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Industry Must Start Listening To Criticism

The share price says it all

This industry is far too sensitive to accept constructive criticism. Right now we need people of courage to save us and say what it takes – without fear of reprisal.

Vastly experienced racing personality and former trainer James Goodman put pen to paper and poses a few questions of his own.

James Goodman

James Goodman – a disappointed man

He writes that one only has to look at the controversy caused by Bradford Smith’s personal views on Randjesfontein and then the announcement on Thursday of the closing of Kimberley.

What I have to say will probably not please many in positions of power in racing.

Who actually cares if Bradford Smith says Randjesfonteinis is not what it should be?

Remember he comes from a racecourse and training centre where everything is pristine. He built it out of the desert. He also had a hand in building Randjesfontein.

The hullabaloo was simply caused by him saying that, in his opinion, the centre is not what it should be.

Winning Ways

The knee-jerk reaction was to pull Winning ways, censure Goodman, and then implement ridiculous propaganda type damage control by getting trainers from Randjesfontein to counter Smith’s comments.

It’s childish and shows how sensitive this industry is to criticism.

Is Randjesfontein really in the pristine condition they would have us believe by the slew of trainers extolling the virtues of the centre on Tellytrack?

There is plenty wrong.

The sand tracks are much narrower, as is shown by the base not being fully covered by sand. The rails are antiquated.

The horse rings are the same as 20 years ago, with more wear and tear. Fences and the posts and rails are dilapidated. The stables could do with a coat of paint and the doors and window frames are crying out for a varnish.

The Bullring is a restaurant cum bar, that lacks soul. It has no atmosphere and lacks class.Whoever built it cannot be proud of it! Chairs and tables are uncomfortable. I am sure it runs at a huge loss.

Randjesfontein was the premier training centre in South Africa and that is why Brad Smith was head -hunted to build Qatar. I am quite sure that training horses at the centre works –  as is borne out by the successes of the resident trainers!

So, while Randjesfontein adequately serves as a centre to train horses, why does it languish in the condition it does?

I was at Randjesfontein on Friday 16 August and these were my observations. Smith was there during October 2018 and maybe the tracks were being redone.

The heart of this problem is Phumelela and their employees are reactive, as is shown by the response on Tellytrack. I believe racing should be proactive.

How much better would this have been handled if they had just said: ” Hey, there MIGHT well be some substance to this view so let’s handle it at source and see what comes up!”

To produce a whole host of TV interviews with trainers saying how wonderful everything is – when they patently know all is not great – is a source of great worry.

Closing the Kimberley track is just another of the long list of Phumelela disasters.

Under their watch racecourses have been closed and the land sold. Stakes have not kept up with inflation. And now Kimberley to be closed because it runs at a R23m loss.

Phumelela has known this for years but done nothing to alleviate the loss. This loss is not sudden! Why the loss? Phumelela suggest it is  running costs.

Then why not start by cutting the running costs by creating local staff for the running of the race meetings?

There should be no subsidies.

Create a workable  operation  – budget properly and get the racecourse to fit the framework,

Maybe change the Kimberley festival to be  a self-sufficient event. I can just imagine how much that costs!

Love or hate Kimberley, it is a working part of our industry which gives many horses a second chance. It fills a gap on Mondays.

If management had just rather sat down and talked to the Kimberley racing community about cutting the losses by way of some very strict money saving initiatives – surely they would have preferred austerity measures with a business plan, as opposed to closure?

Sadly, I am sure  the Kimberly community would. But not Phumelela.

It has always been mooted that the industry would be wealthier by not running racemeetings in SA. Well this is simply the next step in that process and backs the theory.

Phumelela has not got racing in SA’s interest as its core business – overseas betting is the focus. It has been an enrichment programme for shareholders.

But that has collapsed.

The share price says it all and share prices in the public domain reflect the health of the company. It’s critical!

We need people of courage to save us. Let’s have the forum to say what it takes in the interests of the betterment of the game – and not individual power players – without fear of reprisal.

Come on people, please, let’s do it!

