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A Keyboard Warrior On Our New Era

'It will only work if we ALL join in doing it together'

The Racing Restructuring Team are the newsmakers of the week.

But, while there is clearly a well-deserved groundswell of support for anybody making a difference in a game crying out for direction and leadership, not everybody is convinced that the chosen five are the quintessentially representative people to lead us out of the wilderness.

There is so much noise right now, who actually knows which way is up?

It’s almost fifty years since Johnny Nash suggested there were more questions than answers, and just three days into the Oppenheimer family’s inspired bright new dawn of hope for SA racing on Friday, things are puzzling. 

We all wanted change – but clearly we don’t really handle it well. And we just can’t see clearly now. Excuse the Nash punt again.

Firstly, Business Rescue and its practical application is a foreign concept, understood by what seems like less than 0,5% of the population,


Like, if anybody believed that John Evans parked his jam jar in John Stuart’s bay at Phumelela HQ on Monday morning and cleared the beleagured CEO’s desk, they must be smoking some of Johnny Nash’s favourite.

It’s really not that simple, brash or nearly that fast, say those in the know.

Few are prepared to say too much, but South African Board of Owners & Trainers’ Joao Da Mata tells us that he is happy with the principle of the RTT and the fact that it was formed – but feels it’s not representative.

“I can understand the way it was formed had to be done with finesse and, therefore I suppose the circle had to be tight-knit. My issue, for want of a better word, is that Phumelela as a business – as highlighted by Alec Hogg on the Biznews webinar today – has certain assets worth a few quid and almost any circle could have been in a position to represent racing. What I’m saying is that the moment those five gentlemen got the ball rolling, and with the support of the wonderful Slack family, everyone else was immediately locked out.”

Joao warns that the only way the RTT could truly succeed is through inclusivity – ‘there is no other way’, he adds emphatically.

“During the webinar, it was made clear that people that had done wrong would be afforded a second chance. I am all for that. But what about those that have been ostracised for 20 years after having predicted this current situation? And are now known as keyboard warriors?”

The passionate racing man asks why it is that those long-suffering warriors should not also be given the respect and second chance that the actual perpetrators of alleged or suspected wrongdoing are being afforded?

But he feels that at the same time, there is plenty of reason for the RTT to succeed.

“The main reason is exactly what SABOAT.org is about. We, as racing folk, have far more in common now than ever before. So we have to make it work and build things together. But, do I see the honeymoon lasting without inclusion? The answer is a flat no!”

On the subject of how the establishment of SABOAT.org is going, he concedes it’s ‘slow progress’.

“That is to be expected. There are far more important things on peoples minds liKe saving our wonderful animals and saving peoples livelihoods than to join ‘another’ group. However, the numbers are there and I’m very grateful and hopeful that we will have a voice. SABOAT.org will engage with anyone over any subject,” he points out.

We asked that, given the new RTT’s clearly powerful support base, whether Joao believed he could still even try and make a difference.

“Absolutely! Both as an individual and as a group. As an individual I have been passionate about racing for 40 years and have been all over the world and seen all the various types of ‘working’ systems.”

He warns that some of the international models won’t work in SA.

“The Hong Kong model, for example, works well for them but will fail in SA. That does not mean we can’t learn from them and take what works for us. I have ideas from  getting people back to racing, to sorting out the open bet issue to elevating stakes to where they should be. We can turn Flamingo Park into a loss centre to a thriving one. All these things are in my head and in other peoples’ heads.”

He says that no business has ever evolved without investment.

“This is business 101 – the previous incumbents failed on so many levels. But it’s their regressive complacent way of doing business that hurt the sport the most. It’s easy blaming casino’s for taking a portion of the leisure rand. If I was asked I would explain that the leisure rand is less important than the leisure hour.”

He states that he is confident that over the next 5 years (yes Rome was no built in a day) SABOAT.org will be known and respected as the group that represents the smaller owner / trainer / breeder etc.

Asked what he would do if given the keys to the door of SA racing tomorrow, Joao says he would implement the following immediately:

  • One runner per owner / trainer per race in order of MR
  • If a field is not complete, then the next runner comes in
  • 30% of the gross prize money to the winner
  • 70% balance is divided equally by the rest of the field.

He reckons that this could be done for two months.

“It would encourage full fields and certainly help everyone. As an owner I have to ask myself that if I’m already bleeding, does it matter if I collect R40 000 or R20 000? We all have to believe that the greater good needs to prevail! This will not be a popular solution but I would argue its’ short term benefits all day long.”

Joao adds proudly that most of his friends come via racing, and his best sporting memories are related to horseracing.

Senor Santa - 1993 Gr1 Computaform Sprint

“My son’s bedtime stories are about Secretariat, Frankel, Horse Chestnut and, of course, Señor Santa. I have no doubt that this situation will end up making us stronger and that the dark times will be looked at in the future as a turning point. I also think that some of us keyboard warriors are actually pretty ordinary folk with a huge passion and contribution to be made, and of course sometimes that passion in the written word comes across incorrectly.”

He implores the industry at large to join hands and work together.

