A first career winner is an all-conquering feeling, a feeling of “I really can do it” experienced at Flamingo Park on Monday by Michael Mahiakola, presently the only black person in South Africa with a trainer’s licence.
Mahiakola (34), surprised all when his completely formless four-year-old gelding Main Flyer raced away to a narrow win in a Maiden Plate over 1800m on the Kimberley sand track. Main Flyer (50-1) had finished a collective almost 150 lengths behind the winners in eight previous starts – he kept up a strong gallop this time and gave his all for jockey Lukas Bester to get the stable off the mark.
Mahiakola commented: “Main Flyer has been racing in Gauteng, Durban and Kimberley and travelling a lot. He needed a rest before this run, so he came back fresh. I also took the blinkers off him recently, he was always slow away in blinkers.
Punters will find the result hard to swallow, whatever the explanation – but in this case it is besides the point. We need black participation in racing now, more than ever, and Mahiakola will hopefully get some all-round support now than he’s proven he can pull a rabbit out of a hat! Bad horses have a knack of producing freak runs when least expected and the trainer will really only get the ball rolling with some better horseflesh in his care.
Mahiakola said: “Main Flyer is owned by Joseph Moya, who lives in Kenya and has been supportive. Dr Richard Maponya also has a horse in the yard, in partnership with Edward Bauer, and Sylvester Makoena is another owner in the stable. I only have 10 horses, but I will be going to the Lanzerac Ready To Run Sale. Dr Maponya has promised to buy one for me at the sale.”
Mahiakola grew up in Johannesburg but learnt his skills working as an assistant to seasoned trainer Mike Miller in Durban. “Mr Miller is my biggest supporter,” he said. Gold Circle’s CEO Michel Nairac helped Mahiakola to set himself up with stables at the Vaal and the trainer said: “I came to the Vaal instead of Summerveld so that I could be closer to what I believe to be influential black people who can get involved in my stable. “
That sounds ideal and with the likes of Richard Maponya backing him, Mahiakola has a base to work from, but for borders to break down and new horizons to open, we’re hoping a couple of the powerful “wit ou’s” will bring a spare steed or two around to a black trainer at the Vaal. Racing will benefit from it.