A desperate last gasp attempt to rectify what appears to amount to a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Vaal Racecourse track management, turned this afternoon’s first meeting back on the classic track into a comedy of errors.
It is difficult to find any positives – or excuses – for what happened at the Vaal today.
The nine race programme was scheduled to be the first back on the track after the installation of Shelton drainage, but was eventually abandoned after the running of the fourth race ‘in the interest of the safety of horse and rider’.
A proposed change of distance,which included the fifth race being reduced from 1700m – and then supposedly to 1600m, failed. This was after insufficient rails left them with no option but to walk away and abandon the meeting completely.
While the tote rules are clear, little care was given to the implications of moving the goalposts for punters, who had structured their exotic bets based on the advertised distances of races, with the implications of draw and track etc.
These excerpts from the official Stipes Report provide a sequence of the afternoon’s events.
Any spelling errors are as incoming from the report:
AFTER THE RUNNING OF RACE 3, CONCERNS WERE RAISED REGARDING THE UNDERFOOTCONDITIONS OF THE BACK STRAIGHT. IN THIS REGARD, THE RECENTLY LAYED DRAINAGE CHANNELS HAD RENDERED THE TRACK UNEVEN IN PLACES BETWEEN THE 2000 METRE AND THE 1800 METRE. A TRACK INSPECTION WAS CONDUCTED AND IT WAS ESTABLISHED THAT THESE CONCERNS WERE LEGTIMATE. ACCORDINGLY, IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY, THE DISTANCE FOR RACE 5 WASAMENDED FROM 2000 METRES TO 1700 METRES.RACES 4 – 9 WERE RE-SCHEDULED TO 14:45, 15:20, 16:00, 16:40, 17:20, 17:50, RESPECTIVELY
FOLLOWING THE RUNNING OF RACE 4, CONCERNS WERE EXPRESSED REGARDING THE SAFETY OFTHE TRACK CONDITIONS AROUND THE TURN. DUE TO THE CONCERNS ALREADY EXPRESSED BYTHE JOCKEYS REGARDING THE BACK STRAIGHT, IT WAS DECIDED TO MOVE THE LONGERDISTANCE RACES TO THE OUTSIDE TRACK AND RUN RACE 6 AS SCHEDULED OVER 1000 METRESUP THE STRAIGHT ON THE CLASSIC TRACK. HOWEVER, IT WAS ESTABLISHED THAT THERE WASINSUFFICIENT RUNNING RAIL TO FULLY ENCLOSE THE 1600 METRE OUTSIDE TRACK AND IN THEINTERESTS OF THE WELFARE OF HORSE AND RIDER, IT WAS DECIDED IN CONSULTATION WITH THE OPERATOR TO ABANDON THE REMAINDER OF THE RACEMEETING.
The Sporting Post has received reports from interested parties, including owners, trainers and jockeys stating that it was common knowledge that the track had not knitted in areas and there was advance notice of issues that could jeopardise the meeting.
Yet no apparent action was taken by the racing operator.
We were not able to determine whether the National Horseracing Authority were advised in advance of the concerns.
There was also no press release four hours after the abandonment from the owner representative body, the Racing Association, who would surely be expected to take up the cudgel on behalf of hard-hit owners.
With reports of tote betting turnover having dropped alarmingly in the past seven months, the events of today are unlikely to have any positive spin-offs for the industry.
Words aside, transparent communication is not the order of the day – and it will no doubt be business as usual tomorrow and the next – with the very same people in the driving seat.
Phumelela issued this press release a short while ago:
The race meeting on the Vaal Classic track this afternoon was abandoned after the running of Race 4.
This was the first race meeting on the surface since it was closed last November for its annual maintenance programme, during which time the track’s drainage was enhanced.
The first two races, both down the straight, went off flawlessly but concerns were raised after Race 3 over 1700m about inconsistencies in the going in some areas where the drainage had been enhanced.
A track inspection was held and in the interests of safety the distance of Race 5 was reduced from 2000m to 1700m.
After the running of Race 4 over 1700m, however, the jockeys expressed concerns about the safety of the track around the turn.
It was then mooted to switch the remaining races round the turn to the Outside Track using bollards to demarcate the inside of the straight 1600m course. After due consideration this was deemed unsafe.
The only alternative was to move the running rail from the Classic Track to the Outside Track, which had not been prepared for racing. But despite every effort it was found it would take too long to remove and re-install the running rail. Consequently there was no option but to abandon the meeting.
The state of the track will be reviewed by the track management team tomorrow (Wednesday) and any shortcomings in the surface will be remedied as quickly as possible.
According to the ruling that at least two legs of any Exotic bet must to run to effect a payment, a dividend for both the BiPot and Place Accumulator was declared. The BiPot paid out R2.20 and the Place Accumulator R1.20.
All Pick 6 and Jackpot bets will be refunded.