“Let’s all be given a second chance and let’s all show the world that our product is truly world class – which I genuinely believe it is.”

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25 comments on “A Keyboard Warrior On Our New Era

  1. D. Krige says:

    The Racing Restructuring Team also known as the Dream Team are directors of the Racing Association. Their first priority is the business and objectives of the Racing Association. The Dream Team does not represent horse racing nor does it represent owners, trainers and breeders. They should only be representing the interests of the Racing Association. They represent the interests of Mary Oppenheimer Daughters (Proprietary) Limited under the opaque banner of saving horse racing. They have been appointed by one party only, Mary Oppenheimer Daughters (Proprietary) Limited. If they were appointed by the members of the Racing Association, they would not have signed non disclosure agreements and would be keeping members fully informed of developments. They will not resign their positions of directors of the Racing Association and allow others to take the helm because without them controlling the Racing Association, the bid of Mary Oppenheimer Daughters (Proprietary) Limited will fall flat. Is it not odd that the Racing Association directors think that they are exempt from the conflict of interest rules that everyone else must abide by. Does any of this remind you of days gone by when a controversial businessman took control over horse racing?

  2. Brett Maselle says:

    Dear Ms/Mr Krige,

    I agree with your point of view. What seems to be happening is that we are watching a remake of an old horseracing movie.

    Full transparency will show good faith. If the actors are not being remunerated, then they should not have any difficulty in making disclosure of everything.

  3. LK says:

    In the unlikely event of a 2 or 3 horse race, you would be better off coming last than first. In all other races you would be as well off coming last without a mark on your horse than being a hard ridden 2nd. Hardly the conditions punters want is it?

  4. Antoinette says:

    The request to our Government and the NCC for permission to resume racing focuses around grooms, employees and the horse welfare.

    It appears the current RTT is the RA. Who in the RTT is representing the interests of grooms, employees interests and the welfare of horses which Government and the NCC was informed to be the backbone of the industry? There appears to be a disconnect between what the industry communicates to the Government and NCC to the agendas/operations in the industry

    The RA has historically not been the custodians nor have they represented the interests of these groups. The sooner the RTT transforms to be what it ought to be (inclusive of all the relevant stakeholders) the greater the probability of their efforts delivering a workable and acceptable restructuring effort.

    Is the current RTT composition representative of the industry and do they have a balanced representation of interest groups? or is this forum men only and colour unfriendly?

  5. joao says:

    LK there will be no 2 / 3 horse races. we need full fields for betting to make its mark and create pools to feed the machine. My solution would be a short term one. It would give every owner trainer and jockey and groom a % for the next 2 months for us to somehow assist in recovery together.

    A 12 horse field in the new era will have 8 horse contributing to the “system” and earning nothing. So yes we want racing back and NO we don’t want to support mediocrity but that can be alleviated by the MR system.

    Unraced maidens can be created by ballot.

    These are just thoughts in my head to help get cash to everyone.

  6. LK says:

    So in essence for 2 months we will use punters/mod money to subsidise owners. owners don’t have horses so they can feed their families. grooms do.

  7. Noel says:

    Frankly the way all the bickering has started, before the restructuring committee and the appointed business rescue practitioner have even had a opportunity to get there feet on the ground, is exactly why racing remains a mess. Please allow the highly educated and successful business men, the opportunity to prepare and put forward a there plan of action. The businesses that they are all involved in, are all highly successful. What makes you think you can do better. They cant do any worse than phumelela had done over the past twenty odd years and secondly MOD would not of entrusted those appointed with their funds, if they thought for one minute they were incompetent. Put aside your own personal gains and lets support those left with a very difficult task ahead.

  8. Joao says:

    LK are you joking? The proposed stakes for a maiden are R70k in KZN Im saying instead of that prize money ONLY going to the top 4/5 runners it should be divided into ALL the runners AFTER the race

    WHICH means your groom of the last place horse will also get a small chop.

    The math is as follows

    R70 000 Prize
    1st placed runner R21 000
    2-12th each get R4454

    So how that has been misinterpreted i cannot fathom. In the short term it means that we genuinely all pull together without affecting the stakes input BUT that R4454 will help the owner / jockey/ groom / trainer of the last place horse

    is that better?

  9. Cass says:

    Why is no one talking about the bookmakers and tote staff?

  10. Rian says:

    Antoinette , it’s looks that way and it’s always been that way, but great to see Mod have applied there minds and money and it’s a start
    There definately needs to be more women on the various boards and urgently so .
    Been thinking about why so many men fill stadiums all over the world to watch men playing sport, weird hey must be some sort of love, dare I say it
    Anyway let’s hope we get more posts from women and hope you had great mother’s day.

  11. Gman says:

    Just a question.
    Your Idea sounds genuine.BUT
    The payout from positions 2-12 that you are proposing leaves the door open for Professional maidens.
    Tote fav running nowhere on a regular basis.
    Horses being run every week at the same or different venues.
    Horses being pulled up way before the race is finished to stay fresh for the nxt run.
    Or because you are better off with the horse running last than running in the first3, if you take MR ratings into account.
    These are all ideas yes but one should also look at the pros and cons of every possible senario.
    All the best to you and Saboat.

