Nurturing racing’s “Super Fan”

Super Fan (Emmanuel) with South Africa’s globe trotting young jockey Callan Murray at Greyville on Gold Cup day.

There is nothing more satisfying than talking to somebody who shares the same passion as you, and it is even more satisfying when that somebody is in the embryonic stages of his life.

Emmanuel (Ema) lives in KZN and has ensured that racing is a weekly outing for his family. Speaking to his dad Bjorn, it’s evident that even in these early days of little Ema’s life, a career in racing is on the cards. Ema has become a regular at Greyville and more specifically a little spot by the parade ring where instead of studying form he studies the intricacies of each jockeys tack. Dad Bjorn tells me that he knows which jockey is riding which horse with no race card assistance. A highlight of his is the famous Gavin Lerena gold saddle although he only gets to see that during feature season. The saddle that gets him most excited though is the blue saddle of his hero and current South African champion jockey Anthony Delpech. He religiously and politely greets every jockey as they go by even if it’s the 8th time he has seen them in the parade ring that day!

Ema’s favorite horse, Bela Bela as well as Ema’s hero Anthony Delpech and his famous gloves. Photo taken by Candiese Marnewick

I recently got to meet the super fan as well as his family as they were up in Johannesburg for a few days and he ensured that dad had planned a trip to Turffontein as he was sure not to miss the Grade 3 action. We met up at a restaurant and after speaking to him for a while, it was evident that he had an affection for a certain horse, the beautiful Bela-Bela. He excitedly told me that he had the exact gloves that Delpech rode Bela-Bela with! He then preceded to race his toy horses around the table and rap off some incredible commentary that Alistair Cohen would be proud of. All of Dynasty, Nightingale, Bela-Bela, Marinaresco and Al Sahem took part in this race for the ages and inevitably the commentary ended with “Aaaaaand Bela-Bela comes flying down the outside” and a big grin. This race played out a few more times and he even told one or two of the restaurant employees the results at the end of each showdown!

His day at Turffontein went off without a hitch and he was able to add to his photo collection as all of Craig Zackey, Julie Alexander and Mike De Kock got snapped with the little legend and they are sure to feature on the Wall of Fame in his bedroom. Lastly, Callan Murray gave him his set of gloves and the little guy was chuffed to bits to add to the memorabilia collection. It was never in doubt that the warmth of his passion would be greatly received at Turffontein and I am sure it helped warm up the gloomy, rainy day that was had. Ema has subsequently invited me to come out to Greyville and see him in action on home turf where he is odds on to be kitted in his Alesh Naidoo silks! An invite I’m sure to take up.

Ema poses with all of Callan Murray (left), Craig Zackey (right) and Smanga Khumalo (center) on his recent Turffontein outing

At a time when racing worldwide is crying out for young blood little Ema is a ray of sun shinning through the clouds. I am sure someday the clouds will disperse and the sunshine will provide a very welcome warmth.

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