Sam (Oupa) Moisa
THE WORK RIDERS’ TRAINING PROGRAMME, introduced on the Highveld in 1999, is South African horse racing’s most successful black economic empowerment initiative, having improved the lives of some 250 people and their families..
It is run by the Racing Trust and former champion jockey James Maree, who first came up with the idea.
Since race-riding experience provides insight into horses, their physiques and mentalities, work riders’ races for men and women who have graduated and are licensed by the National Horseracing Authority are held on a regular basis on the Highveld. In each race, the work riders earn a riding fee and the jockeys’ portion of the winning stakes.
There are three stages to the programme, which is run out of Maree’s Eikenhoff establishment – a three-month basic course; National Horseracing Authority trials, where riders are licensed to ride in races down the straight, and an advanced course, after which graduates are allowed to ride in races around the turn.
In 2008 Phumelela and the Racing Association introduced a three-meeting Work Riders’ Challenge for qualified and licensed work riders on the Highveld. Riders score points for finishing in the frame, with 10 for first, seven for second, five for third and three for fourth.
The leading points scorer at each meeting wins R5,000 (over and above the riding fees and jockeys’ portion of the stake). The leading rider across the Challenge wins R20,000 and an award at the Racing Association’s Highveld Feature Season Awards ceremony, the 2010 edition of which will be held next Monday.
The country’s leading work rider, Abram Makhubo, won the Work Riders’ Challenge in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and looked set for another victory after the first Challenge meeting of 2010-11 back in December when he headed the points table. However, he was toppled in the next two legs of the series by hard-working and resourceful Sam Mosia.
Mosia, who is attached to the Weiho Marwing yard, rode four winners, four seconds and a fourth across the 24-race series, scoring 28 points more than second-placed Makhubo. Mosia is thrilled that the hard work he put in to win the Challenge paid off.
Sam (Oupa) Mosia
Date of Birth: 1 July 1974.
Family: Wife Grace, children Thubasi (10) and Modise (5). They live in QwaQwa.
How did you start working with horses? I am Sotho and grew up in QwaQwa in the north-eastern Free State.
In 1999, when I was 25, my sister told me I could maybe find a job in Johannesburg, so I came to the city and, after looking for a while, found a job working for Craig Cunningham at Newmarket. That was the first time I had been close to a horse (even though the Basuto pony has long been a mode of transport in the former homeland). Mr Cunningham had 36 horses and that’s where I first rode a horse.
But he left the game after I had been with him for about four years, so I found a job with (the late) Tefo Khoarai (private trainer to the late Derrick Benadie), who had a small string at Newmarket. Khoarai trained horses like three-time winner Misty Desert and Moosehead, who won a race. When he died in 2003, I went to work for Koos Rossouw for three years.
Rossouw’s best-performed horses during that time were California and Gold Spur, both two-time winners for the yard.
I then worked for Tony Nassif (riding horses like Fashion Fox and Morning Patrol) for two years. He did not have enough horses to make a good living, so I went to work for Weiho Marwing at Turffontein, and I’m still there.
I really like my job very much. I love looking after the horses. I go to the stables every day, even on Sunday, because I am so happy to be doing this.
How did you become a work rider? Mr Cunningham sent me to Mr James Maree’s school (the Work Riders’ Training Programme) when it opened in 2000 and that’s where I learnt how to ride properly.
Mr Maree is a very good teacher. He taught me plenty about how to ride horses. You can see the difference in the work riders who have come from Mr Maree.
My first race win was on a horse called Pure Desire for Mr Rossouw at Gosforth Park (on 5 January 2001). It was very exciting. I can’t remember my first ride though. My biggest fear was that the horse wouldn’t stop! I had been riding work on sand tracks and the grass is not the same. It’s much quicker. (Thankfully) I didn’t have that problem. The horse stopped when I asked him to!
It took me a while to get my confidence and I also finished downfield in my next three races. Then I rode a fancied horse for Mr Lyle Anderson and Mr Alan Roux called Lucy’s Flicka (4-1) in March and we finished third. I didn’t do so well in my next three races, but then on 1 May 2001 Mr James Goodman let me ride his horse Sandhurst at Newmarket. We sat in behind and came through to win by 1.25 lengths. I felt so happy. I didn’t sleep that night. I went over and over the race in my head.
Two weeks later – the next time I rode in a work riders’ race – I won on the same horse. I had to ride him very hard that day but we managed to beat Broken Lullaby, who was ridden by Twoboy Zulu, by a head.
