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Racing’s Plight Hits Mainstream Media

'They are confusing gambling with racing'

Horseracing’s plight hit the front page of The Mercury newspaper this morning in an article entitled ‘SA’s Horseracing Under Threat’.

It was written that the future of the entire thoroughbred horse racing industry in South Africa is on the line after the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCC) rejected the National Horseracing Authorities (NHA) submission to race behind closed doors.

Crowd at Hollywoodbets Greyville before lockdown IPic – Candiese Lenferna)

The decision is expected to cost tens of thousands of jobs and the lives of hundreds of racehorses, who face euthanasia if the government does not permit racing to resume soon.

After reviewing the NHA’s submissions last week, racing was deemed not to be an essential service by the NCC.

This, despite assertions in the submission that racing is a low risk, non-contact event with high economic value, as the racing events are a critical element in the supply chain and a related agricultural service.

However, the NCC said racing could not be separated from gambling activities like casinos, and these operations were not included under the Level 4 regulations.

Gold Circle CEO Michel Nairac

Michel Nairac, chief executive of Gold Circle, the company that runs horse racing in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), said that there seemed to be a misunderstanding by the NCC as to the simplicity of what the NHA’s submission entailed.

“They appeared to confuse gambling with racing. They didn’t seem to understand that the same people that are looking after the horses in the training centres are the ones that will be on the racecourse.”

He said the NHA’s submission was comprehensive and stressed that the public would be barred from the racecourses, and that all public gambling facilities like the TAB and bookmaking outlets would remain closed. Only online betting would be allowed.

The JSE-listed company Phumelela Gaming and Leisure, the company which runs horse racing in all provinces except KwaZulu-Natal, was already under massive financial stress before the start of the national lockdown.

PhumelelaLast night, the company announced it was still in discussions aimed at raising capital.

If unsuccessful, it could be placed under business rescue or the board would have to consider an application for voluntary liquidation, it said.

A decision on whether or not to keep the company afloat was expected to be taken at a crucial board meeting last night.

Nairac cautioned that if Phumelela folded, it would have a catastrophic effect on thoroughbred horse racing.

Phumelela operates the national totalisator. It also controls the horse racing channel Tellytrack on DStv and the international arm of the sport with the sale of racing products to international betting markets.

“If Phumelela goes under, racing faces a very bleak future,” said Nairac.

With no racing in the Phumelela controlled regions – including Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape provinces and Free State – grooms will be retrenched.

There will also be dire consequences for the horses in all racing centres as the labour-intensive sport is being threatened not only financially but ethically.

With no racing, hundreds of thoroughbred racehorses face euthanasia, and every horse has a groom.

Justin Snaith runs one of the biggest racing operations in the country, training 150 horses and employing 100 people.

He sees these numbers dropping unless racing resumes soon.

“The racing industry is going to take a knock, and if we carry on like this with no racing, there will be repercussions and long-term damage. We need to resume as soon as possible,” said Snaith.

“There’s a lot of pressure from owners wanting racing to resume – racehorses are extremely expensive. My owners have been understanding so far, but for how much longer? The pressure will rise and we can only go on for so long before we start having problems,” he added.

Asked if he would be able to keep all his staff, he answered: “It’s going to be hard,” and he described a sharp drop in the number of horses he trains as “inevitable”.

Snaith said that keeping racing suspended, even though it would be staged behind closed doors, did not tally with the success the industry had had in keeping Covid-19 at bay.

“So far as I know, no one in racing has contracted Covid-19. Racing is one of the few industries in which you can say that they have isolated and quarantined the entire operation.

“This is particularly the case at Summerveld in KZN, where there are over 700 people who have been employed, quarantined and fed during the entire lockdown period.”

Trainers are also under severe financial pressure and very few are able to carry the costs of keeping horses.

Euthanasia and staff retrenchments could be their options, said Snaith.

Kenilworth Racing joint chairperson Robert Bloomberg, the owner of several horses, also painted a gloomy job outlook if racing remained under lockdown.

“Horses have already been euthanised in numbers, and that is the sad reality,” he said.

He added that it would also be impossible for trainers to stay in business if racing did not resume.

“Some owners are already dumping horses on their trainers and remember, for every horse that gets euthanised, a groom loses his job. Also, for many trainers the biggest issue is that they are big owners in their own right, with shares in the horses they train.”

