Tag Archives: Ashleigh Hughes

Bring The Bling ~ By Ashleigh Hughes

It’s not often one gets to witness a true “rags to riches” story in real time. To see that person become not just very successful but a national champion in their field, is something very special. S’manga Khumalo is that person. He is a record breaker and a trend setter, a person looked up to and adored by a whole legion of fans around the country. He is the first black South African to ride the winner of the Vodacom Durban July and the first black South African to win the national Jockey’s Championship – twice! He has risen above extreme adversity to become one of the most successful jockeys in our country’s history.

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal Photo Courtesy: Gold Circle

Khumalo grew up in KwaMashu, which was one of the most violent areas in South Africa, during the apartheid era. The unrest during these troubled times was at its zenith during his early school days. His mother was a domestic worker and he grew up poverty-stricken, with very limited opportunities in every aspect of his life. He was one of 5 children – he has one brother and three sisters. Being exceptionally short in stature, he was often picked on by fellow schoolchildren. He dreamed of growing taller to defend himself.

He was at Mzuvele High School when the scouts from the South African Jockey Academy came to talk to the pupils there. He was approached immediately because of his small size but he was very sceptical about what they were suggesting. Horseracing was a very white-dominated industry in those days, and Khumalo could not see himself being part of that world. He’d never even touched a horse in his life at that stage. But in July 2000 his mind was changed. His interest in racing had been piqued and he started reading the racing sections in the local papers. Khumalo saw that the late Gift Funeka was going to be the very first black jockey to ride in the Durban July. His mount was a tall dark bay gelding called His Nibs (NZ), who was trained by Anil Maharaj. His Nibs (NZ) finished unplaced in the race but Funeka’s ground-breaking ride was enough to inspire Khumalo to follow up with the Jockey Academy.

When he entered the Academy, Khumalo was quite overwhelmed. The cultural and language difficulties seemed almost insurmountable but the SAJA are world renowned for their one-on-one guidance of their apprentice jockeys. The staff made sure he was not left to flounder and he picked up on everything very quickly. That year also saw Robert and Sandile Khathi, Sihle Cele and the late Sylvester Mtshali join the Academy. They all formed a firm friendship and with each other’s support, they all flourished as apprentices.

Most apprentices are relocated to other centres when they have completed their third year at the Academy itself. Khumalo was relocated to Zimbabwe and with support from Lisa Harris and Kirk Swanson, he rode his very first winner there. The Johannesburg Jockey Academy master at the time was Robert Moore – a ex-Zimbabwean himself. Moore quickly realised that Khumalo was an above average rider and recommended he be relocated to Johannesburg.

Smanga 2

Being apprenticed to a trainer like Alec Laird is a very strong boost for a young jockey’s career and it certainly was the catalyst for Khumalo’s tremendous success. Based at the North Rand Training Centre in Randjesfontein, Khumalo rode work for a number of the bigger trainers who train from there. Not only was he getting rides from the Laird stable but Sean Tarry also recognised his potential as a rider so he gave him many opportunities to ride some top horses. Khumalo also rode a lot of work at Turffontein where he found the support of Joe Soma and Chris Erasmus.

By the time Khumalo graduated from the Jockey Academy in 2006, he’d ridden approximately 120 winners in total. Every jockey dreams of riding a Gr1 winner and his chance came up in March 2011 aboard St John Gray’s superstar mare, Dancewiththedevil. Khumalo rode the tenacious mare to victory in the R1 Million Gr1 Horse Chestnut 1600m, beating a field of colts and geldings by 5.5 lengths. A mere 17 days later he won a second Gr1 aboard Dancewiththedevil – the Gr1 Empress Club Stakes. A year later he partnered the mare again and won the G1 Horse Chestnut 1600m again, beating the boys once more. That was just the start of Khumalo’s meteoric rise to the top.

On 1 December 2012, Khumalo won the Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup aboard the Joe Soma-trained Wagner. The Summer Cup was first run in December 1888 and is one of the biggest racing events on the Johannesburg racing calendar. Khumalo has always held Soma in high regard and often mentions him as one of his early mentors. “He’s tough to work for but very fair. And he gave me many opportunities at the start of my professional career”.