One of my most memorable performances was when I won on Indiana Man for James Goodman over 1600m at Turffontein in 2005/6. We won by six lengths!
From the 404 races I have ridden in, I have won 24 times and placed 121 times.
I’m a much better rider today, thanks to Mr Marwing, who has been helping me a lot with my riding and my fitness.
He said if I wanted to win the Work Riders’ Challenge I was going to have to get much fitter, so he suggested that after riding his string in the morning I go and see if I can get rides from Mr Ormond Ferraris. He gives me a few rides, and then I moved on to Chris Erasmus’ ring, then Joey Soma and then Tony Nassif. I am probably riding 30 horses every morning and I’m much fitter now than when the Challenge first started in December.
I start working the horses at 5.30am and I’m finished by about 9am. I come home to my flat near Turffontein, bath and have a sleep. Then I go back to Mr Marwing’s stables for a while to help out.
After each of the races I ride in, Mr Marwing shows me the videos so I can watch myself and he tells me straight what I’m doing wrong. Then I can try and fix any problems.
He also gives me a lot of advice. We’re taught at Mr Maree’s school to follow the instructions a trainer gives. And I try to do that every time I ride in a race. But what if a horse doesn’t jump and I’ve been told to sit a length or two off the pace? Mr Marwing has told me that, rather than rushing the horse to be where the trainer wanted him to be, rather give the horse a chance. You shouldn’t chase your horse to follow instructions.
And if there is no chance a horse can win, I will not cut it in half with the crop. A tired horse will not run any faster if you smack it. It makes me very cross when a horse is hit for no good reason.
At all three of the Work Riders’ Challenge meetings I was remembering what Mr Maree taught us, but also (factoring in) what Mr Marwing had told me. And Mr Marwing’s plan worked out. It wasn’t easy. The competition in the Challenge is very strong and you have to put in the work to get the reward.
I do admit, though, it was satisfying to beat Abram Makhubo. He’s a very good rider – he’s at the top of the national work riders’ log (with 10 winners from 47 mounts) and he works really hard. But this time I caught him!
I’m third on the work riders’ log with five wins. (Cape rider Mzwandile Mjokwa is second having ridden six winners from eight mounts.)
(My other advantage in the Work Riders’ Challenge) was that I knew the horses well – I ride them every day in work. Luminous Love and Louvre, my winners at the first Challenge meeting, are both trained by Mr Marwing. Hurricane Jen, my first winner at the final Challenge meeting, is also one of Mr Marwing’s horses and Bearing Strait is trained by Mr Ferraris.
Mr Marwing told me every day how to ride his horses, and they won! They are all very good horses.
Of Mr Marwing’s three, I think Hurricane Jen and Louvre are really nice horses who can win a few more races – especially Louvre, who has won two already but has the ability to win four or five.
How has the Work Riders’ Training Programme changed your life? The money I earn not only helps my family, it also goes towards supporting my mother in QwaQwa. She reads the papers every day to see if I’m in.
Do you have any plans for your future? There’s another Work Riders’ Challenge at the end of this year… And I’d like to buy a car with the money I won, so I can get home to see my family more often.
Sam is my No 1 work rider. He’s very dedicated and really enjoys what he does. He’s always here, works very hard and is a pleasure to have around.
He has a good understanding of horses and a good rapport with them. He has good hands and, thanks to James Maree’s training, understands and executes exactly what he’s told to do.
It’s my belief that at the end of the day he would dearly love to become a jockey; that’s why he works so hard to keep his riding weight down (at 53kg). Of course it’s not easy for these men to become licensed jockeys, so he’s never pushed the issue. But one thing is certain, he’s looking to further better himself.
He was over the moon when he won the Work Riders’ Challenge – and he showed strong determination to win it.
The road to victory started early when he rode a double for me at the first meeting at the Vaal on 2 December. I don’t think he was quite fit enough at the second meeting on 12 February when he only placed on his mounts. It’s not easy for these men because they only ride in one race at the odd meeting, which is not as physically tough as riding in eight races.
I told him what I believed – that the only way he would win the Challenge was if he put in the effort to get the rewards. I suggested that he go to Mr Ormond Ferraris’ ring in the mornings when we finished second string.
He followed through, and I believe he’s now riding 30 horses in work every day for a number of trainers. And his hard work has paid off. You could see the difference at the third Work Riders’ Challenge meeting because he was pushing his mounts all the way to the wire.
Hats off to him, he deserved to win this.