Nicci Garner: It has taken three years, but Michael Tshetso Mahiakola has finally cracked his first winner.
The trainer, who was born on 1 September 1983, struggled to get his trainer’s licence, but finally passed the exam about a year ago. Since then he has had 21 runners, with the first win of his career coming at Flamingo Park on Monday when Main Flyer won Race 5.
“It was unbelievable, very exciting,” he said.
The father of two, son Junior and daughter Tando, grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg. “My school was a stone’s throw away from Turffontein and I often visited Tony Nassif’s yard. I loved the horses,” he said.
He was small enough, so after he matriculated in 2003 he joined the SA Jockeys’ Academy and 18 months into the five-year apprenticeship was sent to Zimbabwe. About a year later he had a bad fall and decided riding horses was not for him. He’d had 52 rides but no winners.
He left racing then, going to work for his uncle, Glen Malela, in construction, but found he missed the horses, so decided to try and become a trainer.
“Dr Richard Maponya, who is more than a father, a mentor and a grandfather to me, said he would give me horses and bring other blacks into the game if I got my licence and that was all the commitment I needed,” he said.
“I spoke to Gold Circle’s chief executive Michel Nairac and he agreed to give me a chance. He paid me a stipend and organised for me to work for trainer Mike Miller.”
Mahiakola worked under Miller and former trainer Herman Brown senior for a while, but didn’t get the horses he was hoping for. So, he turned up training to return to Joburg and work at Tellytrack.
“I then got four horses to train and took them to Brian Wiid, but, in order to get my trainer’s licence, I still had to finish my probation with Mr Miller. So I went back to Durban.
“I got my licence around October last year and moved back home to open stables at the Vaal in April.”
He currently has 10 horses in training, among them his first runner Warney, who is owned in partnership with Maponya, and his first winner, Main Flyer, who is owned by Joseph Muya.
He has four unraced youngsters, including two from the Alchemy Stud’s Philip Kahan that need to be syndicated – one by Warm White Night and the other by Pomodoro.
He is pinning his hopes for a first feature winner on the unraced individuals because the other horses in his string are well exposed.
“It’s hard to have big dreams with a string this size but my plan in the coming year is to saddle a runner or two during the Durban winter season,” he said. “The racing is strong then and if I can win a race I might attract more black owners to the game.”