The Track To Hell

Joey Ramsden

Joey Ramsden

It is a big week ahead with the Queen’s Plate. It looks to be an absolutely stunning race. I know the new year has just begun but our racing year started on the first of August and this definitely looks to be the race of the year. I cannot wait and, touch wood, all is going well.

We have just had a visit from Steve Naude, the head of the NHA security department, and he seemed in good form. It was good to see someone who has managed to drop more breakfast down the front of his shirt than I had managed so far this morning. So at least that was something to cheer me up after yesterday’s football results.

West Ham’s 5-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest could well signal the end of Sam Allardyce. Sam has been there quite a while now and, whilst I know the Hammer’s are suffering from quite an injury ravaged squad, one cannot be reliant upon any single player at any given time. One has to build up a squad which can see one through. I know they have a few more injuries than normal but the youngsters have to do better than getting hammered 5-0 by Nottingham Forest.

There are also quite a number of Manchester United supporters in my yard so they are all walking around with long faces. However, they were awful and sadly it was a clear cut red card in sending off Fabio Da Silva and they really do have nothing to moan about. On another footballing note, I decided to treat my staff to a trip to the Cape Town Stadium for the Bafana clash for the opening game of the African Nations Cup on 11th January.

Thinking that kick-off would be around 8 o’clock, it did not look to be too much of a problem. I was going to offer a small bus incentive as well. However, I see kick-off is at 5.30 pm. Well, the organisers can only be commended on managing to clash with another great sporting occasion, the Queen’s Plate. I know it is probably two different communities that visit these things but a 5.30 kick off is just not right and I think the crowds will suffer as a result of it – unless of course they start giving the tickets away which could well happen.

However, as they don’t know how many tickets they have sold in the first place, they could end up having two people on one seat anyway. Such is the great organisation involved. Talking of local entertainment, it was the end of the local Cape Town Minstrel carnival – it used to have a rather unfortunate name before this. I feel it is rather interesting to think that if they tried to hold this carnival anywhere else in the world, they would be locked up.

I would like to lock them up – not for racial issues but just for the damn noise they make. Anyway, they seemed to have loads of fun, blowing their horns and waving their umbrellas. I know my assistant, Ricardo, was down there and loudly cheering them on and having a great time. Talking of carnivals, it was good to see the Dubai Carnival kick off so well. It was even better to see Andrew Nienaber, Variety Club’s travelling companion, pick up a winner.

Some things are meant to be in life and for that young man, this was meant to be. Even if he never rides another winner in Dubai again he a) deserved that winner and b) deserves the amount of joy and satisfaction it gave him. Well done to him and I hope he has more rides and plenty more winners. I will be speaking to him later today.

I am off to Drakenstein Stud after morning stables today. I will be having a look at some of my 2yo’s which have not yet come into the racing stables. By all accounts, they are looking pretty sharp. I will be taking my two daughters with, Holly and Big Z, and their opinions and input will be greatly appreciated. I saw somewhere that the Greyville track was being castigated by certain quarters. This is not really news as Greyville has long been a dump of a grass track and should have been ploughed up long ago.

I noticed the CEO, Graeme Hawkins, saying that this is exactly what they were going to do. Well, it has been 10 years too long in the waiting. I do not know who protested or thought it was sub-standard but they are 100% right. Every year I sit down with my fellow Natalians and that includes racing officials and well-known and successful trainers.

I am not going to name-drop (and I know you are going to say that I am not name-dropping because they don’t exist). Sadly, they do and they know who they are and they know what they have said to me about the state of Greyville and they are 100% right. It is a disgrace and has been a disgrace for a very long time. I have never known a track where you send out 5 runners and 3 come back with black, weepy eyes and require veterinary attention. This has gone on for way too long and it would appear stones are the least of their issues.

Drainage has been a problem for a while and grass covering (or lack of it ) has also been a lively topic. That place cannot be ploughed up quickly enough. I feel for everyone concerned. It does leave them in a bit of a hole though as Clairwood has been neglected and the only real racecourse they have is Scottsville.

Now I know my boss, Derek Brugman, was extremely rude about it a few months ago and with hindsight, he might have been out of order as it is their best track. However, I think what he was referring to was their Gold Rush big day 18 months before where it was an absolute disgrace. They do get frost and they cannot help that but they had covered it and decided to water it. The top 6 inches was like jelly and a moving surface and was,in my opinion, an extremely unsafe surface.

It did not stop the Jooste horses from winning and mine from running extremely well but it was not a good surface and should never have come to that, particularly for their Gold Rush big day of the year. Anyway, good luck with the Greyville surface; they certainly do need it. I think the annoying thing about Greyville is that they have had numerous opportunities to put it right. I know they have had their long term plan to put a polytrack in but the Greyville track should have been sorted a long time ago.

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