It’s probably in racing’s favour as we head into 2019 that it’s taken the sport less time to get over Joostegate than Watergate.
Turn the clock back to June 1972 when five men broke into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Building Complex to place bugs.
Dave Mollett writes that for the next two years, the scandal dominated the news ending with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.
A year ago, the Markus Jooste saga was the only talking point in racing, but 12 months on it’s not dinner chit-chat anymore and the optimists that believe the sport is getting back on an even keel appear to outweigh the pessimists.
The “winds of change” have certainly blown through racing in the last three months with new appointments getting the thumbs up from some unexpected quarters.
We will see by this time next year whether the following appointments have resulted in racing being on a firmer footing.
- John Stuart is the new CEO of Phumelela taking over following the resignation of Rian Du Plessis. Was the Sporting Post – racing’s own newspaper yet banned in TAB outlets in Gauteng – offering an olive branch when stating “Talk is rife in the corridors of power that Stuart is a very different approachable character and a breath of fresh air where it is desperately needed?”
- Rob Scott, former head of Tellytrack, takes over as Phumelela Betting Executive from Vee Moodley and – with the family having been in racing for decades – he knows the pitfalls that can occur and – most importantly – how to fix them.
- Vee Moodley is back where he started at the National Horseracing Authority – this time as CEO. Anyone who has met Moodley simply has to admire his energy and someone prepared to go the extra mile for his employers.
Unhappiness has been the name of the game at the NHRA headquarters, yet Moodley taking over from Lyndon Barends suggests that controversial matters will be dealt with swiftly and with no favour.
- After 22 years with Multichoice, Phumelela may have had to make a Premier League-type offer to lure Colleen Goodman to Rivonia, but although she’s said she needs to learn the ropes of racing, she’s obviously been a major cog at Multichoice and there’s every reason she’ll be up to her new role.
- As reported on Tuesday, Mike De Kock and Charles Savage have been elected to the board of the Racing Association and owners, whom the RA represent, will expect both to make a difference in double-quick time.
The new appointments haven’t been greeted with total enthusiasm. Steve Reid posted on Sporting Post: “The movement of racing’s musical chairs does not equate to new brooms in my opinion. It’s the same tired lot – all part of the underperforming establishment previously are merely doing new jobs.”
Of course, it’s the jockeys and horses which keep racing in the public eye and there’s plenty to look forward in both camps in the New Year.
It’s been a memorable year for Lyle Hewitson with the youngster claiming the jockeys championship whilst still an apprentice. He missed the start of the new season which sees him 30 winners adrift of Muzi Yeni who looks well on the way to claiming his first title.
Bookies are betting on the outcome and surprisingly make Anton Marcus, who is as unlikely to chase winners in PE and Kimberley, as Jose Mourinho agreeing to manage a minor club, favourite.
The horse sector is equally exciting with racing fans divided to the next big star – possibly Rainbow Bridge or one of two Mike De Kock inmates, Soqrat or Monday’s impressive Turffontein winner, Buffalo Bill Cody.
The Queen’s Plate – scheduled for Kenilworth on January 5 – will throw some light on that issue and the sponsors, L’Ormarins, will be hoping they get the same nail-biting finish as the recent Green Point Stakes.
So all to play for in 2019 in the sport of racing.
Provided it isn’t hampered by government interference, the future appears more positive than negative.
- Business Day