Greg Bortz – Cape Racing’s Pacesetter

Putting owners first,second and third!

Kenilworth Racing Chairman Greg Bortz addressed a gathering of local and international racing folk prior to the start of what was a very encouraging inaugural Cape Premier Yearling Sale hosted under the auspices of Cape Racing Sales at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last Thursday.

The charistmatic leader’s speech was peppered with his trademark forthright fervour and homebaked humility, and included some very interesting statistics. We say interesting, as hard numbers, tote turnover particularly, is not something that we get thrown dead with by SA racing’s leadership. But read on.

Kenilworth Racing Chairman Greg Bortz (Pic – Wayne Marks)

Following popular demand, the Sporting Post has transcribed the speech and it is carried below in its entirety.

Welcome everybody. Welcome to buyers from far and near. Really tickled pink to see people from all over the world here. We’re very honored to have you all.

I would also like to say firstly, it’s already been said but, a huge thank you to Tattersall’s who are our headline sponsor, we are really honored to be associated with  the preeminent horse auction house in the world and we are flattered to be the recipient of your largess, so thank you for that.

A few other thank you’s I’d  like to extend, a big thank you to Nick Jonsson from Jonsson workwear for all the grooms’ outfits – the grooms all look fantastic, so a big thank you.

Avontuur lounge at the CTICC (Pic – Wayne Marks)

Big thank you to Gaynor Rupert for the red and white wine on the tables and to Avontuur for the rosé – we really appreciate all your support, and I’m sure it’s going to make it a fun and festive occasion.

Everybody, this is as you all know, Cape Racing’s first Cape Premier Yearling sale, and we greatly appreciate the support.

We greatly appreciate all the breeders that are here, it really means a lot. We hope to get more breeders here at our next sale, but this is the beginning of the marathon, certainly not the end – we are grateful to all the breeders for the support, and to all the buyers that are here.

Black Swan lounge at the CTICC (Pic – Wayne Marks)

I do want to remind everybody that 100% of all profits on this sale go into the stakes that your horses will race for in the Cape. 100%, so do not be shy, your money will be recycled hopefully for your own benefit!

As already mentioned by Andrew, our sales race is a R1.25million. Cape Racing Slipper – down the straight on WSB Met day in 2024 – we expect to have 20 horses in that field. You can only imagine a stands-packed racecourse, watching 20 of these beautiful horses racing for R1.25million.

The other thing I want to remind you of is, you’re all aware of the Cape Racing RaceCape initiative hopefully, which has put a lot of money back into the pockets of owners and trainers – you need to tick the box in order to be eligible, so please don’t forget when you sign for your horses to tick the box.

The tough business of sel;ecting a champion (Pic – Wayne Marks)

If I can, if you will forgive me a brief indulgence, as we reflect back on the last five, six months of Cape Racing – what I would say to you without hesitation, that the biggest achievement that we have achieved is the putting together of our team.

We have a fresh group of people who are passionate and are their own biggest critics.

If it wasn’t for the team – many of whom are here today, actually most of whom are here today, and hopefully if you haven’t met that you will get to meet – everything that you have seen is on the back of their tremendous, tremendous effort.

Just to give you guys a bit of perspective, as to what we’ve done over the last six months.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this but betting on horseracing on the tote, since August 1 until the end of December, countrywide is down 13%.

Year over year it is down 13%.

But in that exact same period betting on racing in the Cape on the tote is up 9%. So, countrywide down 13%, but Cape racing up 9%. That comes despite there being 15% fewer meetings in the Cape year over year. Which means we must be doing something right.

Our average turnover per race in December was up 43% – December 2022 over December 2021, which is quite remarkable.

And I can tell you that betting on Cape racing by Gold Circle and 4Racing customers on Cape racing was up over 50% in December year over year.

Which means the product we are putting out is attracting the support and the interest of people around the country.

Classic action! (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

And I think there’s a reason for that. I think the reason for that is the decision right at the very beginning that the focal point of the entire business was going to be the owner.

First, second and third prize – focus on the owner, make the owner experience the most brilliant experience possible.

Firstly, we’ve got to right-size the economics to the owner.

As we all know this is a discretionary purchase, and as you’ve all seen in over the years the amount that the stakes contribute to your costs has been negligible, and by bumping up the stakes and implementing these new initiatives, I think owners are enjoying the benefits of being owners once again, which is bringing the owners back to places like this. It’s making people reinvest in the industry, which is getting the horse population up, which gets betting interest going, which I think is absolutely crucial.

You know, we’ve implemented quite a few initiatives.

We are paying over R12million out in the Race Cape Initiative, which is putting money directly back into owners’ and trainers’ pockets by way of appearance and saddling fees.

