Racehorse trainers at the Randjesfontein and Vaal Racecourse training centres have reacted angrily to allegations that horses were not fed and watered for three days as a result of the grooms’ strike, which led to Thursday’s Vaal race meeting being called off.
With the help of the Economic Freedom Fighters, the striking grooms prevented horses carded to run at the Vaal meeting from leaving Randjesfontein in Midrand on Thursday morning.
Mike Azzie, one of 17 trainers at the complex, said the allegations were ridiculous.
“Anybody who would even entertain the thought, let alone seriously believe, that trainers would stand by and watch their horses not get fed or watered for three days is a clown,” he said angrily yesterday.
“For starters, it was not three days. Grooms downed tools on Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning and trainers ensured that horses got their Wednesday evening and Thursday morning feeds, as well as ensuring they had water at all times. Those trainers who feed three or four times a day made appropriate arrangements to feed as normal.
“My horses didn’t work on the track on Thursday morning, but those that needed work went on the treadmill, while the others were walked for 30 to 40 minutes on mechanical hot walkers.”
Azzie added that Randjesfontein trainers had reached an amicable agreement with the grooms.
He also said that leading trainer Mike de Kock did not have a heart attack as reported. “He felt dizzy, was sweating and had chest pains. He was taken to hospital and found to have high blood pressure. He was kept overnight, but I spoke to him this morning and he’s fine.”
Phumelela horseracing executive Clyde Basel said Phumelela disassociated itself from some comments made in a story in Thursday’s The Citizen about the grooms’ strike at Randjesfontein.
“The article alleged ‘the centre’s approximately 700 horses have not been fed, watered or trained for three days’. That is totally incorrect and, in fact, all trainers based there made sure every horse was fed and watered,” said Basel.
“Wage negotiations are between grooms and the trainers who employ them. Phumelela, as the horseracing operator, is facilitating negotiations.”
Vaal trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren yesterday echoed Azzie’s and Basel’s statements.
“The trainers stuck together. Every horse was fed and watered,” he said. “We would never let any harm come to the horses, even in these circumstances. There’s a reason we do this job and it’s because we are passionate about horses.”