The Gr1 victories did not stop there and in April 2013, Khumalo piloted the Sean Tarry-trained Heavy Metal to win the Gr1 Premier’s Champions Challenge. That race is always a good indicator for Durban July potential and in 2013 it was true to form. Heavy Metal dug deep under Khumalo to beat the Snaith trained Run For It by just 0.3 lengths.

But this was no ordinary victory. S’manga Khumalo became the very first black jockey to win the Gr1 Vodacom Durban July. It was a sensational moment for everyone involved but possibly most of all for Smanga’s mother. “As I came to the number one box down at the grandstand, my mum was there in front. She was screaming and thanking all the people that made it possible and also looking back to her family and to our ancestors. She was thanking all of them, from the grandmother to great-grandmother – because they watch over us. They’re like our ‘guiding angels’. She was overwhelmed and happy.”

As a youngster Khumalo often referred to Nelson Mandela as his hero. He said that Mandela had changed the course of history which allowed people like himself to have an opportunity to be successful. Before the start of the 2013 Vodacom Durban July, there was a 67 second period of silence to pay respect to Mandela, who was gravely ill at the time. In the post-race interview, Khumalo dedicated his win to his hero Madiba and there was not a dry eye anywhere.

Khumalo’s winning streak meant that he was in with a very good chance of winning the national jockey’s premiership. And even though he had made history at Greyville that Saturday winning the Durban July, he had 4 rides at Turffontein in Johannesburg the next day. He decided to forego the celebrations and so he was in good form the next day, riding another winner. At this stage he was riding in races five days every week, literally travelling the entire country to chase as many winners as he could. It was not in vain and for the second time in a month he made South African history, winning the National Jockey’s Championship for the first time. He was the first black South African to achieve this!

It was not easy winning the jockey’s championship for the 2013/ 2014 season, which is always hotly contested every year. Khumalo travelled the country to ride 1381 horses to win 185 races. His nearest rival, Richard Fourie, rode 143 winners to finish second. In third place was Khumalo’s long-time friend Muzi Yeni, who rode 142 winners. The following season Khumalo finished second to Gavin Lerena. They rode 220 and 198 winners respectively. It was in the 2015/ 2016 season that Khumalo really showed his mettle, winning the national championship again. This time he had 243 wins from 1348 rides.

In early 2014 Khumalo secured the ride on a little bay filly trained by Sean Tarry called Carry On Alice. She made her debut in the Gr3 Pretty Polly Stakes, which is rather unusual, and she finished a creditable third behind the very useful Majmu (AUS). She won her next two starts also under Khumalo, including the Gr1 South African Nursery, against the colts. This was just the beginning of a very fruitful relationship between Khumalo and Carry on Alice. He rode her in every one of her victories, which included five Gr1 wins all over the country. She rounded off her remarkable career at Scottsville Racecourse on 27 May 2017, winning the Gr1 South African Fillies Sprint. This brought her tally to 11 wins from 29 starts, with 13 places and R4 586 562 in stakes. It was a dream partnership for all involved.

Carry On Alice 27 May

Carry on Alice Photo Courtesy: Gold Circle



Khumalo is well-known for his trendsetting fashion sense and his nickname “Bling” comes from his trademark diamond stud earrings. He is the South African dream personified. He grew up in abject poverty and rose up to the very top of his game, in spite of the many challenges he has faced. He has moved his mother out of the township and bought her a house in a more affluent suburb. He continues to support her and his other family members. They are always at the races to support him especially on the big race days. When asked if he has a “woman behind the successful man”, he always refers to his mother. “She is my pillar of strength. Without her, there is no S’manga Khumalo.”


