Trainers Sean Tarry and Mike de Kock have had the jockeys they declared for Sunday’s Gr1 races at Hollywoodbets Greyville declined and removed by the National Horseracing Authority (NHRA).
They believe that this has been an unfair move, and that the NHA’s inflexibility on the issue will be detrimental to the owners of the runners involved, potentially also to the integrity of the Stud Book and the punter.
Turf Talk reports that Tarry had split his rides between Gauteng-based riders Lyle Hewitson, Gavin Lerena and Luke Ferraris, including those on Matador Man and Cirillo in the Gr1 Gold Challenge.
De Kock had Callan Murray marked in for Due Diligence in the Listed Devon Air Stakes and Pomander in the Gr1 Woolavington.
Three days ahead of Sunday’s Gr1 spectacular, these raiders remain without jockeys declared and the trainers have been told to refer to the NHA’s Covid-19 stipulations released on 28 May and revised on 18 June.
The NHA’s CEO, Vee Moodley, pointed to the 28 May statement, which reads: “Jockeys will be restricted to ride in the region of their choice and cannot move in between provinces. They will be allowed to make ONE move prior to the commencement of racing.”
Moodley confirmed to Turf Talk:“Jockeys had to choose to ride only in one racing district for June, as it states in the release. We have followed, and are following our protocols.”
The NHA said they took their decision to restrict the movement of jockeys inter-provincially, to prevent movement between “hotspots” and in so doing to “ring fence” areas (various racing centres), to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all stakeholders.
Tarry commented: “The revised Level 3 Lockdown regulations announced last week provide for jockeys to make ‘one permanent move for the month of July’, and that they will be bound to the province that they moved to for the duration of the month.
“There is a small window here. Sunday is the 28th of June, with only three days to the 1st of July, when jockeys will be allowed to travel. The hotspots that exist today will still be there on Wednesday, nothing changes. But the NHA do not want to give us 72 hours grace.”
The trainers believe it is their fundamental right to choose which jockeys to book on their runners. In selecting a jockey, they consider the experience of the jockey, the nature of the horse, the manner and style of the jockey’s ride, and the suitability of that jockey’s style for the horse concerned.
The suitability of a jockey for a specific horse is not simply judged on paper but, in many instances, the success of the partnership between horse and jockey is developed through work riding between races and racing together over time.
Tarry said: “What we’ll have to do now is engage jockeys who are not familiar with our horses, and they’ll be riding them at the highest level. They will be thrown in the deep end and this can compromise our winning chances, and by implication, too, the confidence of the punter to have a bet, and the stud book which relies on every runner in the Graded races having the best possible chance to achieve the most accurate results.
“The Gauteng jockeys we wanted to engage have done all the preparation work on our runners and are adept at Graded level. What if their replacements fail to live up to the task? They, as a result, will not be considered in Graded races, at a future time when they may well have honed their skills to a higher level.”
During the lockdown trainers, grooms, veterinarians and NHA officials have been allowed to carry out their duties and they have been allowed to travel between racing centres. Trainers have also moved between sales facilities and racetracks.
De Kock said: “Why are jockeys being isolated, now that everyone can travel? The NHA did not consult with the people whose lives they control. I think they have over-stepped their mandate.”
Tarry agreed, saying:
“The NHA have done a lot right so far to get us racing within the lockdown, but this is not a one-day game. They could’ve applied their minds to the facts, as this is a fluid situation and things have changed since their initial media release.”
Moodley said that the trainers were being selfish and that they were not considering the industry as a whole.
“If jockeys were permitted to travel freely between centres, infections can spread to each and every centre, and all of the centres could be quarantined and closed, once again resulting in serious ramifications for the horse racing industry.”
It can be argued, however, that the travelling of grooms between racing centres is far more problematic from a Covid-19 standpoint given the higher number of grooms that travel (compared to jockeys) and the close proximity of the grooms to one another and to grooms from other yards.
Similarly, the NHA’s officials who are currently allowed to travel between all racing centres, come into contact with all of the participants on a race day, including jockeys, owners, trainers and grooms.
There is no basis to suggest that there is a greater likelihood of infections spreading if jockeys were to be allowed to travel between centres at will. Equally, there is no evidence that the confinement of jockeys will drastically reduce the likelihood of infections.
Asked why everyone but jockeys were allowed to travel, Moodley said:
“That is a stupid question. Even under Level 5, trainers, grooms, veterinarians and officials were regarded as ‘essential services’, and were given permits to continue their duties. Jockeys were not regarded as essential services.”
Asked again why jockeys, now being “essential” under Level 3, were not allowed to perform their essential duties around the country, Moodley said:
“The NHA is the Chief Compliant Officer in this matter. We have to act responsibly and we’re not going to bend the rules. I am not going to argue this matter.”
Tarry concluded: “There is nothing selfish in our pursuit of the best for our horses. Nobody would have been compromised by jockeys travelling on Sunday instead of Wednesday.
“I also find it shocking that the NHA gave jockeys three days notice (28 May press release for 1 June), when this would have required some jockeys to change their addresses, find accommodation and move provinces, not to mention the financial implications to these athletes who never earned a cent during April and May. And they believed this to be reasonable notice.”
- Turf Talk