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Have Saddle – No Travel!

How not to win friends and influence people

The National Horseracing Authority’s lockdown jockey travel policy continues to baffle stakeholders and the racing public. It’s also become another public relations assault by the regulator on an industry hardly in the mood for sideshows.

How do jockeys get bound by rules that have not passed due internal process? Who makes the rules? Shouldn’t they be published in the relevant sectors of the NHRA website?

Jockeys are independent contractors.

And business travel is permitted under present lockdown protocols, subject to the traveller being granted permission and formally issued a permit in the format gazetted, signed by his employer – ie the owner or the trainer who engages him.

Late last month, top trainers Sean Tarry and Mike de Kock were maligned as cry babies in some quarters after having had the jockeys they declared for the Hollywoodbets Greyville 28 June Gr1 features summararily removed by the National Horseracing Authority.

The two champions were referred to the NHA’s Covid-19 stipulations released on 28 May and revised on 18 June.

During the lockdown trainers, grooms, veterinarians and NHRA officials have been allowed to travel between racing centres.

Trainers have also moved between sales facilities and racetracks.

Business travel is permitted. Jockeys are independent contractors. Who decides who and what are essential services in this industry? We are, after all, only talking livelihoods, owners money, trainers plans and punters hard-earned cash, amongst other spin offs.

The NHRA’s 28 May statement reads, inter alia, that Jockeys will be restricted to ride in the region of their choice and cannot move in between provinces. They will be allowed to make one move prior to the commencement of racing.

The NHRA are on record as saying that they took their decision to restrict the movement of jockeys inter-provincially, to prevent movement between ‘hotspots’ and in so doing to ‘ring fence’ various racing centres, to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all stakeholders.

That doesn’t explain why jockeys have been singled out as the sacrificial lambs, in what appears to be little more than a PR move to create a perception of strong-arm control.

There is no basis to suggest that there is a greater likelihood of infections spreading if jockeys were to be allowed to travel between centres at will.

Equally, there is no evidence that the confinement of jockeys will drastically reduce the likelihood of infections.

The following points, without any malice to any mentioned or implied parties, were forwarded to the Sporting Post this weekend by a stakeholder.

This was emailed to the NHRA, the Coastal Jockeys Association and the Jockey Association South Africa (JASA) on Sunday. Only one entity responded – it wasn’t the NHRA.

  • How was a normally Cape-based jockey X allowed to ride in KZN before 1 July when Lyle Hewitson was refused travel before 1 July?
  • Then on top of that jockey X tests positive and, one imagines should be in isolation – even though his next test was negative. But yet he is back in Cape Town and was engaged to ride on Monday 13 July?
  • A Cape trainer had requested a PE jockey to travel to Cape Town and was denied this by the Chief Stipe, who indicated that a jockey must stay put for a period of one month before traveling again. In that light, how and why are jockey ,  and a Cape colleague, who rode on the Golden Horse raceday back in Cape Town from KZN so soon?
  • We are aware that Apprentice Xola Jacobs attended a funeral in the East Cape last week – and he has to stay there for a month!

Can somebody please explain how this all works? If we have our facts jumbled tell us. It is the industry that pays the NHRA salaries, after all.

Have Your Say

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31 comments on “Have Saddle – No Travel!

  1. Michael Jacobs says:

    While the restrictions are baffling and questionable, I cannot say I have that much sympathy for the jockeys. They are clearly not that eager to ride, particularly in soft conditions, so missing out on the lucrative meetings in another province will teach them a lesson to respect the owners and the punters and do their jobs.

    They were crying for hand-outs a few short weeks ago, and they repay their benefactors by protesting 5mm of rain! So I’m glad they are now being denied opportunities, maybe it will teach them to ride even if it drizzles a little bit!

  2. Viv Naidoo says:

    It’s like I said before, this industry needs an outside body to monitor and hold them accountable for any and all inconsistencies on their part.

  3. Rudi says:

    Alot of cowards and babies in this game name the jock poor bernie. Rules is rules so
    Jocks cried on saterday plenty good jocks in provinces who is riding decent horses and deliver.

