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Is Everybody Angry With The NHRA?

Maintaining standards - or double standards?

Industry dissatisfaction with a perceived lack of consultation and alleged double standards on the part of the National Horseracing Authority continues to gather momentum, with the recent jockey provincial travel lockdown highlighting simmering tensions.

Almost every stakeholder that communicates with us has some bone to pick or anger to vent with the NHRA. Maybe that is how the regulator is meant to roll. But given the manner in which they handle media inquiries and communication, it is probably not difficult either to understand why.

The Sporting Post wrote to the National Horseracing Authority on 11 January requesting them to clarify how they intend policing the specific condition of the January lockdown in relation to the relocation and provincial domicile of the riders.

The issue has been the subject of a host of inquiries on social media and other platforms, and on 25 January we again addressed the regulator, suggesting it surely would make sense to just remove the seemingly flawed commitment to police the physical domicile.

The wording is admittedly a touch ambiguous and vague:

Riders are to be domiciled in one region of their choice for the month of January 2021 and are to relocate to this Province if so required, prior to 4 January 2021. Once a Rider has ridden in a Centre from 4 January 2021, he will be limited to ride in the Centre for the remainder of the month.

Legal opinion canvassed by the Sporting Post indicates that, while the NHRA are acting within the ambit of their mandate in terms of setting rules during the lockdown step-up, they cannot lawfully prevent licenced individuals from returning to their families in other provinces during their own time.

Interprovincial travel, including by air, is currently permitted in South Africa.

Against the background of the restrictive travel protocols and the general unhappiness, with Met day upon us we hope that the NHRA are not going to open themselves up to more criticism by shipping in the traditional ‘guest’ Stipes from other provinces to back up their very capable colleagues down in the Cape.

With 131 runners over the 12 races at an average of just under 11 runners per race, the Met meeting, while a high profile one with three Gr1 features, surely hardly demands additional policing resources.

Which also raises the subject of the use of the virtual boardroom.

The facility, introduced in September 2019, enables Officials based at the NHRA Head Office to have real-time and review access to the live video patrol footage of any racemeeting countrywide, and to actively participate as members of a Stipendiary Board at the race meeting.

The facility was to be used for training purposes and to bolster the respective Stipendiary Boards.

In October 2020 we asked the NHRA  about the virtual boardroom, and specifically:

  • Whether it was being used?
  • How often, and in what cases?

The official reply was that it was indicated in the Stipes report when the VB was used. That’s as clear as mud.

The parlous state of both the NHRA’s and the broader industry’s finances, are another reason to argue that importing additional Stipes on Saturday at Kenilworth is an unnecessary expense – never mind a reckless move in the current pandemic, where travel and movement should really be restricted – unless absolutely essential.

The Sporting Post has also been informed that a groundswell of support is building for the industry to start reviewing individual cost-centres. Talk is cheap but that’s probably years overdue.

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7 comments on “Is Everybody Angry With The NHRA?

  1. Charl Pretorius says:

    What do those advovates that sit on the board do for the NHA? And do they get a fee of sorts for performing whichever duties they perform? And the rest of the esteemed board? Do they give advice, approve decisions, make new rules for vee moodley19 to enforce? Or are they just figureheads of an old institution who gather around a boardroam table once in a while to compare sports models, holiday homes, talk **edited, drink whiskey and discuss international travel plans?

  2. Tony Mincione says:

    I’m sad to see the Sporting Post take up the cudgel for a small group of elite individuals rather than the greater good.

    The NHRA has been clear that the jockey room is an extremely vulnerable nexus point for all of horseracing in South Africa. If a jockey who has recently ridden at a meeting gets a call from anyone they know who has tested positive for Covid, then all those riders should go home and isolate with their families.

    The NHRA plan limits the possibility of multiple Jockey’s Rooms from suffering the same fate simultaneously by ring-fencing them off “by the month”. Common sense dictates that it’s not clever to let a Cape Town jockey return from a Friday PE meeting and ride with all the CT designated jockeys 4 hours later.

