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Picture: The Kalunga brothers, extreme left and extreme right, lead in Love In Winter after he had made it three wins from three starts (Wayne Marks). 

Mark van Deventer (

“Everything has a story behind it…” says Martin Kalunga, owner of up-and-coming sprinter, Love In Winter who remained a perfect three from three after beating off Tchaikovsky in a thriller at Kenilworth back in early November.

Indeed, there is a fascinating back story to how the Kalunga family came to participate in horse racing. “We come from nothing and now find ourselves at the top – it’s been a whole transition.” explains Martin, a humble, highly articulate, and super stylish gent who traces his DNA ancestry to Malawian, Tanzanian and Zimbabwean roots.

“We migrated over in 1990,” Kalunga recounts. “But things became challenging soon after we moved to South Africa, leaving our family with serious financial problems. My mother took strain with six children to care for. She was hindered by the language barrier and took a job working a local retail store selling children’s uniforms where she earnt R150 per week. “

“Under the guidance of an old and wise grandfatherly figure who helped raise us, she started going to the Tote on Saturdays. She was suffering emotional trauma and I guess it was a form of escape. My mother would take R20 for punting to try adding to what she was earning. She was betting blind; back then we would listen to commentaries through the radio, and I recall there was still racing at Bloemfontein and Kimberley, but somehow, she made a success of it. From when I was five years old, I would follow my brothers to the Tote – soon I wanted to understand what was going on and asked questions like, how do horses run so fast?”

Martin started to follow the racing scene closely and wistfully recalls the exploits of riding legends such as Anthony Delpech, Piere Strydom, Robbie Fradd and Anton Marcus. Getting absorbed in racing folklore, studying form, the stimulation of constructing winning bets and learning about the quirks of breeding became a passion for the brothers Kalunga.

As desperately tough and marginal as their home situation was at the time, those were deeply influential formative years for Martin and brother Steven, moulded by the sound values and ethical principles of their devoted mother.

The excitement of betting in crowded Totes morphed into a genuine love of the culture and sport of horse racing. Martin has a thoughtful, intellectual bent and together with his astute business- minded family have over the past thirty years utterly transformed their circumstances – rising from humble origins to establish several successful businesses.

“Me and brother Steve are now more than just punters, we want to own and breed racehorses too. Nobody saw us coming, we’ve paid our tuition fees but were here now and want to graduate Cum Laude.” Martin proclaimed.

Love In Winter is the first horse owned by Kalunga Racing Pty Ltd, set up by the two brothers for the family. Sired by Equus Champion Sprinter, What a Winter out of Irish mare, Lost in Love, the four-year-old bred at Klawervlei Stud and trained by Vaughan Marshall is now really flourishing, producing better performances at each successive start.

Apparently, he didn’t show much as a youngster on the training tracks but when eventually ready to get underway won a Maiden Special Weights on debut in September at Durbanville. He built on that second up at the country course when smashing higher- tier handicappers like Rod the Mod, Giacomo Puccini and subsequent Ready to Run Stakes winner, Seeking the One.

Love in Winter faced his sternest test to date in his third starts and was admirably game under jockey Corne Orffer, making a daring dash down the inside rail to sneak past Transact, then having enough in reserve to just resist the late surge of Tchaikovsky.

The brothers are aiming high. “Ultimately, we would like to run our own self sustainable production value chain and try control the quality of our product that way. I love pedigrees and so will be learning how to breed at the Summerhill course next year, too. Racing is our passion – through “Divine Grace” we’re here now – yet this is only the beginning.” said Martin.

He is genuinely excited about SA racing’s prospects being radically transformed by digital gambling platforms and while the family continue to spread their interests more widely around the world, he is positive about the future of SA Racing.

They are grounded enough to know that racing can be cruel at times – victory is never assured, and fairy tales sometimes are fated to turn into horror shows. But given their background, the brothers are made of stern stuff.  So, driven by their passion for the game, with resources to invest and an inspirational Matriarch as an enduring beacon of hope, Martin and Steven Kalunga intend to scale up their participation in horseracing.