Why No Open Cards, Larry?

Omission of obvious nominee irks owners and breeders

It’s a thankless task sitting on awards panels.

In a competitive industry, everybody’s horse is the champion and subjectivity often rules. Nothing beats receiving deserved recognition and accolades from one’s peers.

But the puzzling no show of the Yvette Bremner-trained National Park from the nominee list of the Champion 2yo male category for the regional East Cape Racing Awards published by the Racing Association late last week had the owners of the son of Gimmethegreenlight sitting up and asking questions – how and why?

There is little doubt  that the first nominee Alfeo would be a deserved winner of the category.

The MR 94-rated galloper has won 3 of his 6 starts, including a stakes feature. He finished some 15 lengths back in the Champion Juvenile Cup.

The next nominee Say No More was 18,6 lengths back in the same feature. He has an 83 rating and has  a record of 1 win in 7 starts.

The third nominee Born A Bully won his first start – the first local 2yo event over 800m. That was his sole win in eight starts. He was 16,6 lengths back in the Champion Juvenile Cup. He is rated 78.

The question is –  how and why no place for the narrow runner-up in the Champion Juvenile Cup and the highest rated (96) of the crop, National Park? Can his omission be justified?

A winner of 2 of his 5 starts, National Park won the Champion Juvenile Cup beating likely champion 2yo filly of last term, Madame Speaker. He lost the race in the Stipes Boardroom after a successful objection by the runner-up.

Madame Speaker (Greg Cheyne) down the inside fights it out with National Park (Ryan Munger) in a thriller that ended up in the Stipes Boardroom (Pic – Pauline Herman Photography)

So a two-time winning MR 96 rated narrow loser of the Champion Juvenile Cup, doesn’t even get a nomination nod ahead of two one-time winners (rated 78 & 83), who finished a collective 35 lengths behind him in the Listed Champion Juvenile Cup – a race often used as a benchmark of the 2yo crop over the years.

The judging panel is comprised of  Thulani Khanyile (Convenor), Dr Ashley Parker, Trevor Reid, Mathew Lips and Henk Steenkamp.

The owners and breeders of National Park are outraged.

Not about the fact that Alfeo would be a deserving winner. They are tired of the fact that the sport they are so passionate about and have invested many millions of rands in over decades is run by people, many of whom have been in it for five minutes, who have no interest in the well-being of the game and the preservation of the tradition, ethics and ethos.

Thulani Khanyile – at the centre of the storm?

“This is a matter of principle for us. Four of the panel members are knowledgeable and experienced people. Our horse is clearly a candidate for a nomination. Yet two, with respect, inferior horses get nominated. We suggest that the Convenor of the panel has exceeded his authority and used the occasion of an important event for the industry to wage a personal vendetta. We suggest that his competency to convene this panel is in serious doubt. We cannot let this action pass unnoticed as it is an indictment of the broader level of personal egotism at play in the industry in certain quarters,” said owners / breeders Rob Knuppe, Hedley McGrath and Mark Wright in a joint statement.

“The Racing Association, and by implication their awards committee, are allowing any goodwill left in the industry to be destroyed through glossing over this matter. It was brought to the RA’s CEO attention and he ‘relented’ and agreed to include National Park. We are not seeking a favour, hollow victory and concession – or a sympathy ticket. We are simply looking for the truth as to what happened  and would like the individual members of the committee to stand up and be counted.”

Larry Wainstein

Larry Wainstein – no response

The Sporting Post emailed Larry Wainstein and Thulani Khanyile and gave them an opportunity to respond to the owners.

No reply was forthcoming.

A simple logic of damage control suggests there was a better way to deal with whatever happened here. It starts with humility and doesn’t end with playing hardball with longstanding owners and breeders – or shunning the simple media enquiries. You might think you’re the boss – but who is paying your salary?

This blip on our everyday radar may appear trivial to some. But add the logic applied to the selection of the nominees with the collective years of involvement and investment by the owners of National Park, and think again.

“This situation is unacceptable and must be urgently addressed before there is a mass exodus of owners and breeders from the Thoroughbred Industry. Any tin-pot dictators, given free rein, will simply encourage the speed of the exodus,” said the aggrieved connections in closing.

Click on the image below to read more in the latest SP Digest

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