Home » Racing & Sport » Grooms & Jockeys – ‘Let’s Stop The Travelling Today’

Grooms & Jockeys – ‘Let’s Stop The Travelling Today’

'If racing grinds to a halt, we are in trouble'

In the words of a local regular, Hollywoodbets Greyville was ‘ever so eerie’ at the last meeting on Wednesday before increased coronavirus restrictions were implemented nationally, commencing at Turffontein on Thursday afternoon.

While it is yet to be confirmed, Barrier Trials are likely to be suspended in KwaZulu-Natal.

The facility is really a luxury, supposedly loved by only a select few, and many will be hoping that’s the end of that – certainly on a compulsory basis.

Hollywoodbets Greyville during Wednesday’s racemeeting (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

This week South African horseracing reacted promptly with widespread COVID-19 containment measures.

But travelling jockeys and interprovincial raiders, with out-of-province grooms accompanying them, are two additional aspects that probably need to be addressed urgently.

Jockeys were not mentioned in the additional measures implemented late on Tuesday and, ironically, they are also probably the one stakeholder group who would get up closer and more personal to each other on average than the official, groom, owner or trainer would, by virtue of changerooms, showers and sweatboxes.

Every major venue in South Africa would ordinarily entail air travel by visiting jockeys, although Gauteng riders do travel by road to Kimberley – and some of the Cape jocks take the under ten-hour N2  scenic run up the Garden Route to Fairview.

“I feel it makes sense to do everything we can to ensure racing keeps ticking over. If we have to stop for an  extended period of time, I fear the worst and doubt that many will recover. In that light, it is imperative to be seen to be doing our absolute maximum and ensuring every reasonable conceivable containment measure is implemented. Jockeys and grooms are two sectors where travel can be locked down completely, with ease. At least if the worst happens, and there is an outbreak in one province, we can still hopefully race in another. That’s why we need to shut down the interprovincial movement flow immediately.”

A ghost town – sad reality of the coronavirus restrictions(Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Those were the thoughts of Summerveld trainer Garth Puller, who said that even first world countries had failed to contain the spread – and travel was a sure way of creating a playground for the deadly virus.

He said there were well-intentioned efforts to introduce the COVID-19 awareness practices into the grooms’ accommodation locally, but that South African racing still lacked the technology and science to monitor individuals effectively.

Recent Hollywoodbets Sizzling Summer Challenge champion Garth Puller chats to GTV’s Warren Lenferna (Pic -Candiese Lenferna)

“Let’s turn the jockey travel ban into a positive. It gives the local guys more chances and there are surely enough riders resident in the various provinces, maybe barring the East Cape, to ensure that racing goes on. As for the travelling grooms, that is another aspect that can be suspended by putting the brakes on raiding horses from other provinces,” he added, saying it was a small price to pay for additional peace of mind.

Puller added that while the weather was still relatively warm, we were ‘probably okay’.

“I was reading up and see that that the coronavirus isn’t comfortable at temperatures of 26 degrees upwards. That’s why the jockeys should all be spending ten minutes in the sweatboxes! But, seriously, when the temperatures plummet and winter sets in, that’s when we will be tested.”

British and French racing have been suspended.

Like Puller cautioned team, British trainers are already warning that an extended shutdown will send their businesses to the wall.

“It’s devastating,” trainer Eve Johnson Houghton told The Racing Post. “Hopefully, it’s not going to be more than a month as then it will really start to impact us. I still have to pay my staff, the vet, the feed man, the farrier – those costs are still there for us.”

As of Wednesday morning, Australia was pushing ahead with plans to conduct spectator-free racing including at Saturday’s rich Golden Slipper meeting.

However the British move may well make the entire Australian racing industry sit up and pause for thought. They have already clamped down on jockey movement.

In the UK, the shutdown also comes as another blow to bookmakers who have already had millions of pounds wiped from their share values in recent days.

The Racing Post has reported operators Flutter Entertainment and GVC Holdings – the parent companies of Paddy Power Betfair and Ladbrokes Coral respectively – along with William Hill say the suspension of sports events would reduce their earnings by more than £100 million apiece.

They also warned that cancellation of horseracing, along with betting shop closures, would further reduce earnings by tens of millions of pounds per month.

We can only hope that everybody does the right thing here and we can beat the scourge.

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11 comments on “Grooms & Jockeys – ‘Let’s Stop The Travelling Today’

  1. Tex says:

    couldn’t agree more with Garth – there’s enough jockeys and apprentices to cover all provinces if there is a ban on public air travel especially – we have been there done that and worn the T shirt – containing the spread of a different virus, being the Equine Flu Virus.
    in 1986 we had the Equine Flu Virus outbreak, with Natal being the only province not effected – there was a total shut down of horse, grooms, trainers etc travelling from other provinces and we ”racing” only just survived. The other provinces did not race for three months.
    Then in 1993 we had another outbreak of the same virus on the Highveld – the Vaal stables were not effected and managed to race once a week with fair sized fields. We managed to contain the spread and survive with the same shut down, which was a month to six weeks.