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42 comments on “Industry Must Start Listening To Criticism

  1. Vusi says:

    Its very sad that Kimberly is to close. I support you statements James. Let powers be listen…they closed New Market,Gosforth,Arlington and what has happened to racing fans and supporters…it went down in support.

  2. Leon Smuts says:

    Its been evident for a long time that local racing is not a priority and what is happening now is not a shock to me or most people. What has really been done to expand local racing and make it attractive for both the existing player and critically new markets? Short of nothing certainly not a hell of a lot. Given the small punter numbers relative to our overall population it would not have taken any extravagant marketing exercise to grow player numbers and pools. But these things take time which is why the neglect in starting any such programs is such an indictment of intent.
    The idea behind backing Phumelela in the stewardship role of racing was to save the industry and jobs and to ensure a future for the sport and its many stakeholders. It would not be out of place to question why local racing was allowed to slip into obscurity whilst setting up a secondary (or is it primary) gaming structure using the assets of this industry. Only the blind could not see what was busy happening and that racing’s lot was being sealed by the very people responsible for taking care of it. Phumelela did many good and necessary things to make racing more profitable, including the unpopular sale of some of our race courses, but they took it to far and at some point the agenda became highly questionable. The current state of affairs has shown the corporate model to be incompatible with racing’s needs and highlights why change has to come no matter how painful the transition might be. The industry is surely more important than any individual entity, person or organisation and this has to be the starting point when considering it’s future.

  3. Geoff Woodruff says:

    Karel, I’m not usually a confrontational person but maybe it’s time to say something. I would like to know if Phumelela actually took a 300million loan in order to pay shareholders dividends. If that’s the case then I lose any respect for the industries managers. We as trainers do our level best to introduce new people into the industry but if this is true, how can we possibly justify what we’re doing?

  4. Preston says:

    @Geoff, it is not a uncommon practice for dividend to be funded from sources other than from retained income. Many companies do that especially cyclical and listed property companies. This is purely a timing issue and that loan should be paid off once cash flow is received. Hope this help?

  5. DavidS says:

    Just look at the no help and non co operation and destruction that was done to the self funded 100 million plus pageviewed 24/7 ambassador of SA racing Formgrids, instead of supporting an incentive that promoted and served SA horseracing worldwide well paid executives chose to strip our hard gained support and seek our destruction, amongst a host of other hostilities they cut our datafeed 2 weeks before the July handicap,, you can then realize that Phumelela executives and others tasked with the wellbeing of SA horseracing served their own agendas, the silence from boards meant to control these individuals make the board members just as guilty

  6. Sandhiran says:

    Hi Geoff , you are absolutely correct . The stake holders that manage racing are only there to enrich their pockets . This is exactly what they did to Clairwood Park . Those long standing management need to get the boot and it’s time for the new blood to take over

  7. Sandhiran says:

    @ Preston , when a company takes a bond or loan to pay dividends it’s clearly an indication of mismanagement of funds so this is probably a sign that the worst is still to come

  8. Johno Finlayson says:

    We all know the dividends paid to a few killed any organic growth in racing.. we always knew that and tried to challenge it but the powers that be were too strong.. we now also know where the power money came from. Questions:
    1. Is there a future for horse racing in SA?
    2. If yes, obviously the current racing model needs to be changed
    3. If that is possible then a viable sustainable model needs to be created by a team representing all aspects of racing without personal agendas
    4. Money will be required to fund a new model into existence.. I think between those who have a stake in the future of the sport (including Govt) they will be able to support that
    5. As part of the new model obviously many sectors of the industry would need change and upgrade such as courses, grooms facilities, punter facilities, raceday facilities etc.. that I think stakeholders would consider to finance
    6. The marketing of horse racing would need to change so as to provide the right incentives to sponsors
    7. The marketing of racedays would have to change to involve state of the art proven initiatives which are very successful in other parts of the world such as festivals over long weekends etc
    8. The promotion of our wonderful thoroughbred stock and breeding lines needs to have specialist promotion to the rest of the world
    9. A foundation needs to be established by the breeders and Government to prove that AHS is not a threat to other countries if the proper processes are followed
    10. Payments to trainers needs to be centralized with zero tolerance to non paying owners
    11. Vet bills need to be capped in the sport as in every medical field worldwide
    12. A body needs to be put in to oversee and ensure transparency by all aspects of racing including the RA, NHRA and the management team of racing which would include track management, fines imposed, rules, qualifications required etc
    13. Mandatory training courses need to be attended by trainers/ jockeys/ grooms where enough points are collected each year so as to enable a Licence to be extended year by year for each of them

