Cape racing didn’t escape the recent stakes rationalisation but have shown plenty of independence and initiative in structuring the sums to suit local needs.
It’s been a testing first eleven months in the hot seat for Kenilworth Racing Chairman Robert Bloomberg.
When it comes to social media analogies of hospital passes and sinking ships, the specialist horseracing Attorney has been on the receiving end of some pearlers.
But in the interests of stakeholder information and clarity, he was willing to chat to the Sporting Post and explain the KR Board’s approach to the recent curved ball of stakes cuts.
He explained that a stakes workshop was held in the Western Cape (“WC”) recently, where the implications and basis of the reduction in stakes was discussed at length.
We asked if he felt that things could have been handled by Phumelela or the RA in a different way.
“The rationale behind the stake’s reduction has already been dealt with by Phumelela in their press releases. I don’t wish to become embroiled in controversy as to whether Phumelela and/or the RA should have prevented the stakes reduction from being implemented. It’s pointless, as it is what it is. At the end of the day you’re probably damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he said.
Bloomberg went on to explain that Patrick Davis had the ‘thankless task’ of adjusting stakes across the board in Phumelela managed regions.
He feels that, under the circumstances, the Phumelela Racing Executive had done ‘a fine job’.
The unique circumstances of the Western Cape were always going to require some specific tweaking for local conditions and demographics.
We asked him to explain the thinking behind the variation of the other model.
“It was agreed that the WC representatives would be tasked with ‘massaging’ the stakes pot as would be most beneficial to our requirements, bar the general consensus reached that all Gr1 races retain a stake of a minimum of R1 million, and that all Gr2 and Gr3 3 events, with the exception of a few races such as the Gauteng Guineas, be reduced by R50k. In this regard, a WC committee comprising Jonathan Snaith, Wehann Smith, Kevin Sommerville and myself, and including Patrick (Davis), linked up to debate this. We made a few suggested changes to Patrick’s draft which included the introduction in the WC of a handful of maiden handicaps in order to test the appetite of the trainers, and that he then amended accordingly.”
The KR Chairman said that “the WC committee decided unanimously that they would not introduce a 1% stakes apportionment, as introduced elsewhere, for finishing positions 6 through 10, primarily for the following reasons:
- The WC, following the exit of Markus Jooste, has seen a decline of around 30% in our horse population. By virtue hereof, we will not always be able to have 10 runners in a race. The upshot of this, is that the “lost” 1%’s all go into the national stakes pot. As the WC only receives 26% hereof, this is essence means that for each 1% “forfeited” we would lose 74% thereof. Add that up over the course of the season and we would lose significant stakes in the region;
- 35% of the WC ownership base is international and we don’t believe that they would be remotely interested in receiving paltry amounts for finishing unplaced. Whilst the 62.5% paid to 1st place is one of the highest in the world, we were not averse to adjusting this 1st stake slightly to the benefit of the current 20% 2nd stake as the handicappers are often penalizing the runner-up in close proximity to the winner, yet the 2nd horse receives less than 1/3rd of the prize money. However, this has not been implemented and the status quo remains;
- The WC only has 24 trainers and is dominated by 6 of those trainers to the degree that between them they train around 70% of the horses. Accordingly, the “protection” of the “minority” would not work here as it undoubtedly would in Gauteng”;
Given the reaction to the cut of the Sun Met stake by 40%, we asked why reduce the prestigious race stake to the degree that it has?
“Firstly, it must be understood that with the stakes reduction, the WC was declining from R81 to R72 million, and in making the necessary adjustments, we thus had to ‘find’ R9 million to ‘shed.’ As the sponsors of the Sun Met had substantially reduced our sponsorship implemented as of the 2019 Met, we really had no alternative but to now substantially follow suit. I will point out though that this reduction is still significantly less percentage wise than that affected by the sponsors. Further, if we hadn’t taken R2 million ‘off the top’ here, this would have resulted in a complete decimation of the stakes in our minor races,” he added.
Bloomberg suggested emphatically that the Met is SA’s premier open WFA race run over 2000m and would still attract the best horses.
He further stated that the race is still one of the richest races in the country and has a stake R1 million more than the Summer Cup, arguably Gauteng’s premier race notwithstanding the Champions Challenge which has also been reduced from R4 million to R3 million.
He was confident that the Cape racing operator had cut their cloth as best they could in the best interests of their stakeholders and he said that he hoped this would assist the KR board in refuting unsubstantiated contentions in various quarters that Kenilworth Racing is ‘under the control’ of Phumelela.
“To make it perfectly clear, Phumelela has a Management Agreement with KR. It does not control KR. It reports directly to the Board of KR which makes the operational decisions of the company. Management by its very definition involves Phumelela taking decisions in the day-today running of the business and yes, there have been occasions in the past, by their own admission, where they have let KR down.”
Bloomberg said that he hoped that all of our leading trainers and top horses competed in the forthcoming Cape Summer Season and that everyone was welcome.
In finality, he called on the entire industry to pull together and made a plea for “parochialism and provincialism to cease as we cannot survive in these trying times without one another.”