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All The King’s Men

SA racing in 2019: Old Guard out - New Guard in

South African horseracing canters towards the sunset of 2018 in a seemingly happier place than it was in December 2017.

History shows that Joostegate impaled our industry with a rusty knife through the heart a year ago.

Markus Jooste – his sudden exit was a wake-up call

But headed into 2019, we have a host of promising new jockeys in the proverbial driving seats, and what must be a last chance to resurrect the remnants of what’s left.

Blaming Markus Jooste for our current woes is tantamount to suggesting that the loud music in the ballroom sunk the Titanic.

But the sudden shock exodus of the one-time Steinhoff boss undoubtedly shook up the sport.

Turning this catastrophe into a positive, we hope that history will show that his departure was a much needed wake-up call, rather than the fatally devastating body blow many of us anticipated at the time.

No man – not even the iconic MJ – will ever be bigger than the game and even on one of his favourite stages, the Cape Premier Yearling, reduced to just one session next month, few will bother talking about him or miss his inflationary showmanship as the high-class yearlings strut their stuff and dreams are dreamed.

As it inevitably does after disasters, life has mostly gone on in what has been a year of escaping from denial, reality checks, market corrections, wiping the slate clean and swallowing some bitter pills.

Gone is the egotistical open cheque-book bidding in the sales arenas, the control of all power-points by Jooste lieutenants and the overall unhealthy dominance of a modern day randlord who had many asking ‘how high?’ after his instructions were barked.

The management changes – per chance, coincidental, or intended – that we have seen in recent months, have been widespread.

In one extraordinary week in September, Phumelela Gaming and Leisure CEO Rian du Plessis and National Horseracing Authority CEO Lyndon Barends both resigned.

Phumelela CEO Rian du Plessis

Former Phumelela CEO Rian du Plessis

Du Plessis, citing personal reasons, cleared his desk after 10 years at the helm and pledged not to sell any company shares for the ‘foreseeable future’. To his credit, he was one of very few to publically declare his friendship with the fallen corporate idol.

Barends was never comfortable in the NHA hotseat. He knew nothing about the industry and took flak from all sides on an almost daily basis. In the end it was ironically his personal finances that proved to be the fatal blow.

John Stuart – new broom

Du Plessis was replaced by head of international operations John Stuart, a long serving stalwart who started in the tote and was no doubt rewarded for his sterling work in a very profitable sector of Phumelela’s operations.

Stuart made an immediate impact, walking the Vaal tracks in advance of the Grand Heritage and establishing a commission of inquiry to look at a vital, but often poorly managed track maintenance department. He also turned up recently at Philippi after concerns were raised by jockeys and trainers about disrepair at the Cape Flats training centre.

It’s not clear whether Du Plessis even knew where the Vaal or Philippi were. Talk is rife in the corridors of power that Stuart is a very different approachable character and a breath of fresh air, where it was desperately needed.

Vee Moodley – expected to get the listing NHA ship on course again

Charismatic and energetic Phumelela Sports Betting Executive Vee Moodley tendered his resignation 24 hours before the Summer Cup and steps into the Barends shoes next month.

Rob Scott (photo: supplied)

Rob Scott (photo: supplied)

For Moodley it’s  a case of full circle after 15 years – he started out as a Handicapper and was promoted to Racing Control Manager in 2007. By the end of 2008 he was identified as the Chief Executive designate of the NHA. He is tailor made for the job and a vastly improved public and media friendly approach is anticipated in 2019.

Tellytrack CEO Rob Scott, a seasoned clothing retailer, takes over from Vee in a tough climate with race betting turnovers squeezed. Multichoice veteran Colleen Goodman takes Scott’s desk in Rivonia. There have already been grumblings that the TV job was never advertised – and morale may yet take a knock as a result of that. An elementary error – possibly forced through practical pressure?

The election of no nonsense straightshooter Mike  de Kock and experienced businessman and owner Charles Savage to the RA Board this week should also hail a clean-up and a new age of delivery and accountability for the owner body.

Robert Bloomberg

Robert Bloomberg – takes the helm down South

The announcement of joint chairmen Robert Bloomberg and Mark Currie to the Kenilworth Racing Board is a move to unite and bury the conflicts of the North and South. For Bloomberg, the appointment comes at a time that Cape racing is facing serious challenges and 32 years after his Granddad Abe resigned as Chairman of the Milnerton Turf Club – after 30 years at the helm.