  2. I M Wright says:

    I understand the fear of Covid-19 spreading and applaud the Government’s strategies put in place to prevent further cases. Nevertheless, to blame “jockeys as probably the one stakeholder group who would get up closer and more personal to each other on average than the official, groom, owner or trainer would, by virtue of changerooms, showers and sweatboxes”, is being rather extreme. Horse racing in Singapore has continued as “usual” with precautionary measures being taken of introducing segregated zones for its visitors in light of the coronavirus, and, on Friday, when the night races are held, include limiting the number of punters allowed into the 133ha site in Kranji on race days. Only alternate counters are operating to ensure greater social distancing.  Singapore currently has 345 confirmed Coronavirus cases. By insinuation then, one must presume that the writer is trying to highlight that South African jockeys and Grooms are “dirtier” & therefore more likely to spread the coronavirus?  Remember we have been told it is transferred by touch, the virus does not survive in temperatures over 26 degrees, is killed effectively by washing hands and affects people negatively that already have a pre-existing medical condition. I believe that the jockeys are required to have a medical exam for them to be granted a license, there is a Doctor on course and that the Racecourse facities are cleaned and disinfected before every race meeting. Furthermore, once on course, the jockeys are isolated from the general public. In my mind, the jockeys have less chance of spreading Covid-19 than your trip to the local supermarket! Please, let sense prevail – follow the medical protocols put in place, and stop allowing fear to cause unnecessary panic.

    1. Editor says:

      There was absolutely never the intention to suggest that any one group is ‘dirtier’ than any other!
      Garth Puller raised the issue of the t r a v e l l i n g grooms and jockeys.
      His argument is that travelling makes one a potential higher risk than a person who is based in one place. So he suggests stop the travellers – and grooms and jockeys tend to fall into that group.
      We are aware of certain jockeys who will no longer be travelling. A decision they made in their own and the industry’s best interests.

      Tex also makes some good points in his comment.

  3. Mavistos says:

    Mr Editor, imagine next week on 23 March in Flamingo Park we have 9 races named as follows:

    Race1: 12:10 Its A Rush.Co.Za Welcomes You On Covid-19 Awareness MR 78 Handicap (Open) Sand Straight,1000m,Stake: R55 000

    Race2: 12:40 ,Do Not Shake Hands Pinnacle Stakes (Open), Sand, 1000m,Stake:R70 000

    Race3: NICD TollFree No: 0800029999 Maiden Plate (F& M) Sand, Right Hand Turn, 1400m,Stake R45 000.

    Race4: No Alcohol Drnking After 6pm MR81 Handicap (Open), Sand, Right Turn,1400m,Stake: R60 000

    Race5: Vaccinate For Flue Influenza FM 58 (F&M),Sand, Right Hand Turn,1400m, Stake: R49 000

    Race 6: Avoid Close Proximity Stakes MR62 Handicap (Open), Dand, Right Hand Turn, 1300m,Stake: R40 000

    Race7 : Quarantine Yourself On Mild Symptoms MR66 Handicap(Open),Sand,Right Turn, 1600m,Stake: R 45 000

    Race8: Wash Hands Frequently with Hygiene Sanitizers Handicap (Non-Black Type) Open, Sand, Right Hand Turn, 1800m,Stake ,R110 000

    Race 9: Next Flamingo Meeting 30 March, No More Than 100 People Maiden Plate, (For Maidens) Sand, Right Hand Turn,1800m,Stake: R45 000.

    Hahahaha, interesting times we live in….

  4. Gman says:

    @I Wright.You are missing the point.Read the article again plz.Every measure being put in place is for the good of everyone concerned.How many people have passed on already.This virus does not discriminate.

  5. Titania McTaggart says:

    What is it about a crisis that makes normally sane men and woman compete to see who can come up with the most restrictive and self destructive suggestions? Sporting Post now has a daily article on someone suggesting some new and more draconian restriction. Panic has no no pause button. The race to zero is on.

    1. Editor says:

      Draconian or practical and sensible, Titania? 🙂


    Titania McTaggart, Sporting Post Bloggers & Bookmakers,

    Do you think we might get an opportunity for Spread betting on the virus ?

  7. Titania McTaggart says:

    Spread Betting? Is that like Containment Betting that our great Leaders are engaging in at the moment?

  8. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…I’m almost certain that Warren Kennedy will no doubt stick with Paul Peter if that should be the case,, it wouldn’t surprise me if he decides to move up with the family until the green light has be given by the authorities that the banned of travelling is over…Warren has really impressed me over the last 18 months i thought his rides on Phycho King and Marshall Foch was out the top draw he’s judgment of pace is just spot on…Garth the KZN racing season not having the JHB and Cape horses around will be very difficult to digest for any racing addict this has and always will be my favourite time of the year by a country mile in racing and I’m sure thousands will agree,, there’s just no better buzz in the world for me in horseracing during the KZN season,, racing just comes alive..it’s definitely a long shot but let’s hope and pray we can get most of the KZN racing in for the season…God bless the Coronavirus victim’s and their family world wide during this sad time you guy’s are in our prayers daily…God Bless

  9. I M Wright says:

    Reading that Italy’s death toll from coronavirus has surged by 793 in 24 hours to reach a total of 4,825 has made me reconsider the seriousness of the Covid-19. It will wreak havoc should it reach the high density areas considering how quickly the disease is spread.

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