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SA’s Only Sand Track To Close

The sad end of an era

The news of the closure of South Africa’s only sand racetrack next month will not come as a great surprise to anybody.

But whichever way we try and spin this tragedy, the fallout is likely to leave a scar on our racing landscape for years to come.

The Sporting Post reported late last month that a quartet of Flamingo Park trainers were considering a move to Ashburton and were awaiting a final decision on the sand track’s future.

This was the enforced culmination of the PR debacle last year when Phumelela and Racing Association management first approached local trainers.

Turf Talk broke the news late on Sunday that the handful of local trainers left have now been given notice by Phumelela that they will have to be out by 31 July.

It is not known whether the decision was initiated by the Business Rescue Practitioner. But does it even really matter?

Officials of the beleaguered racing operator will reportedly be visiting Flamingo Park to ensure that the stables are vacated.

Thus far there has apparently been no word on whether the trainers or their staff members will be financially assisted with relocation, or with other costs to be incurred.

While the social and equine welfare impact will be shocking and devastating, the gap in the South African racing economy won’t be filled for years – if ever.

The centre has been a traditional second base for horses who struggle in the major centres, and are more effective on sand, or probably wouldn’t make the grade for export to Mauritius.

While former dual Northern Cape champion Corrie Lensley has settled in well at Milnerton in the Cape, and had one of his first-timers put in an eye-catching performance last Wednesday at Kenilworth, the adjustment to new centres won’t be a cakewalk for many of the ex-Kimberlites.

NHRA Chief Handicapper Lennon Maharaj told the Sporting Post that horses with established dual ratings will run off their turf ratings on grass.  Horses new to the turf will run off their sand ratings and will be reassessed within 3 runs.

Racing expert Jay August recently suggested in a comment on this site that race programmers would have to think out of the box for sand-only horses moving to grass or poly, en masse.

He pointed out that most Flamingo Park horses run off lower ratings than the normal turf population and will most likely run at sufferance, if they escape elimination, in even the lowest handicap races.

The sand median rating is 57 compared to the current grass median rating of 71.

He concluded that, on the assumption that the population of horses moving to others centres is representative of the past, the programme will have to be more inclusive in catering for these animals if their move is to be encouraged and supported.

And then what about the property on which Flamingo Park is located? There seem to be varying opinions on that.

We have to look forward.

But what a sad story to end the weekend after some entertaining SA Champions Season racing on Sunday afternoon.

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15 comments on “SA’s Only Sand Track To Close

  1. Chris Sturdy says:

    We should be doing our best to make sure the centre is kept open. Too many tracks closed under the Jooste era to mark a supposed new start with another closure. It seems the new norm in the racing media is scrambling to save face and keep your name in the frame if you were a former big vocal supporter of Markus Jooste or putting yourself up for approval under a new status quo if you were not a supporter of Markus Jooste,. Worrying …. !

  2. Geoff Clark says:

    Another nail in the coffin for S.A.Racing , most of these horses have already been tried in other centres , now they want to take them back there. How long do you think owners are going to hang on to them. And then ? Slaughter house for most. A sad sad day for our racing.

  3. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    That great big car crash keeps going…..nothing has changed.

  4. Wayne Fouche says:

    And there is continuing talk about closing Port Elizabeth Racing!. Look at the Tote figures last week and please tell me how they can even consider such a move. Are they simply wishing to kowtow to the wealthy Cape folk? Come on PE people let your voices be heard.

  5. Jay August says:

    This calls for ingenuity in the programming department given the lack of ingenuity elsewhere in retaining this centre. If the continued existence of PE as a racing centre is also in doubt even more so! Graeme Hawkins lamented a week ago that reducing foal numbers would create future problems.

    How many sound horses are retired from racing each year because they are not considered good enough to race at the level required by the program? These horses given the right incentive can remain in training and help racing negotiate a difficult period.

    The current SA program is a legacy of a past where foal crops were growing or stable, and that program sent signals to those not good enough to exit. That it worked well in the past is of no relevance to the present.