Bloomberg added that the industry remained free of the virus and that the 450 grooms tested at the Randjesfontein Training Centre in Gauteng last Saturday were negative.

  • The Mercury

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30 comments on “Racing’s Plight Hits Mainstream Media

  1. bob kistnasamy says:

    It would be interesting to determine what the current industry is like especially from an overseas racing point of view and its impact on SA pools etc. I am quite certain that online betting has been on the increase and pools in overseas racing has seen a shift upwards. A punter will always find new racing areas to explore. With the COVID virus and lockdown, punters would have looked at Hong Kong, Swedish and Australian racing to test their selection and betting skills.
    Perhaps Phumelela and betting outlets such as Interbet, Betting World, Marshall etc can provide with stats on the online growth. Whilst we understand that tote and bookmakers’ contacts are zero and not everyone has access to online betting facilities, the opportunities to expand online racing is real.

    The interest must be maintained and Sporting Post has kept the racing interest going with the news flashes and dissemination of racing news.
    Thanks Ed.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Bob

  2. Heidi says:

    And each groom probably supports his family of how many……..resulting in more starvation and misery

  3. Anthony says:

    The fact that the NCC aligns horse racing with casino’s means that they have absolutely no clue

  4. Johann Liebenberg says:

    Lots of rumors flying around that the application to race behind closed doors INCLUDED opening public betting outlets. If that is true then I seriously question Phumelela’s will to race. I hope they did not sacrifice racing for the sake of trying to get an extra buck in the bank. Opening public betting areas would never have passed through in Level 4 and was always going to sink the application in total.

  5. Harold says:

    How is it that Lotto and Powerball are allowed to continue and racing is not? Maybe someone in Government stands to gain if racing folds. It is time to take this to the courts.

  6. Shanil says:

    If the submission to race clarifies the contribution to animal welfare such as feeding and training the horse . How can one compare casinos and horse racing as the same gambling industry.

  7. Anthonyj says:

    The NCC has no clue as Anthony states is an understatement. I have never heard of anything more ridiculous in my entire life. The fact that they can compare horse racing with no crowd attendance to casinos

  8. Pops says:

    When we read statements by people who are supposed to know the ins and outs of the horse racing business,we expect them to give out facts and not play games
    In this article,Mr.Robert Bloomberg states,— and remember, for every horse that gets euthanised, a groom loses his job.
    Now that just cannot be correct.And he knows as a lawyer/adv words matter.
    We who want racing to resume would be laughed at if we used his statement to argue for why racing should be allowed during Level-4.
    Because ,we see in the same article it is stated a top trainer trains 150 horses and employs 100 people.
    We need to know the truth .

  9. Ronesh says:

    I think instead of shouting on the press, it’s time for the NHRA to challenge government bodies. Have you ever seen the chaos since phase 4 of the lock down was implemented. There’s more people at risk of contracting the virus at shopping malls instead of contracting such behind close doors. Racing should be permitted to resume behind closed doors with online operators offering betting. If golf is permitted behind close doors then any other sport can be permitted behind closed doors. We are allowed to gamble on golf too. Man up NHRA and challenge the govt.

  10. Rudi says:

    Pops you are correct a groom take care of 2 or 3 horses or more if he is capable of doing so. Racing are gambling what else if we dont gamble no stakes. Dont blame the goverment blame the clever trevers in charge of racing. No social distance in parade ring between groom and jock and behind gates the same handler and jock. The same when a big owner got more than one horse in the same race the colours 2 different jocks. So that about if he got runners in the next another jock with the same colours . Horse race next to each other no meter apart all these factors must be looked at. The jocks the handlers and groom all have families that could get infected. If you think of all this stuff goverment are right.

  11. Malik. Zn says:

    It’s a no brainer that we need racing to continue. We hear all these stories about Phumelela wanting betting stores to open, why is the NHRA not responding to this? Was the government considering allowing racing behind closed doors before Phumelela tried to barge their way? I don’t think Phumelela is going to be afloat for much longer. People like Mrs Slack and Rupert can put forward 600 000 000 but it will. Still not be enough because the leadership is all wrong. It’s been so many years that these leaders have had their way, even to. A point where Larry Weinstein was swearing trainers but for how long can this go on. Michel Nairac is close to 64 or 65.john Stuart is close to 63 or 64 I don’t know about Kenilworth racing as they don’t have a CEO but they gents have done their time served to. A point and now it’s time to step down and let the younger hungrier people take over. This industry is calling out for transformation so that it does not remain a white dominated sport.