  12. Joao says:

    Gman Im not naive but I cannot let those potential negatives cloud the greater good and especially over a 2 month period where most horses would really only run 2 or 3 times.

    About 3 years ago I stopped worrying about the negative issues in life. So for example the IRC run a sports advice service, I know for a fact some people don’t subscribe but get the advice from some that do subscribe and share.

    I have no control over that so I don’t dedicate any time worrying about it.

    The same would need to apply to my stakes distribution theory. If people want to “pull moves” there is nothing one can do about it.

    So for the 2 months I think its worth the punt.

  13. Rod Mattheyse says:

    I get that paying stakes down to almost last place helps grooms – but paying stakes all the way down turns racing into a snowflake sport – and I am very anti snowflake.

    If you want to even things out for grooms then take 1 or 2 % of stakes put it into a fund and then quarterly pay each groom pro rata to his term of employment for that quarter – if he worked 13 weeks he gets a full share. Many bargaining councils do similar bonus type arrangements and in that way there is some recognition and regulation at the same time.

    As for the rest you should not be compensated ( unless with an attendance certificate ) for an also ran.

    Run to win the prize not a highly commended certificate.

    Paying stakes for bad performances will mean poor horses remain in training for too long – poor horses cause inconsistent results – which means less punters

  14. Hilton witz says:

    In order to try and help the stakes pot or certain affected party’s would the punting public object to have a percentage of all winning bets deducted and placed into a fund…For example if you collected 395 rand instead of 400 would anyone object?All bets every centre on the tote and with bookmakers …Yes i realise that pools have 18 to 25 percent taken off already but these are unprecedented times …

  15. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Hilton – how about just using the breakages – ludicrous ( yes Tony Rivalland I do understand the funding model) to use money that’s not yours to prop up the business

  16. Gman says:

    With all due respect.
    You cant assume a horse will run two or three times a month.
    You cant say if ppl want to pull moves it would be out of your control.
    This is an industry with alot off question marks hanging over its head.
    Racing in general finds itself in this situation because ppl did not listen to outsiders/punters asking some valid questions into their thinking behind various projects/programmes/rules applied without a thorough thought process.
    I do understand Soboat is in its startup phase.
    But its better to hit the ground running than pulling a shoe at the start.

  17. Warren Grobler says:

    This is slightly off topic in relation to the other posts on this thread, but is very important imo.

    I have a concern that nobody else is mentioning in the ‘New Era’.

    If PGE is bankrupt, and the deal with MOD somehow fell through (or maybe even if it didn’t), what would happen to monies punters have put into their tote accounts? Will these funds be ring fenced, or will punters simply have to wait in line for a few years to get paid like all other creditors? If the funds I put into a tote account tomorrow aren’t going to be ring fenced, I think I’d rather not be taking the chance putting them there. The game is funded by punters betting, but as usual I’ve seen nothing that indicates the punter/customer is being taken into consideration.

    If we the customers don’t have confidence in the Operator looking after our money, how can the game have any chance of bouncing back?

    1. Editor says:

      Very valid point Warren
      The question has been asked without clear answers over the past week

  18. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Warren – our president has not spoken with us for 20 days – let’s hope Mr Evans will as I am not sure the RTT have authority to talk to us on Phum matters.

    But the customer is the mug attitude will have to change if racing is to survive never mind thrive.

  19. Leon Smuts says:

    You pose an interesting question Warren as the funds do not belong to Phumelela. These funds belong to the player and since Phumelela has no banking licence it cannot be treated as anything but funds kept on your behalf in an escrow type account. What might have happened to such funds is another matter but I would like to think that you would still have access to these funds once racing resumes. It would be very hard to attract any funds if this proves to not be the case and since all Covid racing will be online and probably Telebet only it would be a definite non-start to get racing going if these funds, past and present, proves to be in doubt.
    So my summation is that your current fund holding will be made available to you when the time comes or racing is dead.

    1. Editor says:

      We have addressed the concerns to Phumelela, Leon

  20. Warren Grobler says:

    Do we have to guess though?

    Somehow racing thinks it’s customers are all morons who are incapable of independent thought.It’s exactly why it’s finds itself in this predicament.

    How about some answers.

  21. Steve Reid says:

    Nice article Joao. I have adopted a wait and see attitude besides all the current warning signs. There is one thing I differ on with you though. I don’t want or need a second chance. I haven’t done anything wrong despite the best efforts of the machine to find me guilty on trumped up charges. Thinking about it I don’t need a “first” chance either.

  22. Eric Fordred says:

    The first thing that needs to be addressed is the formation of a Punters liason committee, whose sole job should be listening and addressing the concerns of the Punters. Yes there are going to be Punters who will try and push their own agendas, however there are many more intelligent businesses minded Punters out there who can provide racing with creative ideas and new concepts, in order to make sure that racing SA returns to its fullest potential.

  23. Leon Smuts says:

    Thanks Ed, appreciated

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