The Cure sang “Monday you can fall apart, Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart, Oh, Thursday doesn’t even start, It’s Friday I’m in love”
“Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart”
It’s been a busy week in racing again. The Vaal meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 9 October was called off after the running of the first race due to unsafe racing conditions. It was agreed that the surface was unfit for racing due to the volume of traffic it had carried while the standside track received its spring treatment. This was compounded by a rain shower which added to the inconsistency of the going.
On Wednesday, the Competitions Commission tribunal swung into stride and both sides presented their opening arguments – again, an interesting day for racing and one that will likely go down in the history books (if not only for the fact that someone took notes and that these notes are now public property).
“Oh Thursday doesn’t even start”
On Thursday the Commission heard arguments by both Jeremy Marshall of Marshalls World of Sport as well as Rian du Plessis, CEO of Phumelela.
“It’s Friday I’m in love“
Friday is split into two parts.
On Friday morning, Charles Savage from Purple Capital had his say at the Competitions Commission. This ran through to Monday and then on to Tuesday. The Tribunal is expected to conclude at the end of October at which point the Commission will retire to consider their decision. Anyone wishing to follow proceedings can find copies of the submissions at www.comptrib.co.za/gold-circle-kenilworth-racing-merger. I believe this will be updated and added to as matters unfold.
On Friday evening, Gold Circle KZN hosted their annual Racing Awards at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban and Princess Victoria was crowned their Horse of the Year. The beautiful daughter of Victory Moon has a string of big race successes to her name, but it was her brilliant defeat of Ebony Flyer in the weight for age Garden Province Stakes on July day that really swung the vote in her favour. Princess Victoria was also named KZN Champion Three-Year-Old Female for the season. It was fitting that her groom, Amos John Mzgwaxaza, won the honours for Groom of the Year. A string of the great and good of SA racehorses have passed through Amos’s hands and no wonder as he cut his teeth with the late James Lightheart and did a stint with Ricky Maingard in Durban before joining the Woodhill team. A full list of the KZN award winners is posted on our website and may I take this opportunity to congratulate all the connections across all the categories. It is interesting to note that GC KZN chose to award individual Champion Trainer of the Year titles for each of the three training centres.
No weekend commentary from The Cure, but Neil Pretorius steps in !
Saturday saw explosive allegations of alleged ‘irregular betting patterns’ posted on the ABC with regards to the runners and riders of race 2 carded for Durbanville on Sunday, 14th. As it turns out, Rainbow Dash won by 3.5 lengths.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny and, unusually for the northern suburbs, minus the South Easter. Kicking off the Cape Summer Season was the Gr3 Matchem Stakes, powered by Kuda Insurance. An exciting and exotic looking Bedouin hospitality tent was erected for the adults and a jumping castle for the kids and both teemed with several generations of racing’s great and good. For those not graced with the requisite armband, the operators laid on braai fires and there was plenty of picnicking space and sunshine to go round on the lawns.
Mike Stewart’s day got off to a rather hairy start when one of his truck tyres suffered a blow-out en route to the track. Not only that, but it had to happen right alongside a busy stretch of highway. However, Mike’s resolute and unwavering cheerfulness overcomes any challenge and with a little Irish ingenuity, Choice Carriers were quickly on the scene to transfer the horses onto one of their trucks and Ingrid stepped in to take up saddling duties while Mike stayed behind to sort out the truck. Entirely unruffled by the whole thing, Mike’s runners still brought home two very creditable seconds! All in a day’s work.
Neil Pretorius was keen to tip his fancy in the last, which turned out to be a late scratching and the expected ribbing ensued. Neil was commendably quick to apologise to punters online. Stiffs Neil – we all make mistakes, but well done to you for stepping up to the plate and taking it on the chin.
Other than that, it was a successful day for Snaith racing who saddled no less than 4 winners (including the Matchem winner, Changingoftheguard) and secured Felix Coetzee (who must surely qualify as a national treasure by now), his 3500th winner. This was quickly followed by his 3501th in the last race of the day. Anyone who has had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr Coetzee knows you need to get up early to find him on the gallops. But the effort is always worthwhile as it will be rewarded with a broad smile and sensible feedback and advice on your horse. Best you be quick though, as Felix usually has a suitcase stashed just around the corner for a speedy getaway to his next engagement. There are few who work as hard as he does and the accolade and achievement are richly deserved. Huge congratulations to our very own ‘Felix the Cat’.
