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Vodacom Durban July Date Hinges On Government Go Ahead

Gold Circle clarifies big race date announcement

The Vodacom Durban July being run on 25 July is conditional on government allowing racing to restart in the near future, in order for the Champions Season feature race programme to progress, and for horses thus able to be in a position to qualify for the race.

Gold Circle’s Senior Events and Marketing Manager Steve Marshall was responding to an enquiry from the Sporting Post after a letter from Stewart Ramsay suggested that the announcement, which was broadcast late last week on ENCA, ‘was confusing because there is no mention on the government’s Covid-19 information website that horseracing has been granted permission to resume – albeit behind closed doors.’

Steve Marshall

Marshall sketched the background, where the racing industry in this country, along with many other industries, is under massive pressure.

In racing’s case, this arose as the two main sources of income, namely the sale of the racing picture and revenue generated from betting, are ‘both severely compromised’.

“Given Gold Circle’s sole function is to sustain the sport of Horseracing in KZN, the only way we can begin to rectify this situation, to start earning revenue and to rebuild the industry, is to start racing again. However we will only start racing, once government has given us permission to do so,” assured Marshall.

He added that, like many industries, they have a number of planned scenarios in place according to the different possible starting dates when they may be allowed to recommence racing and what conditions or restrictions may be in place at that time.

“It is common knowledge that the NHA made two applications to the NCCC to recommence racing behind closed doors which were rejected. We do understand that there was a great deal of merit in these applications and with the precedent being set in a number of jurisdictions around the world, including Hong Kong, Australia, America, France, and the news that the UK and Ireland are likely to recommence racing in the near future as well, all behind closed doors, we are hopeful that racing in South Africa will be given the green light in the near future, under the protocols detailed in the NHA’s application,” he confirmed.

The Vodacom Durban July is the pinnacle of South Africa’s Horseracing calendar.

2014 Vodacom Durban July jockeys

It is also a major social event which supports many other industries, such as hospitality, tourism, fashion design, retail and many others.

Most of these industries rely on the commercial value that the 50 000 plus Vodacom Durban July attendees into the provincial fiscus annually.

“As event organisers, we as Gold Circle, in consultation with our sponsors and stakeholders, have made the decision to clarify the best case scenario and conditions which this year’s event can still possibly take place under – and that is as a ‘behind closed doors’ event.”

He continued that this announcement allows many of these traditional VDJ stakeholders to plan accordingly or, altrenatively to stop planning for a public event.

“In order for the VDJ to take place on 25 July however, still absolutely requires that government allows racing to restart in the near future in order for the Champions Season feature race program to progress and for horses to be able to qualify for the race.”

2014 Vodacom Durban July fashion

The latest Gold Circle-Vodacom Durban July press release states that ‘The proposed date for the race is Saturday 25 July, but the extremely fluid nature of the current pandemic means this could change as circumstances so dictate.’

“This means that there are other possible scenarios planned if we cannot recommence racing by 31 May, which is the current date set for the start of Champions Season and the running of the IOS Drill Hall Stakes, WSB Guineas and WSB Fillies Guineas,” added Marshall.

He said he hoped that this clarifies any confusion around the rescheduling and conditions which have been communicated to the public for the staging of the VDJ this year as well as Gold Circle’s commitment to working with the NHA and Government to ensure that when they do start staging racing again, it will be done so as a responsible company with the safety and welfare of those personnel required on site to stage racing as their highest priority.


Stewart Ramsay wrote in a letter entitled ‘We Live In Strange Times’, that common sense has been replaced by confusion and logic has been replaced by lockdown.

He writes that added to that a democratically elected parliament has been replaced by a command council.

There can be no dispute that actions to protect lives must form a major part of any plans implemented to deal with Covid 19.

But as the length of the lockdown extends it is now beyond dispute that the government has got the structure of the actions they have implemented horribly wrong.

What the government either did not understand or chose to ignore is that the South African economy could never sustain a lockdown. The economy was in trouble before the virus and now it is in crisis and confusion

Horse racing has not escaped the crisis nor the confusion .

Pertaining to the confusion firstly a totally new racing programme for the feature races – including the July – was announced to commence on May 3.

In making such announcement obviously those in charge were not aware or did not understand that the lock down would be lifted in phases – levels

Now it appears that there is more confusion – this time pertaining to the July

Michel Nairac the CEO of Gold Circle has announced that the July will take place but behind closed doors – apparently on July 25.

Such announcement was broadcast on ENCA in which they stated it as a fact that the July would take place.