Enos Mafokate – South Africa’s Equestrian Pioneer ~ Ashleigh Hughes

Soweto is not a place one normally associates with horse riding, or any equine activities, in Johannesburg. But what if I told you that a man who rode at the Olympics and competed at the Royal International Horse Show at Wembley, in the UK, has a riding centre there? A man with such tangible passion and dedication to his sport, that you cannot walk away from him without feeling utterly inspired, and filled with such hope for the future. That man is Enos Mafokate. And you need to hear his extraordinary story…


Before he even starts telling us that story, we see it unfold before our eyes. The children (who range from 7 to 18 years old), at the riding centre are all diligently grooming, mucking out stables, saddling up horses. They have ear-to-ear smiles as they are completely lost in the joy that comes with working with, and riding horses. “You won’t see a groom here,” Enos assures us. “I teach all the children to do everything themselves. Even when we go to shows, we are the only ones without grooms. But please don’t misunderstand me; I am not looking for cheap labour. I teach them these things so they can learn some responsibility in life. They must respect the hard work that is needed to succeed both on the horses and in life.”


“Kids need freedom to choose their own path in life. I want to show them everything about horses, so they can be exposed to something they would normally never know about. This is how we let their talents shine through. This is how we let them grow.”

It was at this same tender age, that Enos first realised that he wanted to ride horses. He grew up surrounded by animals and was drawn to them immediately. “We had chickens, and goats, cats and pigs. I spent all my time with them. I rode donkeys back then. We didn’t have bridles and saddles, and my ‘reins’ were just a stick to steer with. I would always see the white people riding horses though. I knew then that I wanted to ride them too. I was about 9 or 10, and when I met a young boy riding a small pony.” What happened after that encounter, put Enos on the path that he is still on to this day.

It was deep in the ugly heart of the apartheid era in about 1954. Enos was out riding his trusty donkey when he met this young white boy. After a brief discussion, they decided to swop mounts. The white boy had never ridden a donkey before and Enos certainly wanted to experience riding a real pony. The reins and saddle were completely strange. Enos did not know what to make of them. Unfortunately the child’s irate father came storming up and put an end to the innocent exchange. “My child will not ride a black man’s donkey!” he bellowed! This brief, but terrifying incident summed up the challenges which lay ahead for Enos, as he forged his way through his riding career. At every point along the way, the racial oppression of apartheid was an obstacle.

In 1977, he became the first black member of what was the Transvaal Horse Society, but he was only allowed to compete in the Transvaal in the early days. He was the first rider to compete at the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg, since its inception, 127 years previously. “They didn’t like us competing with the white people in those days. I remember at one show in Klerksdorp, I finished first and second in the two qualifying classes, and also won the championship class. The lady who finished second was so angry that I had beaten her, that she refused come to the prize giving! But it was at this time that they officially stopped calling us grooms, and started calling us black riders. Finally we had achieved some recognition!”



This appalling animosity was only restricted to his home country however, In 1980 he was invited to ride at the Royal International Horse Show in the UK. “Errol and Anneli (Wucherpfennig) helped me a lot back then. When David Broome came to ride in South Africa in 1979, he asked Anneli why there were no black riders at the shows. She told him that it was a terrible shame, as there were many good riders who were not allowed to compete because of the law”.

David Broome was completely astounded by the situation so he decided to organise a sponsored trip to the UK for Enos to ride and compete on equal terms. Broome’s sister provided a beautiful Show horse called Let’s Go, as a mount for Enos, and they managed to win their very first showing show they competed at in Wales. He won the Overall Reserve Champion Working Hunter at that show to – no small feat in the country that is the home and origin of the Showing discipline. Anneli, who was born in Scotland, was still living in the UK at that stage, accompanied Enos around on his trip, and she had to sort out quite a few issues on his behalf. Remember that the political climate in those days was particularly volatile, and Anneli was very instrumental in reassuring parties in both countries, that the trip had zero political motivations, and was simply a horseman wanting ride a horse at a show. They were both well received by the Royal family, and in fact many years later, it lead to Princess Anne making a visit to the Soweto Equestrian Centre herself. Enos also competed at Wembley, where he finished fifth overall, in the Supreme Championship. Don’t forget that this was all done on a strange horse, in a strange country, with great public scrutiny – a superb result under substantial pressure.