    It goes without saying, or apparently not, that if a jockey selected CT for January, that it would not be ideal for said jockey to commute by plane from another province, thereby risking peers and the whole show for their individual gain.

    Last month the NHRA found itself in hot water when it explained the obvious point of vulnerability that the jockeys, through no fault of their own, cause for the whole of racing as compared to other essential service providers.

    That jockeys have to choose a province for a month as a condition of participation has the unintended benefit favouring jockeys who might not have had an opportunity to ride if the travelling jockeys were able to travel.

    Suddenly rides are available because popular busy jockeys are unavailable. What this means is that the complaining jockeys for whom the Sporting Post now rallies, are the handful of rich and successful jetsetters, who are pissed at a temporary inconvenience slowing them down from “having it all, every which way”.

    It really is time to stop bashing the NHRA and making the job thankless. Owners and the (few other) members of the NHRA, can vote in a new committee and change any of the rules that are perpetually moaned about. Funny enough, the owners who make the rules show zero interest in changing them.

    H.L. Mencken, writer, cynic and well known as the freethinking “Sage of Baltimore” said in 1915, “People deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard.”


  3. Now that we’re on to quotes, how about this one: “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” – Winston Churchill.

  4. Donald Bradshaw says:

    Tony I am in agreement with your observations and comments in respect of not permitting any jockey travel at this point , however , your attack on S.P. is unwarranted as the article mentions many other shortcomings at this august body such as this V.B. that I have yet to see in action and stipes travelling to the Met not only in these COVID times but for no reason at all as the fields are generally very small and therefore that decision is ill considered !

    May I make one point in respect of the N.H.R.A. and objections :

    1. The lodging of an objection is a very serious matter in horse racing and yet when one is lodged all we hear is objection upheld / overruled and the customers have to read a future stipes report to glean any further information and insights.
    2. This is just not acceptable as all the audio and visuals are available on course ( or I assume this V.B. ) so after every objection the outcome must immediately be explained to the customers on Tellytrack by a stipe with the aid of the patrol films as to how and why they have come to their decision.

    For this lack of transparency and action the blame must be laid at the top which is the C.E.O. as he has had a few years to ensure that objections are aired on Tellytrack and clearly explained to the viewership.

    My final point is that the N.H.R.A. in particular and the horse racing industry in general require a Public Relations Officer to whose office all questions / matters concerning their customers can be addressed. At present pertinent and justified questions / matters are just ignored by the industry which leaves their customers feeling frustrated and taken for granted leading to the above article by the S.P. ?

  5. MJ says:

    Wonder how many people know that there are only 2 doors between the Stewards board room and the jockey room! Just saying!! #stipestravel!!!!!

  6. Tony M says:

    This is fun. Charl points out to me that criticism is necessary, and Donald says my criticism of Spost is unwarrented. This for criticising the Sporting Post that they pick sides and that their constant criticism of the NHRA was unwarrented.

    So if you don’t, you must, and if you do, you mustn’t.

    My eyes are watering.

  7. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Well Tony, I will say to you the sitting on the fence is the reason why SA racing is where it is today, I lose most of my posts due to the SP having to tread that fine line and we have discussed it at length, I still think it is wrong to appease anything that is suspect and the whole lot is suspect. Lets be honest the SP has its own interests to look after first of all so that has to be taken into consideration but I hear you….and so do they. Like you say damned if you do and damned if you dont but SA racing suffers and the elites love it. Why does the NHRA have such power ? and why is it used as hammer and not to improve the industry. Every thing they do is nasty and has an agenda of some form. I would love to see where the money really goes with evrtyhting that is NHRA because it feels like someone is protecting there own interests at the cost of SA racing……it doesn’t stop. The NHRA seem to enjoy being nasty and actually exel at it to the point where they can chase life long owners away….its an agenda, tell me otherwise…….Nasty lot but very well paid….why ? The “industry” as yo can see all sit quietly on there hands, again you have to ask why ? and that’s why I get censored because of those very expensive toes I try to stamp on…….Life audits, thats the answer ( and previous players from the RA as well )…..

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