  4. MJ says:

    Listen here pen Pusher, give me a call so I can explain something to you. Please get my details from the editor. Tired of people sitting on their couches chirping and not knowing what is going on behind the scenes.

  5. Michael Jacobs says:

    “MJ” (please provide your full name) , why not share your explanation with the entire SP readership, I am sure everybody would like to know why South African jockeys protest so quickly when a few drops of rain falls on a racecourse. Put us all in the picture, give us a jockey”s perspective and maybe in future we will be less harsh on jocks when they protest for every drop of rain or every blade of discoloured grass on a track.


  6. Barend Vlooh says:

    Well said MJ. Easy to sit on the couch and talking from your pocket when the jockeys risk it all out there in bad conditions.

  7. donald bradshaw says:

    No Barend , not well said M.J. , he has not said anything except to imply that we who without which he has no job are a bunch of ” know nothing fools ” !

    Michael Jacobs has made a simple straight forward statement which I happen to agree with and if that statement is incorrect then correct it ?

    We are not saying that being a jockey is not a very dangerous activity , it certainly is just that , but it also has it perks !

    I will not go into the ” bad conditions ” referred to as none of us could witness those ” bad conditions ” as Tellytrack did not bother to move one of their mobile cameras to this ” patch ” that the jockeys appear to have been complaining about with comments from their on course presenters but the poor coverage by Tellytrack of South African horse racing I guess is a topic apart ?

  8. Michael Jacobs says:

    What did he say Mr Vlooh? Absolutely nothing, he wants my details.

    What goes on behind the scenes? Tell us. Are the tracks poorly maintained? Are their dangers we are not aware of? Are the operators doing enough to protect jockeys? Are tracks properly inspected BEFORE a meeting, and not DURING a meeting?

    Us the punters (and your customers, who provide you with a livelihood just in case you don’t know!) would like to know. Maybe punters should “protest” for a month and see where that leaves you guys! Looking for more handouts again I would imagine!

    MGJ (keyboard jockey)

  9. M.J. Byleveld says:

    @ Micheal Jacobs. M.J. Byleveld Here.
    Do you have a family? Would you go drive on the road when there are potholes everywhere and conditions aren’t safe?
    Few drops of rain on certain tracks make a big difference, some tracks handle rain way better than others. Don’t generalize when it comes to a few drops of rain on certain tracks. You try ride a horse on a unsafe surface at 40km/p
    At the end of the day I also want to go home after a days work to my family and I’m sure 99% of owners would want their horses to get back from races sound and in one piece, well for me as a jockey I’d want that. Not all about our life’s but the animals as well. Just remember we don’t race we don’t earn.

    1. Tracks in SA are completely different to anywhere else in the world and so many people Compare that. You just can’t. Surfaces are different. ( but look at the uk they race in mud😡🤢🤮)
    2. Safety of horse and rider.

    Suppose there will still be some that say, just go and do your job! Hope that explains it a little better. Have a good day all.

  10. Cecil Pienaar says:

    ‘Listen here Pen pusher’ I like a bit of aggression….

    Agree Michael, Mr MJ, Mr Vlooh should share on this platform. SP allows everyone the opportunity.

    This debate started cause Scottsville cannot handle 5mm rain in winter all of a sudden. Maybe the Powers in charge must feedback on how they are going to fix it.

    If they cannot maintain it – Contract it out to professionals.

  11. Michael Jacobs says:

    Thanks MJ, appreciate your response.

  12. simonturner says:

    Well said, MJ. It is about the safety of both jockeys and horses which is why the course vet was also involved at Scottsville. Personally my belief is instead of blaming jockeys we should be looking into the track management. On the issue of jockeys travelling, the restrictions make no sense if all other parties ie trainers, owners, officials and grooms are allowed to travel between provinces. Why is it only jockeys who are exempted from travel.