  12. Malik. Zn says:

    All we hear is the racing operaters using the “grooms” as a way out. The grooms get paid minimum wage, when all. Other staff get retrenched because these operators are keeping their friends happy and earning huge salaries then nobody tells government that people are losing jobs. Now because they need the government they use the grooms as the trump card. SAS that nobody thinks of all the other people who lost their jobs because of Mal administration

  13. Anand Chetty says:

    Unfortunately expectations of the ability of politicians to think are too high.
    Many of the current bunch in parliament were complicit with Zuma.
    How many politicians do you know, other than that wonderful racehorse, that are associated with racing?
    Like virtually all departments in government, the politicians say something but the managers, many of them totally incompetent, are clueless about their functions.
    Ramaphosa did a flip flop regarding sale of cigarettes. There IS a Zuma cabal that are there to undermine the president.
    Time for the courts to force government ‘s hand when decisions are irrational

  14. Hally says:

    If racing is not profitable. Owners and trainers complaining everyday of there hardships and losses why try and revive a sport during a pandemic? Science is saying this pandemic with wipe away 30 percent of the human population. We love racing but sometimes we must make the right choices.

  15. imfourie says:

    Someone has been reading there sporting post before writing the article. Hope one of the ministers reads the dam paper.

  16. PL.NEL says:

    Perhaps someone with enough pull could attempt the following. The issue of how government sees racing needs to change. I would suggest that all employed racing people bar bookmakers and Tote sign a petition, thus including grooms, trainers, jockeys, feed merchants, vets , logistics, laboratories, auction houses, farms, owners, race course employees,,,, the list goes on.
    Let’s take at least 200 000 signatures to war.

  17. Raj says:

    Government needs the tax revenue from horse racing to finance the child support grants as there will be a record number of babies born in nine months following the lockdown.

  18. Rian says:

    Moodley on DStv 404

    1. Editor says:

      Saw it, thanks Rian

    2. Editor says:

      Not sure that visuals of the Dundee July informal racing were the right support footage

  19. Antoinette says:

    Horses for courses, Ed!

    Dundee July jockeys was to tick the transformation box.

  20. Rian says:

    For sure Ed, but lots of support in Dundee
    Did they advise anybody it was to be aired?

    1. Editor says:

      No question – amazing venue!
      No official notice it was on the news, Rian

    2. Editor says:

      We hear through the grapevine that NHA’s Hazel Kayiya on at 07h05 at channel 405 in the morning

  21. Antoinette says:

    Well done to the NHA for highlighting the plight of the industry.

    Why is Phumelela notably absent from all public engagements. I understood the industry to revolve around Phumelela (GC and KR) and the RA, with the NHA behind them.

    All those who’s businesses are at risk are not leading the charge. Strange, when survival it the prize.

  22. Racing guru says:

    It’s absolutely terrible that horse Racing is equated to other forms of gambling… Here the lives of beautiful animals are at stake too whose feeding and looking after them… No racing means no income, no income means humans And Horses will eventually starve and die… What’s wrong with racing behind closed doors?

    In addition, it’s time for our racing officials to wake up and have an easy way for the common punter to be involved.. It needs to be straight forward and not rely on going to the tote. Can’t we have a cheap dedicated channel.. Not one linked to dstv… See other options around you and learn.

    There’s a need for forward thinking.. Too many old guys involved.. Need for Change..

  23. Donald says:

    Hally , I am amazed at your statement ” science is saying the pandemic will wipe away 30 % of human population ” ?

    I assume you got that information from your ” science fiction comics ” !

  24. IAN says:

    Best comment here is by P L Nel. The government seems only to listen to the masses – after all, they claim it was 23,000 complaints from the public that persuaded them to reverse the President’s smoking decision.

    Therefore a petition for racing to be allowed to resume – with thousands signatures from ALL affected parties – would hopefully have more impact than wishy-washy appeals from the NHA or whoever. Surely we could get many more than 23,000 signatures….?

  25. Taki says:

    Ian not 23000 but 2000 only

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