AFTER jockey S’manga Khumalo had completed his first season in the saddle, he said: "Riding racehorses is a big thrill, amazing, especially when you win."
Saturday’s win on 20-1 chance Wagner, in the R2m Sansui Summer Cup at Turffontein, will not only have given Khumalo a thrill, it will also have boosted his bank balance. He will receive R125,000 — the jockey’s 10% cut from the first prize of R1.25m.
The first African jockey to compete in Australia when he was invited to ride at the Mudgee Cup in 2009, Khumalo was also getting a belated birthday present. He turned 27 last Thursday.
Despite Wagner’s recent course win over 1,800m, not many pundits felt trainer Joey Soma's four-year-old was up to beating the big stables of Mike de Kock and Sean Tarry in Saturday’s Group 1 race.
All the big bets in the antepost betting market had gone on two well-performed horses in the De Kock yard, unbeaten Aussie import Mujaarib and last season’s Dingaans victor, Silver Flyer.
The fact that neither four-year-old managed to finish in the first four left many punters speechless. It was Khumalo and Wagner who emerged out of the pack when it mattered, with the son of Tiger Ridge — carrying the colours of leading owners Markus and Ingrid Jooste — finding something extra to beat home two other long shots, Shogunnar and Ilsanpietro.
Jooste purchased Wagner for R200,000 from Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud and it has proven as shrewd an investment as his profitable deals as head of furniture group Steinhoff.
Following his no-show in the recent Victory Moon Stakes, one could not argue with the assessment of several experts that Shogunnar looked an optimistic entry. However, trainer Gavin van Zyl’s four-year-old ran the race of his life to secure the second cheque of R400,000.
With third place going to Ilsanpietro — regarded as one of the lesser lights of De Kock’s team of seven runners — the place accumulator was assured of a huge dividend and the final payout was more than R66,000.
Jockey Muzi Yeni, who has ridden Wagner three times this season, took fourth place on trainer Brian Wiid’s gelding Astro News. Interestingly, the son of Silvano cost exactly the same price as the winner when he was bought as a yearling by owner Fred Crabbia.
Bridget Oppenheimer — the grand dame of South African racing — braved the cold to see her home-bred four-year-old, Brooks-Club, take on the De Kock army. After holding a good position until 400m out, Robbie Fradd’s mount dropped out of contention.
Nevertheless, her trip to the city track proved well worthwhile, with two of her well-bred fillies, Franny and Cherry On The Top, proving too smart for their rivals in two Group 3 events, the Magnolia Handicap and Fillies’ Mile.
Although Tarry’s cup runner, Whiteline Fever, just finished out of the placings in the big race, the stable was not to be denied in the Group 2 Dingaans, with The Hangman a popular winner from the Geoff Woodruff duo of Sabadell and Killua Castle.
"Provided he gets a good draw, his target will be the Cape Guineas," commented Tarry, who trains the three-year-old for his chief patron, Chris van Niekerk.
He will receive R125,000 — the jockey’s 10% cut from the Sansui Summer Cup first prize of R1,25m