  13. James Goodman says:

    M J B we all have the greatest respect for jockeys and their livelihood! We also love our horses and hate to see them injured! So the problem is with track management. It is incomprehensible that a track that has been raced on a handful of times in the last 6 months is in such bad shape!I say get an independent panel to investigate all tracks and their condition throughout South Africa. Bradford Smith is returning from overseas and i cant think of a better person to head this up,or for that matter be put in charge of all tracks and work with the supposed managers. Fat chance of this happening as he is honest and doesn’t suffer the fools gladly.

  14. Pops says:

    M.J. Byleveld in your first post it seemed like you were going to explain what goes on behind the scenes.
    In your second post you did not explain anything that goes on behind the scenes.
    You did state South African tracks are different to anywhere else in the world.The question is why..We also know the $ is different to the Rand.
    You also state —-Few drops of rain on certain tracks make a big difference, some tracks handle rain way better than others
    We know that.What we want to know is why.Is it because of no upkeep.The wrong grass.Drainage system needs upgrading.

    Have the tracks deteriorated so badly between the 1960s,1970s 1980s and know 2018.2019 ,2020.?
    Did you know jockeys Charlie Barends,Johnny Mc Creedy Garth Puller rode in the mud? Where they mad?Or were they just doing what they were taught to do? Ride horses in a race.
    The problem could be,because as an appie you are not taught how to ride after a few drops of rain,now as a jockey you cannot handle it?
    And finally.Did you know that a Zim meeting was cancelled because the South African jockeys refused to ride.Said track was unsafe.The Zim jockeys who surely know those tracks better than jocks that come up for one day,said track was fine for racing and were willing to ride.They ride those tracks everyday come rain or sun.
    MJ, please sit down with other senior jocks and operators and try to solve this track condition and maybe jocks can get a full days(meeting)pay every race meeting and punters can say—Those are our jockeys.


    Mr. Byleveld, thanks for coming onto the SP Bloggers site & giving us your input… to few a jockeys don’t.

    Further to your summation, are you saying it’s unreasonable for anybody to feel peeved at track management @ Greyville & Scottsville, taking into account the history of the various poor track incidents ?

    Many of us understand & accept your point about the difference in the downpours from province to province, they all do affect the tracks differently.

    And again, many non-jockeys never want jockeys and horses to race when they could land up “6 foot under.”

    A few months ago jockeys felt somewhat ‘gagged’ to express publicly their feelings around the incidents & attitude of racing administrators about track conditions at Greyville.

    Track Managements there, thought that jockeys were been obstinate about the Poly conditions.

    The result of that & other incidents is that the WHOLE truth/denial about accepted & prevailing track management issues leaves the Public /Couch Sitters at large, in the dark.

    Always the public neglected…and then, from there, comments arise that might upset the professionals, like yourself.

    Again, thanks for your insight.

  16. M.J. Byleveld says:

    This post was originally About jockeys that can’t travel, I unfortunately Can’t comment on how tracks are managed. I’m definitely no expert in that.

    Talking about behind the scenes, proper track inspections are done before any meeting is abandoned. All parties (Jockeys,trainers, stewards, track manager and vet) gets involved and if a track isn’t safe for racing, it is abandoned.

    Yes the aggression, because one gets tired of always reading how jockeys are blamed about abandoning meetings and like the 1st comment,
    “ They are clearly not that eager to ride, particularly in soft conditions, so missing out on the lucrative meetings in another province will teach them a lesson to respect the owners and the punters and do their jobs.” Yes it is upsetting because I know how hard we try to keep racing.

    We can sit down for days on end but if a surface isn’t safe well, not much a jockey can do about that.

    End of the day these travel restrictions still makes NO sense.


    Fair enough, totally separate issues.

    The quicker the race-day operators (racecourse issues) and the NHRA (policy enforcement) realize that the modern racing public have a big appetite for detailed & transparent disseminated information the better chances for survival.

    Cyber technology, race-clubs …Tick Tock

  18. Tony Mincione says:

    1. I’m glad a vet is there when deciding on the going, it’s nice to know that someone is there to speak for the horse. I hope that’s what the vet is thinking, I’ve met a few and I pretty sure that’s how they see it.

