA Championship there were 11. And there are only 150,000 registered golfers in this country.

Compare that with 60 million regular golfers in the world, with 25 million in the US, nearly two million registered in the UK and nearly a million in Germany. International golf magazines are writing stories about this South African anomaly.

We are exporting golfing talent wholesale, with most top players choosing to reside abroad for travel convenience – and, doubtless, better schooling for kids and safer neighbourhoods, far from insurgency.

Winemaking is another Saffer strength. But can the South African economy play to this strength in the face of heavy-handed lockdowns and unchecked bottle store looting like we saw last week.

Tourism? It needs no unearthly talent; the goods are just sitting there. But…

South Africans are also world-class at riding racehorses. From a relatively tiny industry, we have produced champion jockeys in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Mauritius, Macau, Zimbabwe and, quite possibly, Timbuktu.

Michael “Muis” Roberts, Jeff Lloyd, Dougie Whyte, Karis Teetan, Aldo Domeyer and many more are known and respected around the world. Some have remained in exile, a few have returned home.

This week came news that another of our best jockeys is shoving off. The brilliant young Callan Murray – a future champion jockey if there ever was one – is packing for Australia.

The news comes hot on the heels of Luke Ferraris – another odds-on future champ – cracking a licence to ride in Hong Kong.

Maybe it’s just two kids off to seek their fortune, but it’s sad that the fortune isn’t here. The South African racing set-up weakens as such talent drips away.

How long before other local heroes, such as S’manga Khumalo, Lyle Hewitson, Muzi Yeni and Luyolo Mxothwa, seek greener pastures?

Jockeys riding off into the sunset might not sound a big deal in the context of crime on the streets and dim-witted governance, but it is one more lost opportunity and one more straw for the camel’s back.

Perhaps we should start racing camels. We’re sure to be good at it.