While the original delay at Turffontein on WSB Summer Cup Saturday was due to lightning, the reason for not being able to race ended up being a track issue after all the unforecast rain that fell during the storm.
This was explained by Phumelela Racing Executive Patrick Davis to the Sporting Post after a request to understand the rationale behind the decision to move the multiple feature slot to a working day on Tuesday, rather than to Sunday.
“As you know the penetrometer was on 25 on Saturday morning and moved to 26 after a further 5mm rain by 12 noon. However a further 15mm rain resulted in the track becoming unsuitable for racing. Jockeys were part of the track inspection panel when it was decided that racing could not take place. In fact there was so much water, on a track that had already recorded 61mm in the preceding few days, the unanimous view was that the track was unlikely to have been raceable for Sunday,” explained Davis.
He confirmed that the lights were in fact ready to be switched on if needed on Saturday.
“But we didn’t get that far. So after consultation with trainers, and in the best interests of the horses, the decision was taken to move the meeting to Tuesday. The lights will again be back up if needed.”
Trainer Joey Soma, who said that in typical racing spirit, his private suite was enjoying the day as if they had won the Summer Cup, had two runners lining up in the R2 million World Sports Betting Presents The Gr1 Gauteng Summer Cup. He confirmed that the decision was the best in the circumstances and that the dice was rolled, and some would benefit, and others not.
“It’s nobody’s fault. The weather man doesn’t control the weather. Phumelela don’t control the weather. Believe me I am talking to you and looking at our training tracks. They are wet. That means we are going to just be walking and conserving energy for the next three days. I don’t know what the Vaal and Randjesfontein tracks look like. But no excuses – we are based here – that’s an advantage in itself – other runners are travelling backwards and forwards. So it’s swings and roundabouts.”
The veteran trainer explained that he was unlikely to have run Got The Greenlight with the rain that had come down, had the meeting gone ahead.
“Believe me, the Track Managers here do an unbelievable job – but Mother Nature was in charge today. And while the track may have suited some – even African Adventure – there was no ways we could have raced Got The Greenlight. And it’s not the first time and won’t be the last that racing battles the weather. I am old enough to remember the 1986 Barclays National 1600, which was postponed from the Saturday to the Tuesday and Model Man still won and beat Enchanted Garden. And that’s 35 years ago!” he laughed.
Joey was referring to the race, inaugurated in 1970 to honour the great Hawaii, that introduced the then Barclays Bank to racehorse sponsorship.
Rather than be seen to simply sponsor a horserace, the concept of a sweepstake was introduced to aid Operation Hunger at the time.
R2 million was targetted, with folk purchasing sweepstake tickets. 4000 people turned up at Turffontein on a wet Saturday, intended to be the Highveld’s racing social event of the year.
The crowd saw only one race – that of the athletes who raced over a mile to stake a claim for each of the sweepstake finalists.
The 24 year old Durbanite Douglas Taft, a R1400/month civil servant at the time, walked off with a life changing R1 million after Model Man, one of three winners on the afternoon for Basil Marcus, beat the fancied Enchanted Garden in the R200 000 feature on the Tuesday in front of a 12000 crowd – less than half it would have been on a sunny Saturday.
And bearing in mind that it was a working day, tote turnover was R5,86 million – a 13% increase on the same meeting in 1985 – and represented the highest Turffontein turnover of the entire year!
The very next day, Basil Marcus rode 7 winners on the Greyville card, to become only the fourth jockey in SA racing history to ride that amount of winners at a single racemeeting.
Let’s hope Tuesday goes ahead.