    2. I went racing to every race meeting for about 25 years, when Messrs Puller and co. we’re riding, and we had more cancelled meeting then than now.

    3. Once the jocks have made an objection that the going is dangerous, I would definitely not want to be the one who forces them to ride. Once the people who are already doing a dangerous job tell you that it’s now unreasonable, you make yourself completely liable if you over-ride them. It’s them who pay if you are wrong. Without a doubt, whatever happens afterwards, the riders should have the absolute deciding say in the moment. It’s not even negotiable, it should be a condition of employment. If you were a stuntman, and you decide it’s not safe, enough said.

    4. Other stakeholders should be accounted to if its not really obvious to them why there was a stoppage. In this case it’s clear that the operator should get back to people who took the effort to partake (owners, trainers, punters, employees etc etc) and explain why racing stopped when common sense tells you the track has been unused for ages. The lack of accountability just lets the same crap happen again and again.

    5. Finally, it’s time for real people to stand up and say what must be said. Hiding behind the past, or tradition, or old wives tales or incorrect assumptions must end right now. The sport is on its last legs. A few more punches and it doesn’t get up. All the little things we keep letting slide, they have accumulated into dead weight.

    All the best.

  19. G.A.McDonald says:

    Tony Mincione, when you say,I went racing to every race meeting for about 25 years, when Messrs Puller and co. we’re riding, and we had more cancelled meeting then than now.
    Every race meeting for 25 years.???Can you explain how you did that?
    Are you saying you flew to Gosforth Park on a Saturday morning,then in the afternoon flew to Clairwwod Park,then finished off the Saturday at Milnerton? Got ready to fly back to Greyville come the Wednesday.
    Tony it was possible,but you could not have gone to every race meeting for 25 years.Even though racing in the 1970s when Puller was riding was mostly held on Saturdays and Wednesdays only.
    More cancelled meetings than now? That’s for another day

  20. Michael Jacobs says:

    I too attended most Cape racemeetings 25 years ago at Durbanville, Milnerton and Kenilworth, when Garth Puller, Paddy Mcgivern, Stanley Amos and their ilk were riding. Mr Mincione wasn’t the only one attending every racemeeting, I was a barman for Mr Bassi for many years. Race meetings were cancelled, definitely, but it was blindingly obvious why, it was storming in Cape Town!

    Nowadays it is not so obvious why racemeetings are cancelled, and it is infuriating when there is no information provided. There are so many channels these days to disseminate information compared to 25 years ago, yet there is even less info forthcoming! Racing Operators, Tellytrack and the NHA have a total disregard and disrespect for their customers. A jockey representative, the Vet and the stipes should come on Tellytrack and explain in detail why a racemeeting is abandoned. And apologise to the punters for the inconvenience caused!

    It’s called Customer service, but none of those parties even know who the customer is in horse racing!

  21. Tony Mincione says:

    FFS, if someone says they went to every race meeting for 25 years, I hope it’s only you that thinks I meant in every province.

    You have to despair.

    1. Editor says:

      You took the bait 🙂

  22. Steve Reid says:

    Tony M is 100% correct in saying when jocks say its too dangerous, we should respect their decision. I do however agree with MJ that explanations should be given to the public as to why a meeting is cancelled if its not blindingly obvious. I posted on another thread that it is inconceivable that a racing surface cannot absorb 5mm of rain. It becomes even more hard to comprehend when that track hasn’t received natural drainage for weeks.

    The silence from Graeme Hawkins on this is deafening.

  23. donald bradshaw says:

    Hi Ed , could you publish the stipes report on why the Scottsville race meeting was abandoned as it appears nothing will be heard from Gold Circle ?

    Another favor Ed , is it possible to get Tellytrack to comment on their lack of coverage of this incident , no camera at the scene of the crime , no objective comments from their on course presenters , no interview with the stipes , no comment from Gold Circle management or anybody else for that matter just ” RACE MEETING ABANDONED ” leaving all and sundry in disbelief ?

  24. Wayne Fouche says:

    I know this sounds like a stuck record but….. We all KNOW why the race tracks are in such poor condition.

