Industry dissatisfaction with a perceived lack of consultation and alleged double standards on the part of the National Horseracing Authority continues to gather momentum, with the recent jockey provincial travel lockdown highlighting simmering tensions.
Almost every stakeholder that communicates with us has some bone to pick or anger to vent with the NHRA. Maybe that is how the regulator is meant to roll. But given the manner in which they handle media inquiries and communication, it is probably not difficult either to understand why.
The Sporting Post wrote to the National Horseracing Authority on 11 January requesting them to clarify how they intend policing the specific condition of the January lockdown in relation to the relocation and provincial domicile of the riders.
The issue has been the subject of a host of inquiries on social media and other platforms, and on 25 January we again addressed the regulator, suggesting it surely would make sense to just remove the seemingly flawed commitment to police the physical domicile.
The wording is admittedly a touch ambiguous and vague:
Riders are to be domiciled in one region of their choice for the month of January 2021 and are to relocate to this Province if so required, prior to 4 January 2021. Once a Rider has ridden in a Centre from 4 January 2021, he will be limited to ride in the Centre for the remainder of the month.
Legal opinion canvassed by the Sporting Post indicates that, while the NHRA are acting within the ambit of their mandate in terms of setting rules during the lockdown step-up, they cannot lawfully prevent licenced individuals from returning to their families in other provinces during their own time.
Interprovincial travel, including by air, is currently permitted in South Africa.
Against the background of the restrictive travel protocols and the general unhappiness, with Met day upon us we hope that the NHRA are not going to open themselves up to more criticism by shipping in the traditional ‘guest’ Stipes from other provinces to back up their very capable colleagues down in the Cape.
With 131 runners over the 12 races at an average of just under 11 runners per race, the Met meeting, while a high profile one with three Gr1 features, surely hardly demands additional policing resources.
Which also raises the subject of the use of the virtual boardroom.
The facility, introduced in September 2019, enables Officials based at the NHRA Head Office to have real-time and review access to the live video patrol footage of any racemeeting countrywide, and to actively participate as members of a Stipendiary Board at the race meeting.
The facility was to be used for training purposes and to bolster the respective Stipendiary Boards.
In October 2020 we asked the NHRA about the virtual boardroom, and specifically:
- Whether it was being used?
- How often, and in what cases?
The official reply was that it was indicated in the Stipes report when the VB was used. That’s as clear as mud.
The parlous state of both the NHRA’s and the broader industry’s finances, are another reason to argue that importing additional Stipes on Saturday at Kenilworth is an unnecessary expense – never mind a reckless move in the current pandemic, where travel and movement should really be restricted – unless absolutely essential.
The Sporting Post has also been informed that a groundswell of support is building for the industry to start reviewing individual cost-centres. Talk is cheap but that’s probably years overdue.