    This list can go on and on and all work can be project managed to run in parallel. If something big is not done this industry will fail unfortunately however I do believe young and not so young humans love horses and the excitement of racing and that will hold true as they are majestic animals and SA breeds some of the best in the world.

    It can work

  9. Ralph Fell. says:

    The stupendous innovation by the mugs in Durban, Hawkins et al, was to advertise and arrange a ‘lucky losing ticket’ competition with bins strategically placed around the course for this year’s Durban July. I cringed when Hawkins excitedly announced this masterstroke. An alternative for next year – a jumping castle and, just maybe, a guillotine.

  10. George Ellis says:

    All I say James is correct. We need people with balls.

  11. Cliff says:

    All I can say is that there will be a few options put forward by some owners to Phumelela to save Flamingo. Exactly what James has asked. Please people I beg somebody out there to help us save our place with these guys. HELP

  12. Ian Jayes says:

    You have all left it far too late to do anything. The acceptance for Phumelela to run horseracing was outvoted with only two horseowners (mine and another one) voting against it. You were all so clever at showing how stupid you were. You have allowed the money-grubbers of horseracing to take what was not theirs, pillage and sell off their wasteful needs and walk off into the future. Shame on all of them.

  13. Leon Lotz says:

    Agree with you 100%. We need people like you and Geoff.
    Mr Miller it is now time to get everyone involved ,including those you think must stay out. What is the use of the racing assosiation?????? We need new people.
    We need a country wide meeting of teainers and owners. I left because of all this bullshit.Came back last year thinking I was wrong .I was right. Now I am sitting with 12 horses of my own. I have to decide now do I stay or leave? Can we change anything or will Phumelela and the racing assotiation kill our industry like the ANC is killing the whole country??James if you taking the lead and we really go in with a fight then I am in.Miller waiting for phone call

  14. Basil says:

    Preston , if cash flow was not rectified then the liability to Phumelea was contingent and constitutes poor risk management and assessment by the board of Phumelela. If cash flow was rectified they wouldn’t be in the current predicament.

  15. Joe says:

    An urgent meeting needs to be held with all owners and trainers to discuss
    the way forward.

  16. Speedyvar says:

    Fully agree with Mr.Jayes. Where were these people when Phumelela was swallowing every horse racing asset.Who gave them the Kimberley racecourse?
    And why is Mr. Vee Moodley not saying a word about what is going on? Has Phumelela also taken over the NHA?

  17. Deon Beyers says:

    Sell Kenithworth.Show a “profit”.Pay bonusses.You have done it before and there are a few racecourses left
    Edited*. There should be an inquiry into racing capture!.

  18. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…Cliff at worst some of MDK boxes will be vacant soon… trust me as the 1st lot of horses are shipped over the balance will follow along with other trainers following suit that are in a position to do so… Hanging there buddy I honestly feel for you guy’s…shocking situation to be in you guy’s are in our prayers…Clyde Basil if anyone can maybe help save the game it’s you Champ…I know you’ll die for the game common Mr Basil the game desperately needs people like yourself to help this once loved industry to flourish again…

  19. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Saying Phumelela is reactive, is a Compliment

