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Horse Racing Next Gen: South Africa's S'manga Khumalo

South African jockey S'manga Khumalo

(CNN) -- It's been a long time coming. A very long time. But S'manga Khumalo is proving that black jockeys can hold the whip hand in South Africa.

Whites may still dominate horse racing there, but it was the diminutive Khumalo who reigned supreme last year when he became the first black jockey to win the Durban July event in its 117-year history.

And now, having won South Africa's most prestigious race, the 28-year-old is setting his sights on smashing through another racial barrier by taking the champion jockey crown.

Not bad for someone who first laid eyes on a horse at the age of 14.

"I was a small boy from a township. I'd never seen a horse before, never ridden (one) ... I didn't know what horse racing was all about. But when I tried it I knew this was the only thing I could be good at," Khumalo told CNN's Winning Post.

Khumalo grew up in KwaMashu, a township 20 miles north of Durban that was dubbed South Africa's murder capital in 2009, and dreamed of becoming a doctor as a boy.

But his medical ambitions took a back seat when scouts from the South African Jockey Academy in Summerveld, west of Durban visited his school and invited him to an interview.

"I was so small that I couldn't be a soccer player," he recalls. "I couldn't run because I had short legs, so when I saw this sport I thought I might as well give it my best and see if I can achieve something."

What was initially a daunting prospect soon became a life-changing experience.

Khumalo says most of the horses were about five-foot tall -- as big as he is now.

"It was nerve-racking working around them at first, but once I got my confidence I got better with them -- they're such loving animals," he says.

"They might be big, but once you give them your heart they'll be very nice to you."

Read more at CNN

Related:

South African jockey S'manga Khumalo's Journey to the track 

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