Horses | Horse News
“We’re obviously very relieved and very happy,” said National Horseracing Authority CEO Vee Moodley, who led lobbying of government to get the go-ahead to race again.
“We are mainly grateful for the opportunity to try to save 60,000 jobs in the industry – and to continue to provide for 750,000 dependants of those workers. And, of course, to stop the euthanising of these beautiful animals,” said Moodley.
With racing revenue badly hit by the two-month lockdown hiatus, many owners and trainers have been forced to reduce stable numbers – by rehoming horses or, in extreme cases, euthanasia.
Despite the restart, racing remains in a financial squeeze, but Moodley noted: “With this resumption there is momentum towards returning the industry to good health. We are in positive territory,” he added.
He said racing had been due to restart in Level 1 or 2 of the lockdown, but the NHA had explained to government that a resumption would simply be “formalising what we were doing at training centres in the mornings” and emphasising the “non-contact sport aspect”.
The NHA announced on Thursday 28 May it had the go-ahead to race. No spectators will be allowed on racecourses – only a minimal number of essential staff, such as grooms, jockeys and vets.
Online and telephone betting will be conducted on the live televised action on DStv.
“We’re very excited to be racing again,” said former champion trainer Justin Snaith from his Cape Town stables.
“We’ve all been under huge pressure financially and the simple act of galloping horses competitively for prize money will have a massive beneficial ripple effect on many thousands of people in the racing value chain.”
Another former champion trainer, Geoff Woodruff, said: “It’s an enormous sense of relief. It goes without saying that we’re happy, but it’s also just a joy to be working properly again – trainers, jockeys, grooms, even vets.”
Woodruff echoed the NHA’s call for all racecourse participants to stick closely to the hygiene rules: “We have to be squeaky clean. To be shut down again would be disastrous.”
Brian Riley, acting chairman of owners’ body the Racing Association, commented: “We’re delighted, obviously. It’s imperative horse owners start earning stake money to keep the game alive.”
Riley warned racing was still in crisis, with major operator Phumelela having entered business rescue this month and falling revenues threatening all aspects of the industry.
“I don’t want to dampen enthusiasm following this great news, but we must understand there’s a bigger journey ahead to get racing back to a position of viability,” he explained.
“We will be racing for 40% less stake money than before, which isn’t sustainable for long. Fortunately, moves are underway to get racing back to full strength – and this restart is a vital part of that.”
The first post-lockdown race meeting will be at Durban’s Greyville racecourse on Monday. The Vaal on the Highveld hosts Tuesday’s action and Cape Town’s Kenilworth is the venue on Thursday.
Snaith, who runs one of the bigger stables in the country, said he’d been fortunate to be able to keep all staff on full pay, but suspected some smaller yards had not.
He revealed he’d had to shed 10 to 15 horses from his yard – all rehomed as showjumpers or polo ponies, with some older mares retired to stud.
Snaith’s immediate challenge is to find a way of getting from Cape Town to Durban to link up with his KwaZulu-Natal winter season string, which completed the journey before lockdown.
Among these horses is champion galloper winner Do It Again, who will be trying to complete an unprecedented hat-trick of wins in the country’s biggest race, the Vodacom Durban July, on its postponed date of 25 July.
Snaith whispered that Do It Again is “in a very good space” after acclimatising well to Durban.
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