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GROOMER HAS IT …

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This groomers' race forms part of the Race Association of South Africa's Work Race Programme

Mpumelelo Mojoka. Picture: Danie van der Lith

While the highly anticipated Flamingo Park Race is likely to be a thrilling experience for sports fans, gamblers and fashionistas alike, the most prestigious horse racing extravaganza in Kimberley’s history, which takes place on Saturday, August 5, will also award groomers with a rare opportunity to compete on the animals who they spend many hours feeding, cleaning and comforting; and in the process forming a bond like no other.

The final race on the day will see 12 horse groomers taking to the track in the hopes of entering the winner’s circle, as they have seen jockeys, on their beloved animals, do time and time again.

This has seen plenty of anticipation building in the stables at the Flamingo Park Racecourse in recent weeks, ahead of this prestigious meeting.

This groomers’ race forms part of the Race Association of South Africa’s Work Race Programme (RASAWRP), which aims to use the sport of kings to improve the lives of previously disadvantaged communities in a productive and sustainable manner.

Having started in the Eastern Cape last year, this initiative will be rolled out throughout the country over the next few years and aims to create an opportunity for people to undergo training in the intricacies of the sport in order to see professional jockeys coming from their ranks.

An example that the dozen groomers will be aiming to follow is that of professional jockey Mpumelelo Mojoka, who is in the fourth year of his apprenticeship and recently represented South Africa in the Prix Longines Future Stars Campaign in France where he came first.

Bosco spokesperson, Zanele Modiba, explained that while this race will be the last for the day, it was likely to be among the most memorable of all and was yet another first for the Diamond City.

“Even though there will be a vast array of entertainment, both on and off the track, this particular race is a very special exhibition and is likely to be one the highlights of the whole event,” Modiba said yesterday.

“It is the groomers who really form a close bond with these animals, working tirelessly with them, day in and day out.

“Despite all the time spent with horse and groomer, these staff members aren’t qualified as jockeys, so the Flamingo Park will be visited by Johan Maree this week, who will be providing them with the necessary training.

“What is also exciting is that this race will have the same purse as all the others on the day so the groomers, who are aspiring for bigger things in the industry, will be competing for the same prize money as any of the professional jockeys in action.”

Kagisho Mmuhela is among the groomers who views next month’s event as a golden opportunity to see his dreams come true.

“I have spent many years looking after these horses,” he said at the stables at Flamingo Park yesterday. “They are the most amazing animals and I love the work I do as I get to spend plenty of time with them.

“You very quickly become attached and form a close relationship. It’s difficult not to have favourites.”

Mmuhela added that he was hoping that the final race on August 5 would see him take the next step in his career with horses to become a regular competitor.

“I have always wanted to be a jockey and now my chance has come. I really can’t wait and hopefully this will be my first of many races.”