    No No

    They are a destructive bunch

  20. Cliff says:

    Leon call me your no not working
    We have a very good proposal we will put forward to the RA and Phumelela . This place can simply not close down. For those that need to know that this ground was given to us in 1958 by the late Mr. Oppenheimer for the purpose of hosting horse racing and conducting totes. I think that the operator must surely think about it again and come and listen this time to proposals by the stakeholders in our area that must include the RA afterall we all part of them. If they have racing at heart plse come and listen what we have to say we can save Flamingo Park. Like my owner Mr. Johan Venter so rightfully said to you Patrick you came down not to look for a solution to the problem but only with the decision that the board decided we will be closed by December and want an answer where we would like to go to by end September. Hell off a long time for us to decide in that period. Like one person said we run a good business then somebody just come and tell you its kak you must go and pull the plug. I had a meeting with some prominent owners and they have proposed to meet again with you this time to look for a solution and work together towards saving racing here

  21. Steve Reid says:

    Frankie Zackey….. Clyde Basel joined Phumelela on 1 June 2009. He has had more than a decade to make a difference, and in my opinion, has achieved very little besides do the job he was well paid to do. Perhaps as his biggest admirer you can inform me what difference Clyde has made in this decade? Let me remind you of the role that he was employed to do:

    .”Phumelela group CEO Rian du Plessis: ‘I am delighted to have Clyde as part of our team! I am looking forward to working with Clyde to find new and alternative sources of revenue for the industry.”

    Please list the new and alternate sources of revenue Basel has delivered in his 10 years.

    While it is always admirable to stick up for a friend, the bottom line is incompetence and greed have put Phumelela into the position that it finds itself in today. I have been saying this for about as long, if not longer, than Basel has been at Phumelela.

    One thing we need to do if racing survives is have some type of racing TRC. Clyde has some questions to answer around Randjesfontein.

    The floor is yours.

  22. Llewellyn says:

    People, what is needed in racing is a new breed of horse ownership and training.
    Just take a drive to a weekend so called bush meeting out in the sticks – you will see thousands of people!
    Racing is far too “controlled”. I say bring in the rural folk, up skill them, create more courses such as bush tracks around the country, keep the horse welfare top priority and this industry will grow.
    It’s far too impermeable by ordinary people.
    Racing caters for the wealth only and that must change.
    Trainers and owners need to come from shack dwellers community as well for racing to thrive.

  23. Rian says:

    Have to agree with you Steve. but feel you should not have spared the lot of them in top management although time to say goodbye to the fools at the helm has arrived
    S P has been treating them with kit gloves and its a problem

  24. Paul says:

    It appears that Phumelela is as corrupt as the ANC and can teach the ANC a lesson in Nepotism
    Ian Jayes was the only one with Balls to stand up and voice his opinion and they forced him out of the game but no one supported Ian

  25. Oscar says:

    I agree with all the comments thus far.
    It shows that there are many people who still has the welfare of the beautiful game at heart.
    At the moment racing in South Africa is sinking faster than the Titanic.
    New blood is urgently required in the racing industry to save a disastrous situation.
    Owners and Trainers must unite and
    demand changes.
    I believe its about time that the Government must get involved in the affairs of horse racing in S,Africa.
    Nothing is cast in stone.
    We do not want to lose another race course like Clairwood Park,Gosforth Park and Bloemfontein.
    If members of the organisations can’t handle the situation they must resign and go wherever.Thousands of peoples lives are at stake here.
    Flamingo Park can not close its as simple as that.

  26. bob kistnasamy says:

    I concur with the frustrations and comments stated by writers. There is a cabal that is running Phumelela who are not looking in the best interests of running the sport. They are also some of the shareholders/directors who have invested in Phumelela.
    If the loan was taken to pay dividends, then we need to look at who benefitted the most.
    It is time that the old guard is relieved of their duties and a turnaround strategist engaged to improve the lot of the racing fraternity in Phumelela.
    If we look at the directorship (executive and non-executive) of Phumelela, we have members with exceptional qualification, knowledge and experience. It is therefore quite astounding that Phumelea is in the current poor state.
    Forensic auditing should be undertaken to establish whether the ship is afloat because of creative accounting. Fixed asset value could be exaggerated to hide the actual asset value.
    The sad part is that in the long term, the shareholders are the losers.
    The sale of Flamingo Park appears a bail out for poor decisions and management of the racing centres. Kimberley has received the worst of the poor decision-making.

