Horses / Columnists
For South African racing’s future to look brighter, there must be more transformation.
Importantly, racing needs an influx of black owners. For it is horse owners’ money that powers the game and it is owners who ultimately run it. A dwindling group of white owners is clearly unsustainable and the economic future of South Africa is inevitably in majority black hands.
Anyone with half a brain knows this, of course. There might be pockets of prejudice in racing, even racism, but there is no strong sense of whitey wanting to cling on to the death in an enclave. Indeed, every application from a black person for racing colours is quietly celebrated by most in the racing fold – and when those colours are carried to victory a feel-good atmosphere pervades the game.
A recent example was 10 days ago at Turffontein, when Madimetja Koos Nkale’s horse MK’s Pride won the R900,000 Peermont Emperors Palace Ready-To-Run Cup – the richest race to be run in South Africa post-lockdown.
MK’s Pride is the first horse that long-time punter Nkale has owned and it was his third win in four starts. Having been bought for R100,000, the colt has already earned more than R500,000 in stakes and is destined for bigger things – starting with the Grade 2 Dingaans in a few weeks’ time, according to his trainer, Paul Peter.
Nkale’s post-Cup interview was a good advert for racehorse ownership, with the retired schoolteacher from Pretoria infectiously joyful in the big moment. He told of how current Equus Horse of the Year Summer Pudding had been his inspiration.
“When I saw Summer Pudding win, I decided Mr Paul Peter was my trainer. This is a wonderful day for racing and for South Africa – we prayed and I thank the Almighty!” he said.
Despite speculation, the horse’s name is not a homage to Umkhonto we Sizwe, but references Nkale’s initials. And the gold and black colours are neither a nod to the ANC nor to Summer Pudding’s silks, but in honour of Kaizer Chiefs, the football team of which Nkale is a big fan.
Nkale bought the then unnamed son of Willow Magic on a 2019 Ready-To-Run Sale – at the suggestion of Mike Mahiakola, currently South Africa’s only licenced black trainer.
Nkale saying the win was good for the country might have been a bit over the top but it did reveal an understanding of how it could encourage other black people to follow his example.
Of course, there has been a smattering of black owners over the years – most famously the late Richard Maponya, the self-made-millionaire retail tycoon who defied 1980s apartheid laws to race horses from the Mike Azzie yard – in ANC colours, nogal. (A couple of Maponya estate runners step out at the Victory Moon Stakes meeting at Turffontein on Saturday.)
Others have included the likes of Hleli Nhlapo, William Nsele and Bridgette Radebe, the latter a mining mogul and sister of Patrice Motsepe, one of South Africa’s richest men. (Getting Motsepe himself into racing would be a coup!)
Scores of South Africans of Asian extraction own horses and a glance through any race card reveals names suggesting a United Nations of backgrounds. Yet African names remain sparse.
The team engineering Phumelela’s business rescue have stated plainly that transformation of the industry is high on their agenda.
The most obvious racial diversity in the sport is in the jockey ranks, with S’manga Khumalo having won a national championship and Muzi Yeni among the very best riders in the country. Other successful talents in the game include Luyolo Mxothwa, Eric Ngwane, Khanya Sakayi and Anthony Mgudlwa.
Aspirant black owners have a perfect opportunity to realise their dreams this week, with the Bloodstock SA Two Year Old Sale being held at the TBA Complex in Germiston on Thursday and Friday. They can be assured of a warm welcome and expert advice from the scores of trainers gathered there to buy new stock; ladies and gents who have been crying out for new clients for years.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.