Handsome is as handsome does
I hope you’ll indulge me a brief anecdote. I am in the habit of posting photos of my horses on Facebook. I have pics of them eating, sleeping, walking, trotting, cantering – you get the picture. I recently proudly uploaded a few snaps of my much loved and very beautiful Right Approach colt going for a grass gallop. I was particularly proud of some shots of him cooling off in the parade ring and posted them with great aplomb and not a small amount of anticipation of all the oohs and aahs I was expecting from my horsey mates. Much to my surprise came a comment from an English friend saying that at first glance she’d thought the horse was being stolen…. Mystified I went back and stared at the photo for several minutes before realising that she was referring to the fact that the groom was wearing a balaclava (it was an early morning and the day was chilly). I laughed it off and assured her that anyone who dared to consider such foolish action better be fast and very motivated! But it was an interesting observation and one that I as an unthinking South African had not given a second thought to.
Having spent more time than I’d care to admit watching SA racing in dodgy betting shops in the UK, I dare say our local image is something we ought to consider a little more carefully. This would seem particularly pertinent given the latest Phumelela annual results reflecting how lucrative overseas broadcasts are to our bottom line.
On that subject, I have commented before that Snaith Racing always turn their grooms and horses out beautifully and they continue to be a shining example. I loved the colour coordinated browband Changingoftheguard sported in the Matchem and was even more charmed by the new blue ‘Snaith Racing’ browbands in the other races – nice touch guys ! Snaith grooms always stand head and shoulders above the rest in the parade ring with their boaters and smart blazers, ties and chinos and I daresay a few more folks could do with taking a leaf out of their books. Brett Crawford also does a sterling job with his natty tartan grooms outfits. Just in case you think I’m biased towards Philippi, Vaughn Marshall runners are always easily identified on parade by being neatly plaited and the Bass runners can usually be relied on to have beautiful bridles. I think all four stables deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts.
Swings and Roundabouts
One of the charms of Durbanville is that the start for the 2000m races is crowd-pleasingly situated at the bottom of the chute and makes for a wonderful spectator spectacle. Unfortunately on Sunday it meant that the crowds were still assembled when River Tigris clipped heels with Reptilian in the 9th and went down in a crashing fall just after the finish. MJ Byleveld miraculously escaped (relatively) unscathed and managed to make his way off the track unassisted. In our post-race analyses of form and luck in running we sometimes forget that there are very real and very fragile human beings on those horses. MJ – glad you’re OK. The support teams were quickly on hand to assist River Tigris, who was eventually helped to her feet, into the horse ambulance and transported to the medical bay, although I believe a shoulder fracture ended her journey there. My sincere condolences to all the connections.
But the weekend was not yet over. On Sunday evening Tellytrack flighted an interview with Phindi Kema which has caused more controversy and debate – some liking what she had to say and a fair few cementing their allegiance in the other direction. She also appeared at the Competitions Commission this week, so the great debate rolls on.
Second verse, same as the first
Tuesday, 16 October sees the opening meeting of the Highveld Night Racing Season at Turffontein. With the newly refreshed stand side track said to be in mint condition and a high quality card of runners, the night racing season looks off to an exciting start.
This week will also see the much anticipated announcement of the final visiting and home team squads for the 2012 Jockey Challenge clash. Details are being closely guarded which can only mean that we’re in for an exciting spectacle this year.
Breeding season is in full swing with babies arriving every other minute. With foals to be caught, mares to be covered and yearlings to be prepped for sales inspections, our stud staff are really on the hop. Do spare them a thought and perhaps a drink and a kind word if you happen to cross their paths over the next few months.
And finally, Saturday will see the end of an all too brief era when Frankel explodes into action for the last time at the QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot. They’ve put together another tv ad (search for ‘Frankel Qipco British Champions Day Film’ on Youtube) which opens with the words ‘This is your last chance to see the world’s greatest racehorse’. Racing enthusiasts the world over will no doubt clamour for one last glimpse of this turf phenomenon because as one of the commentators rightly predicts – ‘we’ll never see another like it’.
They say a week is a long time in politics – it turns out racing is not too far behind !