  27. gops naicker says:

    gops . we need get back to basics. new blood is good. change is good. take out guys from presenting or otherwise employed by the industry who have vested interest. in other words let trainers be trainers nit presenters on teletrack etc.

  28. Ralph Fell. says:

    @Brendon. The writer’s missive should be compulsory reading. Brendon has accurately identified the chief culprits although I could name others in the coterie hiding in plain sight. They know who they are and should fall on their swords. The suggestions put forward by Brendon, with fine tuning, make perfect sense. The allusion to jellyfish is priceless. Who is Champ Basil.


    Mr. Woodruff, I can confirm the following from Sharenet, it may help you form an opinion


    Net income for the interim period decreased by 3% to R899.5 million (2018: R931.6 million), profit before finance costs, income tax, depreciation and amortisation dropped 76% to R13.3 million (2018: R56.5 million), profit attributable to ordinary equity holders of the parent fell 17% to R70 million (2018: R84.6 million), while headline earnings per share dropped 17% to 68.02 cents per share (2018: 81.66 cents per share).


    In the interests of conserving cash and with a view to future capital commitments, the board has resolved not to declare an interim cash dividend.


    Given the above backdrop of uncertainty, and in view of the fact that annual results for the twelve
    months ended 31 July 2019 are only scheduled to be published on or about 4 October 2019, the Board, in the interests of continuing candid communication with shareholders, believes it is necessary to advise on the situation post the interim results and with respect to guidance for the full year results.

    The results for the six months ended 31 January 2019 reflected a considerable deterioration in trading
    conditions in local tote and fixed odds operations whilst the local losses on horse racing operations have increased. Despite international profits, the total loss in Media Operations increased by 35%

    My comment : – All this for the notice and attention of shareholders….. that’s Phumelela prime concern.

  30. PL.NEL says:

    Brendon, bravo. Absolutely dead centre.
    This is a national issue, it holds 1% of the country’s work force. Surely the business model should be following countries where racing is successful eg. Hong Kong. No bookmakers and strict enforcement of rules. As owner and breeder you have my vote to boycott.

  31. Butch says:

    Brendon, I think your summation of whats happened & what needs to happen is spot on. As a punter who loves the sport you most certainly have my vote to boycott.

  32. James Goodman says:

    It is with utter amazement that i see how many racing folk understand and support the message i conveyed in the above open letter.The calls and acknowledgement are astounding!
    So where to from here.
    Firstly there are many of you that see and understand the predicament racing faces.
    I would have thought Phumelela would have contacted me. This would have opened the lines of communication. I have great respect for Patrick Davis but it seems his hands are tied. The feedback from the meeting in Kimberley is the decision has already been made!
    Why would the operators not want open and frank discussions on this closure?
    These Questions cannot be answered without looking at the Kimberley cost in their entirety.
    But, is the racecourse being sold because it is worth more as real estate?
    Or is it being evacuated because there is the possibility of mining it?
    Is it in fact owned by Phumelela and what is it worth.
    Can we all get an honest answer to these questions. We know Phumelela is in dire straights,the share price says it all.
    Look at the knock on effect to the industry if the course closes.
    1. There will be no 2nd home for hundreds of noncompetitive horses from Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
    2 This will lead to fewer horses being bred. Already the foal crop is way down on last year.
    3 Kimberley racing employs hundreds directly and probably thousands indirectly.
    4. The operators would not be able to fill their race meeting quotas as per their international contracts.
    These are the only profitable entities in Phumelela ?
    Why were these questions not asked and given due consideration for answers from role players.
    Surely common sense should prevail, or is this all more sinister.

  33. TNaicker says:

    Dividends are determined by maximum distributable amount (accumulated profits excluding unrealised gains) and not cash available…

  34. Noel says:

    @ William Milkovitch, although I applaud you for your valiant effort to clearly defend Phumelela by quoting all the dividends, you fail to realise Sir, that the industry is in dire straits. No matter how you defend there actions by quoting all the reduced dividends , the fact of the matter is that Phumelela have destroyed the very industry that we so cherish. It is time that we have a clean sweep in this industry, and bring in individuals that wish to build the industry and see it blossom.

