The principle of ever having a non-racing man at the helm of our racing regulator seems ludicrous and almost reckless against the background the great strides made in just a matter of six weeks by the new NHA CEO.
The National Horseracing Authority has transcended from years of darkness into a lighter brighter space in a matter of weeks in 2019.
And much on a par with the current Eskom ‘what were we thinking’ ideology, it is difficult to rationalise what the Board of our regulator were trying to achieve when they employed the ‘inspirational leader and change agent with a wealth of experience gained in various operational strategic positions held in various industries’ back in March 2016.
Just as Lyndon Barends was always a sitting duck during his 30 months in the hot seat, his new age replacement Vee Moodley is a man who carries a loaded gun, talks turkey and gets things done.
One of Vee’s immediate goals in his new role was to introduce a high-performance culture and ensure that the NHA lived up to its mission statement of maintaining the integrity of the sport of horseracing.
“Strengthening the Executive and Management teams was high on my agenda, as is ensuring that the transformation goals of the organisation are accomplished within a reasonable time-frame,” he said, while unpacking his bag on his first day at office.
Speaking to the Sporting Post on a snap Valentine’s Day catch-up six weeks later, Vee said that one of his first goals had been an attempt to shift in-house attitudes from a ‘less is more’ attitude to one of ‘more is still not enough’.
“With every respect to those that went before me, my focus is on transparency and information. We are the racing public’s and stakeholder’s servants. The industry pays our salaries. When we are asked questions we must give answers. It’s an open door policy. Full stop.”
He said that besides Racing Control and Handicapping, the Stud Book department was a top priority. He committed the South African Stud Book to maintaining its status of ‘Approved Thoroughbred Stud Book’ to requirements mandated by the EASBC in an audit and to be achieved by 31 July 2019.
Even the Stipes Reports are already reflecting more information and the recently introduced handicapper’s reports on the Gr1 races analysis is a step to inform and educate.
“A lack of information and education can only build barriers between ourselves and the industry. Previously handicapping decisions were made and that was it. Now everybody can see our thinking and rationale and we are answerable – as we should be,” he said.
Vee says there is great progress on the aspect of bringing the Grooms onto the books of the NHA. He pointed out the NHA rules sub sections 11.2.9, 12. 1 and 12.2, covering Trainers, Grooms and adherence to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
“We have had discussions and once we have confirmation of the majority representative body for Grooms in South Africa, we will be making further announcements.”
The upgrading of the results and merit ratings information on the NHA website has been further enhanced by the publication of the line horse.
“This is a good example where an informed member of the public made the suggestion via the Sporting Post comments platform. That’s where the attitude has changed – we are prepared to listen and to act – and we have had a host of suggestions that have been really constructive from a variety of sources.”
The calling in of jockeys by the Stipes after recent features and the consequent tweeting of the information had also been designed to show transparency and proactivity.
“The Stipes now also have all the betting websites streaming live in the boardroom during the raceday. We need to learn to follow this information and use it. Joe Public is attached to the sport and very informed. And whereas he punts or owns horses, NHA officials are not permitted to do either and thus, unsurprisingly, tend to be detached. We need to change that and become part of the heart of the game from a regulatory viewpoint.”
He added that the NHA had been accused at time of being too lenient.
“We need to work on upgrading our performance to best world practice and close the gap. We have some top class experienced personnel and it will just take time.”
He cited the example of the decisive action on the part of the NHA in relation to the 15 January eligibility question of Sugoi’s Assessment Plate win. After the race a trainer had pointed out that in terms of Local conditions pertaining to assessment races on the Highveld, he was of the opinion that the winner had not met its obligation of participating in two assessment plates before being allowed to run in a handicap on the Highveld. The NHA had ruled that should a winner of a maiden race within its first five starts compete in any race for which it is eligible in another province, that race will count as one of the said horse’s mandatory assessment runs.
Vee realises that his job doesn’t come with a popularity badge.
“We are independent and cannot take sides in any instance. From day one we have played open cards with the public, our stakeholders and the media. And that, believe it or not, makes the job a lot easier!”
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