Jono Snaith

Jono Snaith – exciting ideas

The WPRRA board has also seen the inflow of new young blood under the chairmanship of the innovative Jono Snaith, who has proven his micro credentials with his involvement in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate festival. Justin Vermaak, Wéhann Smith, Craig Kieswetter and Philip Taberer make up the board.

If these young guns can’t get a new generation to come racing, then who can?

So new brooms and plenty new hope. But talk is cheap. Let’s do a report back here in December 2019.

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11 comments on “All The King’s Men

  1. Ian Jayes says:

    Hubris sank Markus Jooste and the hubris of the captain sank the Titanic.

  2. Barry Irwin says:

    Whomever wrote this line “Blaming Markus Jooste for our current woes is tantamount to suggesting that the loud music in the ballroom sunk the Titanic” should consider a career as a stand-up comedian or possibly involvement in theatre of the absurd.

  3. Ferdinand Chifney says:

    The tragedy of the Titanic is correlative to the Markus Jooste disaster. It shows that even the perceived indestructible can fall.

    The Titanic facts are recorded incorrectly. The band had gone to bed when the Titanic had struck the iceberg. When disaster struck, the band leader Wallace Hartley gathered the members of the orchestra and their instruments. They made their way to the main deck where they serenaded the passengers.They played calmly while the passengers were hysterical and inconsolable.

    Markus Jooste is no angel. That is a fact. He ran and controlled horse racing like he did Steinhoff. As in Steinhoff, he had his fingers in every bakery. With no bakery you cannot make bread. He supplied all the ingredients to the bakery. He was on every essential and meaningful panel and was involved in nearly every entity in horse racing. Unlike in Steinhoff, he is nestled in horse racing.His chosen minions clench to power. Like in Steinhoff, many in horse racing made a pretty penny out of Markus Jooste. When the time comes, the influence and purchase of Markus Jooste in horse racing will unravel itself and a similar iceberg that sunk the Titanic is heading its way toward horse racing. In the meantime, the Markus Jooste band plays on and everyone is dancing to its serene tune.

  4. Michael Jacobs says:

    I have to agree. Jooste was very bad for horse racing. The arrogance, vanity, corruption and unsportsmanlike traits of the man gave horse racing a bad rep, and slowly but surely sanity is returning to the game, although his lieutenants are still around, continuing to poison the industry. A few years ago I made a comparison between Adriaan Van Vuuren and Jooste and I was ridiculed, but I wasn’t wrong.

  5. kevin says:

    Maybe it is time Larry is removed

  6. Ian Jayes says:

    Long overdue.

  7. Steve Reid says:

    The movement of racings musical chairs does not equate to new brooms in my opinion. The same tired lot, all part of the underperforming establishment previously, are merely doing new jobs. Ho hum.

    The only new brooms are MdK and Charles Savage, lets hope they have more backbone that the current lot and ask the right questions of Larry and his yes men.

  8. Carl burger says:

    No can blame markus for 27 years he made profit for his company and nobody was forced to buying shares

  9. Oh please Mr Burger…shame, that’s such a naughty schoolboy comment/mentality.

    Tell that to the millions of current pension fund holders or innocent retired people.

    Merry Xmas to you

  10. Chris Swart says:

    Carl, I suggest you read Steinheist.
    These “profits” that go back 27 years are seriously brought into question
    You only have to read the chapter about Unitrans to understand how the modus operandi worked.

    One can only hope the same business principles regarding disposal of property to raise and leases back were not applied in this industry.
    Newmarket and Bloemfontein ..

    It’s of serious concern but focus ahead should be on reclamation of the business of racing by owners and trainers.
    Their property rights and the generation of profits makes it harder for anyone to think of a return on investment.
    The good old days may be gone but the model should be revisited

  11. Michael Jacobs says:

    We must remember that a number of trainers and certain owners will continue to absolve Jooste and make excuses for him, as they lived large while he was in the game. See how quiet certain trainers are now, since the Jooste gravy-train left the station. It was always going to happen, the way Jooste participated in the industry was disgusting. He was like a pig at a trough, quaffing everything insight and leaving the scraps for others!

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