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How To Sell Racing Down The River?

Declarations due today

The abandonment of the official Sun Met public gallops and the decision to host the invitation-only barrier draws at an off-course upmarket venue are probably not the ideal loyal ordinary-customer route to follow to cement Joe Public’s relationship with a sport that is crying out for a market that it once almost owned.

Captain America Met gallop

The Met gallops have been a longstanding big-race lead up tradition.

While not quite up to the racing-crazy KZN sticky-bun standard of the well organised Durban July event, where taxi drivers and barmen are the true ambassadors, and ‘what you fancy?’ street-corner talk is a way of life, the Cape public were nevertheless able to see the stars in the flesh, debate the merits of their fancy, have a complimentary cuppa something – and maybe even pull a free ticket to see the big race.

July public gallops

The Met gallops came under fire last year when a Gr1 owner lambasted the organisers for practising old-fashioned segregation.

He wrote:

The 2017 Sun Met gallops were well attended by the public, who braved the unseasonal burst of wet weather to watch what has become an increasingly popular event. However, it can’t be said that the punters were exactly received with open arms. Made to wait until after the gallops before being ‘allowed’ upstairs, the ‘public’ was segregated from the Met runner connections throughout the proceedings with a cattle type barrier separating punters from trainer/owners.

Fast forward ten months and Phumelela are now suddenly only too happy to dump this logistical pain in the rear ‘in the best interests of the horse’. 

Kenilworth duty manager Teresa Esplin said in November last year: “The trainers don’t want these gallops which are a bit close to the race – but also we are doing this in the best interests of the horses. Every time you travel them to the racecourse you are putting them at risk and some of them can get stirred up.”

A case of when the cap fits?

Justin Snaith – top trainer

Top trainer Justin Snaith, one of the biggest critics of the Met gallops, added: “This is the best news I’ve heard all year. Apart from anything else nine days beforehand was too close to the race.Indeed if people want to see the horses gallop they can see them in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate as many of them also take part in that.”

It is difficult to argue with the seasoned horseman. The Snaith family earn their livelihood out of the success of the game and run the best marketing team in town. If it was good and right, surely they would be behind it.

So must we assume that the decades long July gallops will now also be consigned to the scrapheap of history?

As an aside, France Galop have in the interim become something of a dictatorial force – there is always place for one more it seems – in South African horseracing, telling us where to race and when. And then, after shattering our long established mental weekly punting timetables, also subjecting our local punters, owners, trainers and jockeys to ridiculous intervals between races.

To justify the move of the original Kenilworth 17 January Wednesday meeting to Thursday 18 January at France Galop’s instigation, Phumelela told – on their website – that the gaps between the races would present ‘perfect opportunities’ to do the Met day feature race draws.

After that dubious justification – we have stronger words for it – the draw ceremony suddenly moves to an invitation-only off racecourse venue. And the loyal long toiling local punter, summararily excluded, is expected to pitch up at Kenilworth 24 hours later for a nine-race card that gets under way at 12h10 on Thursday, and ends at 16h40. To be fair, that’s earlier than the last one we were subjected to.

Then what of Met host Usain Bolt?

The man labelled as ‘a world-famous athlete with a penchant for French champagne guaranteed to inject the party spirit into the sophisticated soiree’ by Weekend Argus, is a sporting icon and a global legend – but also a well-paid drawcard.

On reflection, one wonders how we attended the Met for all those years in the 20th century without a sideshow? Maybe it’s because it was simply for the fact that we would not miss it for anything – and the heroes were the horses. the jockeys and the trainers. Never mind either that the atmosphere was bloody electric!

Usain Bolt – Met host

Who is the genius behind this new-age marketing ‘strategy’ overwhelming the sport of kings – and what does it really do for racing? They can’t give the everyday soldier a simple Super Punter card or basic loyalty reward, yet have this obsession with celebrity. Maybe it’s desperation – but something just doesn’t add up.

Surely it would make sense to find 5000 lifetime punters and get them to Kenilworth on 27 January?

Chasing high-rolling social climbers and no-name celebrities, who pitch for a once or twice a year orgy of fashion, booze and music, just really doesn’t make any sense as a medium term fix.

But you have heard this whinge before…

And what of the guy who always runs last – Joe Punter?

Met punters

He’ll turn up at the usually shabby local tote as he does most of the 364 days of the racing year to try and win a fractional PA.

We bet – no pun intended – he knows more about Fairview on a mid-month Monday, how to work out the price of a 1% quartet, has heard of guys like Stanley Amos, Dana Siegenberg and an honest champion called Politician – and so much more about this great game than this new generation would ever care to.

So, just to recap:

  1. Once upon a time, public gallops were a condition of Met entry.
  2. These gallops were abandoned mid November –  due to ‘demands by trainers’.
  3. France Galop moves a Kenilworth midweek meeting from 17 to 18 January.
  4. Phumelela say that’s convenient – let’s justify the drag and do the barrier draws between races
  5. Less than a week ago, barrier draw invites go out – and now it’s at a shopping centre – but 24 hours earlier than mooted.
  6. The venue has not been publicised to Joe Public. Why? Surely they want the world there?
  7. And is it one of those cattle type barrier affairs again? You know – a puzzled Joe Public at 14h30 on a Wednesday afternoon watching larneys sipping champagne while doing funny lotto type draws?

