Cape Town racing has been shocked by the decision to axe Tuesday’’s Durbanville meeting – handing over R620 000 in stakes to Port Elizabeth – but, more particularly, by the fear that this could be just the beginning, writes Michael Clower.
The decision was taken after entries of 160 produced just 54 acceptors. The two 2 000m races had nine and ten runners but each of the other six had only between five and seven. A hastily arranged Fairview polytrack substitute produced 95 declarations.
“I think it’s a crisis,” said Tellytrack presenter and former trainer Stan Elley, echoing the view of many. “We’ve got to do something or Phumelela will cut more meetings. A lot of people’s livelihoods are at stake here.”
Elley, a member of what is effectively a local programmes committee for more than half his 41 years as a trainer, believes the problem lies with the big yards (he estimates that the top half dozen have 80-85% of the horses) often being reluctant to run their clients’ horses against each other for fear of upsetting owners.
He said: “Trainers have got to wake up. Owners have to as well and spread their horses around more while I think there should be a limit on the number of horses each trainer is allowed.
“You cannot do anything about the trainers that have their own yards but you can with the rest. It has been done in PE and I believe in Durban too.”
Last September Phumelela and Kenilworth Racing warned trainers that fixtures would be dropped and stakes reduced if the average field did not increase from ten to 12 (the minimum necessary to generate decent betting turnover). Yet this month only six of the 62 races produced 12 or more runners.
Dean Kannemeyer is one of the big trainers involved and he said: “They tell me that I am not having enough runners and they are putting me under pressure but I have moved 30 of my horses to Durban.
“I understand the need for runners but there is something wrong somewhere in Cape Town. I see meetings here with 150-160 entries but in Durban they can have as many as 700.
“What is needed is for somebody to sit down with me (and other trainers), ask how many horses I’ve got, where I want to run them and over what distances in a coming three-month period rather than being told you’ve got so many rated 70-80 etc.”
Eric Sands, a former member of the programmes committee, made the point that in February many Cape trainers want to give their horses a break after a busy summer season while most two-year-olds based here do not race until the rains come to avoid getting sore shins on the firm ground.
He added: “I am not saying that the trainers are blameless – they are not – but the programmes are drawn up only twice a year, one for five months and the other for seven, and they are done two to three months in advance which means that a horse can be running in a programme prepared ten months earlier. It should be done every three months and from a box-by-box census to make it relevant.”
Kenilworth Racing issued a press release last Friday saying, inter alia: “A number of trainers have not stepped up to the plate… the last resort is to reduce the number of racemeetings… recently a census was completed and the winter programme (April-August) is based on the latest facts.”