  25. G.A. McDonald says:

    A few years back,when Mr. Graeme Hawkins was reflecting on the yesterdays and good old golden days of racing this is what he said.

    The (Golden days of yesterday)days when Owners and Trainers were proud to wear their badges and dressed accordingly and the jockeys had respect for the authorities and rode in the rain. I could go on and on – but it seems all such a distant memory – it’s very sad!”
    Hawkins has been around racing for more than 50 years and he saw jockeys riding when it rained,though that was a distant memory.

    So you ask ,what changed?
    If they rode when it rained,like many of us who went to the race course from the early 60s saw, what caused those many meetings to be cancelled that we now hear of ? 5mm of rain?
    Remember when the July race was run in wet underfoot conditions some say soggy track..Many of the jockeys who rode in that race are still riding today.Did any of the jockeys protest and refuse to ride in that shortened meeting?
    Strange that when Hawkins said he remembered when jockeys rode in the rain,not one jockey said he was wrong and that they still ride in the rain.

  26. Barend Vlooh says:

    To all concern. As I see it Mr Jacobs had a dig at the jockeys and didn’t mention anything about track management. That’s why MJ and myself commented on what was said by Mr Jacobs. As all know I stopped riding in 2016 but while I was riding it was the most frustrating thing to always hear how it was the jockeys fault when racing was called of cause of bad conditions.

    We’ve had meetings in PE where all jockeys and some trainers called for the meeting to be abandoned and we still raced, because what will the public say?????

    It’s no fun like MJ said to race a full gallop with no clear vision and horses stumbling knowing(not like a car) there no brakes,handbrakes or rearview mirrors. Most incidents when a horse goes down you bring a few of your mates and they’re horses down with you. Now you’ve got injured jocks, horses and concerned and sometimes saddened family members because all this could have been prevented if we stuck to the right calls.

    All we as riders and ex jocks ask is think before playing the blame game because we think of the horses we love and work with every day our fellow jocks and the best possible results for all including the punter that emptied his/her wallet.

    God bless you all . Barend Vlooh

    1. Editor says:

      Well said Barend

  27. hilton witz says:

    Jockeys have a problem when the track is not consistent throughout when there has been rain as horses become unsure when going through going which is uneven and this becomes very dangerous for horse and rider ,,,Having spoken to a few they will tell you that the reason they can ride at kenilworth after so much rain most times is that it is consistent throughout unlike scotsville….Racing is the only sport i know that an ambulance follows you around so the least that the operators can do is prepare top class surfaces to race on but sadly this is nowhere near a top priority with them not forgetting the hundreds of millions owners spend on horses only to race on sub standard tracks…the fact that when we race on turf at greyville the horses have to canter past on the poly is telling you that the track cannot handle the traffic even though the bulk of racing at greyville is on the poly..Having raced there for almost 40 years this was never the case it was always in pristine condition..

  28. Leon Lotz says:

    Micheal Jacobs you are not supplying jockeys or trainers with their livelihoods.Jockeys like MJ and Barend worked for a living.All the owners, trainers and JOCKEYS contribute to racing finacially and all of them are clients to racing.Where are you Mr Jacobs when they need to pay for renewal of licenses, buying new saddles, sculcaps,driving up and down, flying.Please send all the jockeys your monthly contribution.The comment on jockeys who did not learn how to ride in soft conditions 🙊🙊.Please do yourself a favour and go visit a farm and look how animals behave when it rain.Please start with sheep, you will learn alot

  29. Michael Jacobs says:

    Mr Lotz clearly does not know who thd customer is in horse racing. Thats the major reason why racing is in the doldrums. There are only 2 stakeholders that contribute- the owner and the punter. When Mr Lotz punts and if he owns the horses he trains, then obviously he becomes a contributor. Everybody else in racing is an employee in the industry- trainers, jockeys, racing operators, grooms, tote cashiers, farriers, breeders, etc.

    If there are no owners and punters then there would be no need for any other stakeholder. Sadly Mr Lotz has failed to understand this in all his years in the industry!

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