Giving back to the community is something that Enos constantly strives to do. Way back in 1990, when he was working as the “horse man” for the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in Mofolo South, he had already started giving riding lessons to the young children in the area. It was here that he became aware of how badly children treated all kinds of animals. He so desperately wanted to change this. “Animals should not be abused. They must be loved and treated with respect”

His main function at the PDSA was to assist the local residents with their horses – most of them are animals of burden, which pull carts heavily laden, with either coal or scrap metal. The basic needs of these horses and donkeys are often neglected, but Enos not only treated the injured and sick animals, he worked hard to educate the owners on how to provide better care for them. To this day many of the cart horse owners still bring their horses to him for care and advice, at the SEC. “They know that I no longer work for the PDSA, but how can I turn them away? Sometimes we lend our stronger ponies out to the people who really look after their animals, to help in the coal yards. I keep watch on them, but they are well looked after, so I don’t mind.”


Another community service he provides, is giving disabled children riding therapy. He tells us that there is nothing he finds more rewarding that seeing a child who has not moved or talked in their entire life, start moving their hands, or sometimes even talking after they have ridden a horse. He pauses and looks away out of the window for a moment, as his eyes brim with emotion – ours do too. An overwhelming moment for us all.

In 1992, Enos was part of a Development Team, which attended the Barcelona Olympics. He did not compete himself, but represented South Africa as an official Sports Ambassador, at the first Olympic Games in which South Africa had been allowed to take part in, in over 25 years. He describes this as one of his proudest moments. When the Soweto Equestrian Centre was first started in 2007, as a ‘not for profit’ organisation, Enos famously said, “One day a child from my centre will represent South Africa at the Olympic Games.”

The arena Enos uses to teach Vaulting in is small, but adequate. “The reason we do not have many older children competing on horses in competitions, is because we do not have horses suitable for them to do so. We mostly have ponies here and they are fine for the small children. But we are good at vaulting here, and the kids love it!” he says with an ear-to-ear smile. And what they have achieved over the past few years in the Vaulting arena is really remarkable! The first time his team won the Gauteng Regional Vaulting Championship was in November 2009 – they had only started the training program of March that year. Just a month later, they represented Gauteng at the South African National Vaulting Championships, where they were crowned the South African Mixed Team Vaulting Champions. They have won again at SA Champs another four times. 28 of his vaulting pupils have been awarded Gauteng Provincial Colours for Vaulting. Children from his centre have also attended the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010, and again at in Normandy in France in 2014, so maybe that “Olympic dream” is not such a lofty one!

The City of Johannesburg gave him 28 acres of land to start the Soweto Riding Centre in 2006, which comprised of two adjoining erfs. “The second piece, where the horses are grazing now, does not have a border fence around it. I am so worried that one day the squatters will move in and take our land. The city council has tried many things here on this land. They tried hockey, cycling and even soccer, but they were not successful. When I came here it was just a white elephant! Now we have 20 horses here”

The riding centre facilities are quite modest – most of what we see has been funded by donations, he tells us. “This very building we are sitting in – it was a toilet block! There was nothing else here on this property when we came. Those toilets smelt very bad, but we came with gloves and masks and cleaned everything, and now it is our office. We have worked hard to get to this stage, but there is still so much to do. We want to improve all the time.”

“I thank God all the time for the path he has put me on in my life. I still want to give up sometimes. But then I look around at my facilities and I see the happy children here, and then I know I can carry on again.”


1976 – Placed 2nd in the Rothman’s Derby

1977 – The first black member of the Transvaal Horse Society

1977 & 1978 – Won the Championship Class at the Constantia Show Grounds in Cape Town

1978 – Became the first black rider in 127 years, to compete at the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg, where he was Reserve Champion in the King George’s Championship

1980 – He was the first black rider to compete overseas, and the first South African to compete overseas for more than 20 years, when he went to the UK to compete in the Royal International Horse Show at Wembley

1992 – Attended the Barcelona Olympic Games as part of a development team, as a Sports Ambassador to South Africa

1997 – Completed a Sports Management course in Belgium

2007 – Founded the current Soweto Equestrian Centre in Rockville, Soweto.

2008 – Awarded he Sports Volunteer of the Year, at the SA Sports Awards

2010 – Accompanied one of his Vaulting pupils, Khensani Maluleke, to Kentucky in the USA, where he competed at the FEI World Equestrian Games

2014 – Accompanied two more of his Vaulting pupils, Karabo Mafokate and Bongani Mvumvu, to the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

2015 – He was awarded the Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award.