Go figure!

The Sun Met declarations are due at 11h00 today.

The barrier draws will be done at a function on Wednesday. They are live on Tellytrack (Dstv 239) from 16h15.

And in case you are wondering, you are not invited.

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30 comments on “How To Sell Racing Down The River?

  1. senile_rose says:


    1. mornay says:

      Only Uk and Mauritius for me never again this local bs

  2. James Goodman says:

    You are so right. But look at who is running the show. They have no racing savvy and the public is celebrity to them. The gallops should be filmed at the training centres and then packaged to flight on TV. That should be on SABC and Etv in an interesting build up to the race. The sponsors would get the mileage and racing would be bought to the public.I am now able to write these thoughts as i am no longer licenced by the NHRA!!

    1. Brian says:

      Spot on!!! Martin Locke was right then.

    2. Roderick Mattheyse says:

      Very good idea James, is it not an opportunity for you in your winning ways capacity to do these recordings and have your trainers opinion – Interbet can get some good coverage

      1. James Goodman says:

        Rod we would love to do it but battle to get Winning ways uninterrupted on a Monday night.
        I could put a show together but need 100% support and financing. Not likely!

        1. Roderick Mattheyse says:

          Not even from Interbet

    3. Pops says:

      So while you were inside the tent you were pissing out but now being outside the tent you see it differently?

    4. Paulo says:

      James that is spot on….Imagine then there were some journalists there too, taking times on clocks and adding comment and publishing it for those who miss the show…and it was printed in the media…or the social media….or the websites….and the ….Aaaaah…my alarm bell just went off.

    5. jc lee ching says:


  3. Wayne Fouche says:

    I have been saying for many years that there should be a half hour break between races. These days (especially when there is a big feature) the break is often up to 50 minutes. How absolutely BORING. Don’t you get it Phumelela? Or as most people think and say don’t you care.?

    I suppose as those running (or is it ruining/) the show are totally clueless they are oblivious to the damage being done.

    1. IAN says:

      Well said Wayne – there was a 65 MINUTES gap between 2 races last week – crazy! Jumps racing in the UK – over 4000m+ – generally has 30 mins between races. Another thing – ever stood in a betting shop in the UK when SA racing is being shown? It’s an embarrassment, as just about every race starts late – why can’t they start loading the horses BEFORE the off time (like in Aus)? But then horses being reshod now seems the norm – can’t farriers do the job or are the shoes in SA inferior?

  4. Quintin says:

    Surely the time has come for a Punters Union. It might not get the immediate problems solved overnight but with constructive engagement and proper channels of representation the “Privileged Boys Club” will be forced to Listen to the input of the everyday PUNTER.

    1. Paulo says:

      You are not far from what is needed.

  5. Mervin says:

    Sport of Kings,
    Guess its just that, For the Rich Only.
    Racing authority gives a damn about the punter.

  6. I am surprised that a trainer of the standing of Justin Snaith could only see
    a one sided viewpoint of the Met gallops. We understand clearly that there is cause for concern with possible injury to a horse so soon before a major event, with the sheer effort that goes in to producing these athletes for a top meeting. What, however do records show about this? I am an avid follower of RSA
    and international TBRacing and apart from illness and viruses, I do not recall a horse being withdrawn due to being injured at the public gallops! Once again however, the horse is being removed from the picture and replaced by the
    ‘ will of particular people’ determined to ‘sanitise’ horseracing. Staring at a newspaper or Computaform page does NOT replace the smell of the turf, or the
    thud of hooves, the beauty of the animal and the endless conversations about
    an outstanding ( or lacklustre) performamce. Very little replaces an early morning
    trackside with a mug of hot coffee, ( sticky bun optional ) watching a good horse
    run. When these horses are CHAMPIONS and you take away one of the few chances that the people have to interact with them, you dilute those passions
    even more. Shame on you Kenilworth. The wonderful, elegant and glamorous
    Carnival that is L’Ormarins is well marketed to attract the beautiful and well connected, but the SUN MET needs the people, the punters, the pundits et al and you have pulled the turf out from under their feet, and left them very little anticipation or much to talk about!!!

    1. Graham Hurlstone-jones says:

      Elusive Silva, last year’s July joint favorite. injured at the gallops. It only needs to happen once and it did. Thats why. It must be a horrible moment for all trainers and owners to take out there “champions’ for a drive and a gallop 9 days before a Grade 1……nope. It happened.

  7. Brian says:

    I don’t for one minute believe there will be discerning voices and I’m quite sure all will agree. I’ve had the privilege of going to Summerveld as a boy and as an adult for breakfast, soaking up the stunning atmosphere whilst nursing a hangover. Truly fantastic! Then of course to go to my favourite course, Scotsville. (Still don’t know why the dropped the name, Frank & Jane from the bar, after all very few Rockefeller’s have been made from punting, if any.) I didn’t even own a horse then but eventually did. I wouldn’t bother now though.
    It seems those that be would rather have the horse as a tack on to their carnival and take the annual opportunity to kiss a bit of butt and pat themselves on the back.