    The days of individuals earning ridiculous some of monies while being absolutely incompetent in the positions they hold within Phumelela, while also insuring the sheltered employment of there family members should be brought to end.

    Shareholders are not bigger than the industry! They clearly don’t have racings best interest at heart, but merely the financial rewards for there personal pockets.

  35. Editor says:

    Received via email:
    James Goodman is a sterling racing man who loves the game, has some interesting things to say and is quite right in his overall assessment of the industry.We can only hope that sense will prevail over narrow, self -interest.
    Kind regards


    Noel – you have it completely wrong. ? ? I loathe them.

    If you read the earlier blog carefully, Mr Woodruff asked about confirmation of certain dividend information, so I replied with info from Sharenet… for 100 % accuracy.

    I have been posting incidents on this very website for 6 of more years illustrating Phumelela’s gross day-to-day trend of mismanagement, neglect of the punter, long term dire consequences of their corporatization of racing and taking the next days patronage of the punter for granted.

    I feel that when criticizing Phumelela, which they deserve, we must be accurate with the facts we post even if we are filled with emotion and disgust at the downhill slide of SA racing.

    I’m so badly against this clowns, I can make medicine sick.


    Just to be 100 % clear Noel, when I say you have it completely wrong, I mean the way you interpreted my Dividend news e-mail.

    I’m 200 % in agreement with the rest of your e-mail, that’s why I ended my post ” My comment : – All this for the notice and attention of shareholders….. that’s Phumelela prime concern.”

    I should have added, Phumelela = no concern for the racing public.

    I hope this helps you realize that I’ll go to war with you to get rid of this scourge

  38. Noel says:

    @Milkovitch, thanks for the clarification I appreciate it. I believe we should all take a serious stand now, to get rid of the scourge that is destroying our beloved industry. The fish stinks from the Head first but unfortunately our fish is already rotten from the Head to the Tail.

  39. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…Steve thanks for the invite unfortunately I’ve never been a good dancers…had you said the ring then yes I would gladly except…Are we not entitle to a opinion or suggestion ? I stick to my words Clyde Basil will turn this game around…Not you or anybody else on this platform will change my opinion…Clyde is about the only one left that has and will always have racing at heart…there’s not a single person besides the superfecta that dislike him they love the Man come racing one day and see for yourself from the ground floor to the very top he’s the only one that spends time listing to the punters owner’s… Mr Basel more people like you in the game and the game will flourish ..Every position Clyde has held to my knowledge has never been given free reign always answering to the Pilots…Let’s give him at least 1 shot to come off the bit without interference he’ll come home smoking…Not if but or maybe… Clyde thank God you understand the Lebanese and Indian Lingo…if its not for us the game shuts down if you turn the balance inside out upside down you might find a few coins…not one of you can dispute that not one…never forget that the Lebanese and Indians will always rule in racing – we have the balls we dont cry and piss like puppies we bark, bite and once bitten, there’s no big problems

  40. Basil says:

    William it intrigues me that turnover dropped by 3% but yet PBI (profit before interest ) etc dropped so drastically.
    What were the major variances? Surely that would create intelligent analysis.

  41. Editor says:

    Transferred comment:
    Frankie Zackey….I’ll love to know who stopped racing following the Flaming Gun episode and the Greek Affair objection not forgetting the Querari Viking objection when it was upheld who barged their way into the stipes boardroom was it not Frankie Zackey and David Safi and why did we do that for justice…punters were robbed so dont get me wrong guys we fight for justice

  42. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    SA racing is broken…..this conversation has gone on for years and nothing has been done. World class people have been ignored for an agenda that has nothing to do with the well being of day to day racing……Its all about getting back to elite “boutique” racing. The export market is what this is all about with the exchange rate, all those blokes wearing lots of hats are about to make a killing, who needs racing ?……..the sport of kings has gone full circle……let them eat cake.

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