It is a confusing statement because there is no mention on the government’s covid 19 information website that horse racing has been granted permission to resume – albeit behind closed doors

Also does the statement mean that those administering racing have accepted and conceded that normal racing will not continue and that if racing continues it will have to take place behind closed doors.

Horse racing’s position is serious enough without horse racing itself adding to the confusion.

Horse racing implying that it is going ahead regardless of the government’s decision is even more serious.

If this statement pertaining to the to the July was a publicity stunt to attempt to pressurise the government, it was ill advised. It will do little to enhance horse racing’s petitions to the government to allow racing to commence.

However if Mr Nairac has inside information that horseracing has been granted the right to commence racing – then it is great news!

  • Pics:Gold Circle / Candiese Lenferna / Gameplan Media

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5 comments on “Vodacom Durban July Date Hinges On Government Go Ahead

  1. Donald says:

    Look , I saw nothing wrong with the date / terms / conditions for the July as announced by Gold Circle. They have planning , logistics and sponsors to consider and a date set now for what is MORE than two months in the future makes perfect sense when it is obvious that horse racing will commence under level 3 lockdown which will be on or before 1st June with the possible exception of the Western & Eastern Cape .

    What is also obvious is the fact that if horse racing has not started , for whatever reason , by 1st July at the VERY latest well that will be a blow that the industry may never recover from in my lifetime ?

  2. Oscar says:

    The great Stewart Ramsay former racing editor of the Daily News.
    I remember you used to select a banker for every race meeting and most of them used to arrive.
    My late dad always bought the daily news
    For your tips.
    I remember the one July ,where.you made
    the public wait.
    Then on that Thursday afternoon before the July.
    You announced that Over The Air will win the July.
    My dad made some good money that year and so did I.
    10 to one was a gift price as well.
    Personalities like you come once in a life time.
    We respect you Stewart Ramsay.

  3. master says:

    Now lets look at these 2 statements from the article above…..

    “It is also a major social event which supports many other industries, such as hospitality, tourism, fashion design, retail and many others.”

    “He continued that this announcement allows many of these traditional VDJ stakeholders to plan accordingly or, alternatively to stop planning for a public event.”

    If you plan to have the VDJ behind closed doors, how is hospitality, tourism, fashion design, retail and many others going to benefit from the VDJ?
    You want Government to give racing the go-ahead with the view of having all these events?

    Tell your stake holders to stop planning…. cos the public is not gonna be allowed onto the racecourse IF and that’s a BIG IF…the VDJ is allowed to take place.


  4. Steve says:

    Hi Master

    Just because we cannot have the public at Hollywoodbets Greyville on the day, doesn’t mean that none of our traditional sponsors will proceed with their sponsorships for this year’s behind closed doors event. This year’s situation has forced us, and many other event organisers, to discover ways to present our events to our audience virtually or plan the broadcast of these events in such a way that allows for our audience, who may have wanted to attend this year, to still engage with the event in order to maximise their entertainment value while sitting at home. This engagement will be done via live feeds, the broadcast, social media and other virtual platforms, not via public race course attendance on the day. I repeat -there will be no public attendance on the day.

    It will not suit all of our sponsors who were planning to be involved in this year’s Vodacom Durban July race day, in which case those sponsors, who have already engaged with us, would stop planning for VDJ 2020, as you have suggested. However certain sponsors are excited about how this year’s event will be produced and the very different opportunities that this will create to engage with our audience through the various channels. We expect our viewership numbers to increase this year, due to the fact that people won’t be able to attend the event and this audience’s attention presents value for brands who want to advertise their products or offerings to them or to engage with them via the various social channels. The broadcast and our presentation of the live event on virtual platforms has become our core focus from a marketing perspective.

    Fashion has and will again this year form part of the event. Colleges and Technikons include our annual VDJ Theme as part of their curriculum and we are committed to utilising virtual platforms to ensure that we are able to award this year’s Young Designer prize to the worthy student. We will also have competitions on the day where the audience will be able to send pictures of their themed outfits on our social media channels, if they choose to get into the full swing of the event.

    Going forward, I am certain that some of the changes that we are being forced to make this year, will be continued in future years as they will enhance the event, even when we do have the opportunity to host a public event again. This is definitely a positive that will come out of the situation we are in.

    Once again I will reiterate that Gold Circle is committed to working with Vodacom, Government, including the city of Durban who are one of our sponsors on the day, our other sponsors and stakeholders to ensure that we are ready to host the Vodacom Durban July within the defined protocols issued, provided we are given the go ahead by Government to recommence racing behind closed doors.

  5. Speedster says:

    I will keep my EYES WIDE OPEN to see if the race will take place……. You go you’re good thing….My ante-post bets are on….. solid…..

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