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A Surface Switch Comes With Risks

'Any diminution in the quality would be at the risk of the host country' - Expert

The KZN weather played havoc with the SA Champions Season climax in 2015 and with the traditional Super Saturday meeting postponed 24 hours, there are many hoping that things go according to plan and that the 2015/16 season will be wrapped up with the fanfare and support that it deserves on Sunday.

Wild One wins the Gold Cup

Wild One wins the 2015 Gold Cup – one of two Gold Cups run this season

In 2015, the same meeting was postponed a week into the new season, with the just turned 3yo’s running in races designated for 2yo’s.

But life went on and after an extraordinary amount of rain this week, with Wednesday’s polytrack meeting already a casualty, the racing operator could yet face some tough decisions.

The polytrack is only 2000m long, so the Gold Cup (3200m) would have to be run on turf.

Greyville Racecourse

But there would naturally be an option, if the turf is not deemed up to it, to switch the balance of the three Gr1’s and three Gr2’s to the polytrack.

Polytrack field sizes are restricted, so this may result in a bit of trimming. And with racing on Sunday unlikely to have the same appeal as a Saturday, the betting turnovers may take a mild hammering.

But, more importantly, what potential impact could the switch of surface have on the impact of the status of the races?

In 2011 South Africa agreed to comply with the Ground Rules of the Asian Pattern Committee.

In terms of the Ground Rules all races must justify their grading by the quality of its runners.

The quality of the field is assessed primarily by the annual race ratings of the first four placed horses over a three year period.

The Asian Pattern Committee recently expressed concern that a number of South African Gr1 races did not measure up to international standards.

Given that there are rules and constraints for good reason which govern the ranking and status of Group races, is there anything in the Rules of the Pattern that would disallow a switch from one surface to another for Gr1 and Gr2 races?

Jason Morris

Jason Morris –

We asked Jason Morris, Horseracing Ireland’s Director of Racing and also the Irish delegate on the European Pattern Committee, for an opinion.

“We had this situation in Britain this year where Pattern races were transferred from the turf to AWT at the same track at very short notice due to the weather. It was agreed that this could be done in exceptional weather circumstances and that the races would retain their existing Black type status. But the ratings achieved on the new surface would have to stand and be counted in any future evaluations of those races – without an excuse being made because of the change of surface. In other words any diminution in the quality of the race would be at the risk of the host country,” said Morris.

He added that he was aware that in America there have been a number of Pattern cases where races have switched from the turf to dirt.

So if the turf doesn’t dry out, the operator is wedged between a rock and hard place – damned if they do and damned if they don’t.


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