Qatar Racecourse Manager and former SA jockey Bradford Smith’s recent comments in a television interview regarding the state of the Randjesfontein Training Centre track hit a nerve and even trainers came out in defence of the surfaces.
The Randjesfontein manager Hilton Makhubedu (pictured below) responded to the criticism levelled at his course managers.
Tabnews reports that a lot of the criticism has been directed towards the track managers, who have been accused of not being qualified or skilled enough to run the operation.
The 37-year-old Makhubedu studied at the University of Pretoria where he acquired a certificate in Turf grass management. He also has a certificate in sports Turf management (horseracing) and another in project management.
“I started out as part of the divots repair team in 2001, filling in the racetracks after every race was run at Newmarket and Gosforth Park – this is all I really know,” assured Makhubedu.
“I then heard there was a vacancy to be a tractor driver and I jumped at the opportunity. The funny thing is, because I didn’t have a computer at the time, my first CV was handwritten.
“Two months later I was called in and afforded a learnership. From there I just kept adding to my qualifications and then I started working at Rand Water as a senior gardener.”
This is where Makhubedu’s managerial skills were sharpened. In fact, he won employee of the year three years in a row – and two major awards during his stint there.
“I eventually found my way back to horseracing and in 2012 I was appointed supervisor; in 2014 an assistant and from 2016 to this day I have been the track manager.”
The negative comments regarding the tracks don’t bother Makhubedu. He reckons sometimes you just have to let your work speak for itself.
“I’ve heard what has been said and I want to make it clear that we know and fully understand what we’re doing here.
“If the tracks were in poor condition, I don’t think the likes of Mike Azzie, Sean Tarry and Mike de Kock would keep quiet – they have no reason to protect us.This is the home of champions and we try to match the quality of our tracks with the quality of the horses.”
What most people forget is that hundreds of thoroughbreds beat that track up on a daily basis, so the fact Makhubedu’s team keep the grass in excellent condition every day is commendable.
“Horses can weigh 500kg or more so I take pride in the fact our grass can handle the pressure. If you let horses do that on a rugby or soccer pitch it wouldn’t survive,” explained Makhubedu.
“We use kikuyu grass and although it turns brown during certain seasons, we maintain the same cushion and consistency.”
This job is basically a science because samples of the grass used at Randjesfontein gets sent to the laboratory regularly and that’s what essentially decides what type of fertilisers Makhubedu uses.
In an effort to prove that he and his team are all for constructive criticism, he let known that he discusses day-to-day issues with trainers at the centre and he has even included all of them – big and small – in a WhatsApp group.
“De Kock is a globetrotter so we try our best to produce the same quality track he would work on overseas. We want this for all our trainers and my team is here to make this possible.
“I’m blessed to have a team as hardworking and motivated as mine. The guys who mow our grass, tractor drivers, and cleaners are equally as important – it would be unfair for me to take the credit for the track.”
Makhubedu believes if a horse from Randjesfontein wins the Summer Cup or Durban July, his entire team has won too.
“There will be challenges,” he admitted. “But that is why you hire people, to ensure issues are fixed.”