    We no longer inhabit such a racing world and the non-pattern program needs to be entirely redesigned. The pattern takes care of the better horses and can stand on its own. Who takes care of the rest?

    Are the race programmers in this country up to the task?

  6. Viv says:

    Sorry, it’s truly a shame. But, unfortunately not much interest from punters at this venue. When form is inconsistent together with collateral form; it’s no surprise.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi Viv
      Plse include your surname in future comments
      Many thanks

  7. Martin le Roux says:

    Had my say. Rest my case. The good news is of course that the saving of R 23 mil. a year in losses as well as the reduction in stakes must put Phumalela in a much stronger position as far as the business rescue is concerned. Best wishes to all. Maybe a bit of bush racing with bookmakers and all as in the old days. Who else remembers.

  8. Jose Kik Ussotarre says:

    History repeats itself in mysterious ways. If it was not for Kimberley, the Oppenheimer family would not be where it is today. Edward Oppenheimer came to South Africa from Europe as diamond buyer. He rose in the ranks to become Kimberleys mayor. He was elected to the House of Assembly as the Member for Kimberley. Ernest Oppenheimer planned and successfully took control of Cecil Rhodes’s De Beers empire which was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Kimberley. Kimberley has been exploited over the years by outsiders and those who have reaped the rewards have left Kimberkey as it is today, a big hole. Kimberley has real value. Ask the residents and those that have made the big conglomerates mega wealthy. Kimberley has always been a diamond in the rough. The closing of its race course by Phumelela is a big mistake. The Oppenheimers should have stepped in. It is their beginnings in South Africa. If the priority of MOD is to save jobs as per Mike de Kock, why is Kimberley being shut down? The Northern Cape Province needs the revenue. Its Gambling Board requires the town and the province to prosper. Kimberley will have to be sold. Phumelela cannot be spiteful like its actions with Arlington race course. Someone will apply for and acquire a totalisator licence in the Northern Cape. Kimberley will grow. Kimberley just needs a bit of polishing.

  9. STEVE says:

    Please- Please- Please, consider opening the SAND track at the VAAL…..PLEASE!!!

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Steve
      Didnt they once have that? 🙂

      Plse add your surname
      Cheers

  10. Steve leahy says:

    Yes they did and with a BLINK of an eye, they closed it down. The ‘powers’ decided !!!
    This would be an ideal opportunity, especially for the horses that have ‘soundness’ issues. The sand is so kind and the longevity, would give them a second chance!

  11. Wayne Fouche says:

    As usual Jay August is spot on with his comments. It would be a disgrace to close PE racing.

    As a matter of interest mine was the ONLY objection lodged against the closure of Arlington. Fly by night Phindi Kema came later with a wishy washy idea and no money as well as less racing skills.

  12. Cecil Pienaar says:

    PE racing being considered to close ? Nah, it’s more popular than Durbanville, Durban Poly, and even the Vaal. Should that happen one day, GC will partner. I like the sound of HWBets Fairview 🤔

    HWBets Kenilworth, nee ek weet nie.

    More truth, Very Sad for Flamingo Park, wat a terrible last year it’s been for all concerned.

    I look fwd to the Kimberly 4 setting up camp in Ashburton. Ons gaan lekker Afr en k.. praat by die klub. Dis darem baie Ingels daar 😅 Maar Lekker

    To all the Punters that play golf, hang in there. There is a *mr shyk in my province appealing. We all know the healing Powers of ⛳

    Be Safe

    * Name changed for safety and security reasons

  13. PL.NEL says:

    Thanks Jay. Between handicapping and racing program racing is suffering. The pressure these 2 are putting on trainers to plan a proper career for their horses is immense. This has a knock on affect on the fields racing which now offer poor entertainment and inconsistent form. All this whilst dodo owners are footing the bill for a bulsh$t career. For racing programs I would rather see all trainers fill in a quarterly assessment which goes into a voting pool as a percentage of about 70% and balance to panel of 3 chosen by trainers. This will need to be backed by friendlier race types of which the old system of divisions from E to A made for easier class distinctions.
    Ja nee, nou of nooit ne

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