The South African Jockey Academy (SAJA) is kicking off a search for the next generation of champion jockeys at the Kenilworth Racecourse on Sunday May 16.
South Africa has produced some of the world’s best jockeys over the years, among them Michael “Muis” Roberts, Felix Coetzee, Garth Puller and Weichong Marwing in previous generations and more recently rising stars such as Muzi Yeni, S’Manga Khumalo, Lyle Hewitson, Luke Ferraris and Gavin Lerena.
To enter, you need to be a South African citizen, have been born between 2002 and 2005, be fit, not scared of animals, love speed, weigh no more than 47kg and can be no taller than 166cm.
SAJA has been educating and training professional jockeys over the last 63 years. SAJA has produced no less than 29 Champion Jockeys in seven countries and has produced a number of South African champion jockeys.
“The aim is to develop those with potential as an apprentice jockey by our world-class coaching and support staff, who focus on developing elite jockeys as elite sportsmen and women,” said SAJA Headmaster, Graham Bailey.
Top jockey Muzi Yeni is one of the riders who has come through the academy and apprentice system and ridden over 100 winners this season already.
“Many who first join the recruitment process have never even sat on a horse before and it can be intimidating at first. But my experience in becoming a professional jockey has been phenomenal. I am grateful that after all the hard work I’ve put in, my goals are now being realised, but there is so much I still want to achieve in the sport,” says Yeni.
Kabelo Matsunyane, who has gone through the SAJA programme and is nearing the end of his apprenticeship ahead of qualifying as a professional jockey this month, said: “My apprenticeship has been a wonderful journey and it has taught me a lot as a young adult. Like any other career path, it has its ups and downs, but in the end it was all worth it. It’s a fascinating and exciting sport to be in and I am proud to be part of this amazing game.”
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