South Africa’s most celebrated jockey, S’manga Khumalo has today made history by winning the 2022 Hollywood Bets Durban July. Known for the bling-fest and for being South Africa’s fashion design shop window, the Durban July is Africa’s richest horse racing event. This of course was not Khumalo’s first rodeo…
Durban July history
Held since 1897, the premier thoroughbred horse race on the continent takes place every first Saturday of July at the peak of the southern hemisphere winter. But eThekwini’s chilly weather has never prevented South Africa’s who is who from showing up in their finest threads. For an entire century, black people had only graced the winner’s podium as horse grooms. In 2013, exactly 116 years after the Durban July was founded, 28 year old Smanga Khumalo, born 16 kilometres away from Greyville Race Course in KwaMashu, became the first black jockey to earn the purple winner’s sash.
In 2013, Khumalo, known affectionately as “Bling”, galloped to victory astride Heavy Metal. Ever since he won the Durban July, no other black jockey has repeated this feat. Today, Khumalo made history by becoming the first and second indigenous winner of the R5,000,000 Durban July, riding the filly Sparkling Water, trained by Mark De Kock.
Mr Bling’s last gasp victory
Khumalo looked to have lost the race as he trailed metres behind in the final stretch before galloping from the melee of horses to pip Jet Dark, ridden by 40 year old Bernard Fays’Herbe. Until the last few seconds over the 2200 metres, it looked like Bernard Fays’Herbe would win his 3rd Durban July and follow in his four-time champion grandfather Tiger Wright‘s footsteps but Sparkling Water and S’manga Khumalo thought otherwise.
Safe Passage and Do It Again, ridden by Muzi Yeni and Aldo Domeyer, respectively, crossed the line in 3rd and 4th. After the victory canter, the flamboyant S’manga Khumalo disembarked Sparkling Water with his trademark leap, giving Durban July’s mask-free crowd something to smile about. Following the recent lifting of crowd restrictions and compulsory wearing of masks in public by Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, Grayville was filled to capacity with its well dressed audience. According to racing insiders, Khumalo could have ridden the second placed horse, Safe Passage but declined the offer to partner with Sparkling Water.
The owner of the victorious horse, Mary Slack, accepted the winner’s shield with a restrained smile after her winning groom took his R10,000 prize money.
Premier of Durban, Mr Sihle Zikalala was present at the annual event which brings over R300,000,000 to the KwaZulu Natal economy as well as employment, which is welcome news following the coronavirus induced global economic decline. Broadcast across the entire continent by Africa’s top sports channel, Super Sport, Durban July is also a foreign currency earner for South Africa.