By the end of February we would have paid over R2 million in prize money to raiders – meaning non-Cape based trainers who have brought horses in for the season.

Happy recipients of the RaceCape initiative (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

I think you’ve all seen the massive increase in stakes, I mean our maidens – our lowest maiden – is now R120 000. Go back a year; it was maybe R70 000 for a maiden. I think this has really shown up in our stats. In our number of horses per race, we now have an average of 10.3 runners per race, which is up from about 8 this time a year ago.

But where it’s most pressing, and what’s relevant for buyers of this sale, is that last season we had 6.4 juveniles per race in our juvenile races, and this year it’s almost 13. So we’ve almost doubled, and that’s been key for us. And as I said, it’s all about our owners, our focus is the owners.

Juvenile action has been a highlight (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

So – why do this, is the question…

When I came in, I’ve been asked this question a few times – ‘why would you have gotten involved in racing?’ And I can tell you as someone that has a financial background – this must be the dumbest business decision of all time.

Like, truly, this makes absolutely no financial sense. But this is not about financials here, this is about passion. That is one thing I can say, without fear of contradiction, is that every single person in this room, anybody that has ever seen a racehorse, been involved in this industry – you cannot explain it to anybody else.  It is a passion that I can’t explain.

When I started off in business – and this is with no disrespect to Ernst & Young – I started off as an trainee accountant at Ernst & Young and I hated going into work every single day. It was the worst.

But when I speak to anybody in racing here – I don’t care if you’re a jockey, a trainer, a vet, a physio – none of you can imagine doing anything else.

None of you can imagine working with anything other than working in this industry and around these animals. So that is what really made me do this, is just the thought of having to wake up in the day and not have racing was a killer. I got involved for that reason.

But I can tell you, all I wanted to do was do my bit to help save racing. So I could see my horses run, and hopefully win a few races.

But I know we’re doing something right, I mean five months later – we got involved the day before Kenilworth Racing  was going to fall over – they were not making payroll. I got involved literally the day before.

Hollywoodbets Kenilworth fans (Pic – Cape Racing)

Fast forward five, six months later, I walk in to races and I’ve got people coming up to me saying, ‘Greg, thank you so much for what you’re doing, but you should know that today at lunch my salmon was a little cold,’ and other people saying that, ‘the ice machine outside my box isn’t working so well.’ We’re obviously doing something right if that is the level of the problems have risen to!

For me, what I’ve noticed going to races, was that I wasn’t enjoying it as much, because it’s no longer about my horse but more about the temperature of the salmon and the ice machines!. What I realized is I cannot do that anymore, I need to get back to loving racing, loving these wonderful animals and this amazing sport of ours.

Greg Bortz (Pic - Troy Finch)

Greg Bortz (Pic – Troy Finch)

At our first Cape Racing Sale – the Ready-To-Run Sale – I never bought a horse.  I never bought a horse because I didn’t want to be seen to be – I don’t know, I didn’t know how it would be perceived – to be sitting there at our sale putting my hand up to buy horses.

I realized I was actually hurting myself. Because the passion, the journey, starts right here. As you all know, we have about 120-odd horses on this sale, everyone represents a dream. Everyone represents a future Group 1 winner to all of us. That’s where the journey starts, and until we are proven wrong, each of these horses is a champion.

The R3,8 million sales topper (Pic – Wayne Marks)

So, I can tell you today that I will be buying today, hopefully I can get one or two horses that have been my fancy.

I have to tell you something before I close, because this beautiful Trippi filly to my left has been standing there very patiently waiting for me to finish.

The breeders are very very smart, intelligent people. I got a call from the NHA, maybe about 3 weeks ago, saying somebody has put in a request to name their horse ‘Bortz’, and would I be ok with that? I said absolutely not! I didn’t know who it was, still don’t know who it was. The NHA called me again two days later to say they have amended their naming request, they would like to name their horse ‘Mr. Bortz’. I said no, absolutely not.

Four days later, the NHA call me again, true story, and said listen they’ve changed the name again, they would like to name the horse ‘Gina’s Prince’. I said, alright, we can go with ‘Gina’s Prince’, so whoever that smart breeder is amongst you, full disclosure, when ‘Gina’s Prince’ makes it to the auction, I will be buying it, we all know that!

Gina Goldsmith, Greg ortz and Jono Snaith enjoy dinner

All I wanted to say is thank you for your attendance, please raise your hands, buy as many as you can.

All the money goes back into this wonderful sport of ours, and we really are honored and flattered by your presence today. Have a great sale today everybody.

And they sure did! Read all the sale results – click here.

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