    Now they’re going to say, “things change”. Well done young one! You’ve told me something I already know! Believe me young one, in my 60 years I’ve seen more change than you’ve imagined.

    Here’s something you need to remember though young one, HORSE comes first in the sport of Horse Racing, not party. In fact, I don’t seem to see that word anywhere in the name of the sport.

    And if you’d like to suggest I’m an old fuddy duddy, you should have been there in the old Frank & Jane. Then you’d know the meaning of the word party. Oh, if those walls could talk!

  8. Kozi Cander says:

    It seems as though what Justin Snaith wants Justin Snaith gets.He enters a million horses on Queens plate festival and met day for his owners which is all well and good.On the meeting of the 1st of January we get 56 runners on the whole card.Who’s always getting the raw end of the stick here .The punters.This met should be turned on its head EFF style.It’s time Justin and the likes get to know who keeps this game alive.No punter no racing.

    1. Graham Hurlstone-jones says:

      Anything that Justin Snaith wants is usually good thing for horse racing. The ‘millions” that turn up to run on LQP and the Met day all have a chance to win black type as was shown last Saturday. That is the core mission of a trainer apart from the safety and care of the horse. Blaming one trainer is disingenuous. Trainers look after the owners interest which is in their interest ( to be the best ….champions !!), the same with all trainers, Justin said what all trainers should on behalf of owners and fellow trainers I am sure. Elusive Silva ( July favorite, that screwed the punters ) must still hurt for all concerned for a publicity stunt which is what a gallop 9 days before a grade 1 is.
      It is a decision based on pragmatism and the health of the horses. I get that.
      As a life long punter it is always nice to go to the course to see any meeting run even it is only 56 during the Cape season but to blame that on one trainer is not right but it is a good point you bring up. The small fields are symptomatic of a much bigger malaise and it needs to be addressed. i have no idea what is the cause or the answers but surely it cannot be sustained.

  9. hilton witz says:

    i can understand justin snaith no being pro met or july gallops as if i recall correctly elusive silva broke down when completing his pre july gallop last year and he was joint favourite for the race at the time

  10. Peter Dembitzer says:

    Sadly Phumelela are a cancer in horse racing, no concern for the punter only pools and profit. A certain gentleman has far too much power and changes times and venues on a whim. Also twice in a month dividends on the Jebel Ali bipot were incorrect. Friday pool R40,000 2.34 tickets. Instead of paying approx R17,000 it paid approx R12,000. I and others were shortchanged both times. When the punter can’t trust the pools declared and dividends it is a sad day for racing. Do Phumelela have any controls to prevent this reoccurring?

  11. IAN says:

    Tellytrack at it’s best earlier today – Neil (which camera’s on me) Andrews and Aussie Rod are “tipping” races 4 to 7 at Townsville. It’s obviously pre-recorded but – after giving tips for race 7 Neil says “Rod’s had success in the 1st couple of races” – the races hadn’t even been run at this stage!! Who’s he trying to fool……..?

  12. Ernest says:

    Has anyone noticed! The Cape has their biggest race day of the year, and there are two other SA Race meetings on the day?How the heck are we going to enjoy the SUN MET, when the producer will be messing around with two other race meetings. I know the Met will be on the other SABC channel, but surely the other two centers should have made way for this Day. We all have a betting budget for the day so surely, it would have made scense to have one huge pot for the pa,jackpot and P6. Let the sponsors have their one day of the year free of any other meetings on the day.As far as I am concerned Gold Circle are trying to pick up a few crumbs, and spoil the day for the Cape,Pumelela, would still have a big turnover in the Cape.Punters would till spend the same money on the day, ut it would all be on the Met. Maybe there will be a tit for tat on Gold Circles July day!

    1. Rian says:

      Well said Ernest, what about our TOTE, its bound to bomb out early like always
      Get your bets on very early

      1. Rian, exactly.

        And the Phumelela Board, who supposedly has a degree of business acumen don’t want to allocate the CAPEX for a total overhaul.

        So what do they discuss at there meetings that can’t be more important there better electronic interfacing of the Tote … the size of next week’s carry-over Pick 6 ?

    2. Ian Jayes says:

      All the big racedays should be stand-alone meetings.

  13. Pops says:

    Have not heard anything about the guaranteed Sun Met Pick 6 pool.Does the Met fall in this bracket.

  14. Barry Dunnett says:

    I have lived and breathed racing for around 50 years. What a game! Notwithstanding that I emigrated 15 years ago,I still follow the South African racing scene.

    It saddens me when I say that in my view, South African racing is in bad shape,period.

    I’m looking forward to the day when it can be restored to that of the 70’s and 80’s, when one virtually planned one’s life around racing.

    Barry Dunnett.

    1. Brian says:

      Well said Barry!

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