June 17, 2024

The Winning connection, True Beauty and Jockey Denis Schwarz flanked by Grooms, Trainer Thomas Mason and Horse owner Sibongile Moyo

Sibongile Moyo discusses her expectations for completing the fabled double of winning the 2 biggest races in the country!

Interview by Ngoni Nguruza

Ngoni Nguruza: Sibongile, congratulations on winning the prestigious Castle Tankard with your 4-year-old filly, True Beauty. The question on everybody’s lips both in and outside the horseracing fraternity is, “Who exactly is Sibongile Moyo?”

Dr Sibongile Moyo: Winning Owner, Castle Tankard 2022

Sibongile Moyo: Thank you for your thoughtful compliment and for your acknowledgement of this historic win by True Beauty. This would not have been possible without the commitment and focus of her trainer, Thomas Mason, and the winning strategy of her jockey, Dennis Schwartz, who brought it home for us on Tankard day. 

Well, I am just a regular animal lover and member of the Mashonaland Owners and Trainers Association (MOTA) with a keen interest in thoroughbred horse racing as a sport and with hopes to see the industry survive the current headwinds.

Ngoni Nguruza: Winning the Tankard is a once in a lifetime thing for most. How did you feel as your filly found top gear and shot to the front and what does it mean for you now that you have had time to let it sink in?

Sibongile Moyo: Unbelievable and I am still in shock, because what are the odds? (An apt pun). I felt like I almost had a heart attack from the excitement and disbelief in that moment. I am still in awe that True Beauty found the heart and gear to outrun the top horses in the country, including a 10 year-old-winner of the 2021 OK Grand Challenge. She was also one of only two female horses and one of only two youngest 4 year-old horses in that field. I am looking forward to seeing what more she might have in store for us and to have more fun with her.

Ngoni Nguruza: True Beauty has been around for quite some time. How did you end up acquiring the filly and what in particular drew you to her?

True Beauty wins the Castle Tankard 2022 Edition

Sibongile Moyo: True Beauty’s story is very special. We attended the 2019 Bloodstock South Africa National 2YO Sale – the annual two-year old sale held in August and I walked away with three babies: True Beauty, Diesel and Dust and another colt who never raced in the end. 

Now, why this was particularly special is that when you buy a yearling or two-year old, you are buying a dreambecause you have no idea how they will perform. You have taken a chance on the horse by looking at pedigree and physical conformation and the potential to produce a top athlete. Having considered pedigree, physique and value for money, my trainer, Kirk Swanson, and equine physiotherapist, Kylie Barnthrone, selected True Beauty for me amongst three hundred horses on sale.

True Beauty stands out as well in that from over a dozen two-year olds that the community walked away with from the 2019 sale, she has done consistently well. She started her racing career as a three-year old and was stable companion to Dindingwe, an exceptional filly from the 2019 2YO crop who raced under trainer, Debbie Swanson. True Beauty has continued to surprise us with her honest work and big heart and here she is, having won us the Castle Tankard, the oldest Grade 1 race on the African continent. How amazing!

Ngoni Nguruza: The Tankard win marks a momentous peak thus far in your involvement as an owner of thoroughbred horses at Borrowdale Park, but can you chart for us how and when you decided to get involved in the Sport of Kings and your journey leading up to this your first Grade 1 winner?

Sibongile Moyo: I distinctly remember family outings to attend the Castle Tankard at Borrowdale Racecourse as a child. However, a passion for horses was cultivated in my late teens, when I spent copious amounts of time around equestrian sport horses that were kept by close friends in the neighbourhood. Over the years, I have been a passive observer of thoroughbred horse racing and remember attending a yearling sale of Zimbabwe bred horses many years ago. I also recall attending the Republic Cup Day in 2008 with my nephew participating in the pony club race that is part of the Republic Cup tradition. 

I decided to personally invest in ownership of thoroughbreds for flat racing as an enthusiast in recent years. It was easy to take up small shares in horses that were already running as part of a group of owners and get involved with thoroughbred horse racing. Investing in horses that were already running is low risk as they have been tried and tested and they hit the ground running from day one. However, this is a bit like buying a second-hand car, as Kirk Swanson would say. Therefore, the turning point for me was in 2019, when I decided to buy the dream, which meant investing in babies and raising them in the hope that one might turn into a champion. I feel blessed to have a four-year old Grade 1 winner from the two-year old crop from 2019.

Ngoni Nguruza: The hype around you winning the Tankard, not only as a person of colour, but also as a woman to boot is immense. How difficult has it been for you to succeed and do these factors actually ever come into consideration?

Sibongile Moyo: This has not been an easy journey by any means as there have been many lows, setbacks and significant partiality. However, I am not one to give up and I committed time to reading widely, in-depth research and learning from others. I have benefitted from interacting with many local and international mentors who have been very supportive. The fledgling industry certainly needs more diversity and local capacity building at all levels.     

Ngoni Nguruza: As the more extroverted half of True Beauty’s connections, few actually know that you’re in partnership with Mr. George Tafeni in the ownership of some of your horses. Who and where is he and when will we catch sight of him?

Sibongile Moyo: George is my spouse with whom I registered partnership racing colours in the signature red silks with black diamond sash and red cap. He is indeed a silent connection with little material interest and whom one would need to drag to the races on a normal day.

Ngoni Nguruza: The OK Grand Challenge is around the corner, are you holding high expectations of completing the fabled Double of the 2 biggest races in the country with True Beauty and what do you rate her chances as? 

Sibongile Moyo: The OK Grand Challenge promises to be a tougher race with a bigger field of horses. The distance is shorter at 1800m and therefore will be better suited to some of the top horses in the country like Holy Land, Only Him and Finchatton and lightweights like Seven Seas. With True Beauty winning the Castle Tankard the handicappers have increased her merit rating, which means she will have to carry more weight in the OK Grand Challenge making the race tougher for her. We are confident she will try her best, as she is full of heart and that is all that matters.

Ngoni Nguruza: Will you have any other runners on OK day in the Feature Race?

Sibongile Moyo: This year I only have True Beauty fielded in the OK Grand Challenge. I had hoped to field Diesel and Dust who ran in the 2021 OK Grand Challenge as a three-year old but sadly he was not ready this time round.

Ngoni Nguruza: Lastly, have you decided on what you’ll be spending your share of the USD 50,000 stake cheque on?

Sibongile Moyo: The cheque is finished already between paying bills for upkeep and treating the teams, led by Rueben Phiri and Willard Mujuru and Progressive Winasu, that have taken care of True Beauty over the years. More importantly, ploughing back the funds into the sport helps in a small way to sustain the large community that depends on this industry for their livelihoods.

Credit: Images at Borrowdale Park by Andrew Philip and Jenny Stock

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