Horseracing Epitomises Hope

Let's speak for those who can't

The interview with NHA CEO Vee Moodley on the SABC news on Thursday evening had a few people questioning the use of the Dundee July for support footage.

Justin Hoffmann writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that he believes the ‘inappropriate video’ in no way accurately represents South African racing.

Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

I took it upon myself to lodge a complaint with the BCCSA regarding the matter and I have already received a confirmation from them. In the same breath it inspired me to write my own opinion on the current situation in horse racing.

A sport that has been the backbone of my family my entirely life, my father was a former jockey and continues to work in racing to this day. This sport is close to my heart and I am hoping that my submission can help to spread some kind of voice.

For context, I believe the imagery used by the SABC could paint a negative picture of horse racing to the portion of the population who doesn’t know exactly how the industry works – which could lead to outcry for the way horses are treated, even though the way we treat them is not at all related to the images used.

Seabiscuit, a name that resonates deeply with anyone involved in the horse racing industry. Yet a name so powerful that even those who aren’t have heard the tale.

He was the little horse that could, the horse that inspired so many working-class Americans during the great depression.

Now, I’m not saying horse racing brought America out of depression but there are two sides to this story in my opinion.

Yes, the betting boom of the 1920s did inject some much-needed money into the economy, but that isn’t what I see.

I see a horse who was despite his awkward gait and somewhat sub-par appearance was given a chance thanks to the simple passion of his owner.

A horse who given his appearance should not have achieved much and who didn’t actually do so in his earlier races. He went on to prove so many wrong, he went on to be a champion, all because a handful of people decided to care a little more.

Fast forward 100 years.

We may not be in the midst of war, but a depression is looming, oil is worthless, a pandemic is running rampant and as a result unemployment is sky rocketing. Right now, we need a little passion, we need a little belief, something to unite us in.

While we don’t have another Seabiscuit to look to, in my life, horse racing has been the one constant thing that has always been there to remind me there is hope.

Jamaican Music won the 1976 July under the late Bert Abercrombie. A great year for horseracing in a dark year in South Africa’s modern history.

Growing up with a former jockey for a dad and a show-jumping mother, suffice to say I could trot before I could walk properly. I would not be the man I am today were it not for the relationship with these majestic creatures.

It saddens me deeply to see the racing industry crumble to its knees during this pandemic but the part that makes it even worse is to see the portrayal of the industry in many media outlets.

Yes there is a monetary aspect to this I am not going to deny that, but a horse does not become a champion purely through money, it becomes a champion because a trainer sees something in it, because a groom wakes up every morning to care for his companion and because the right jockey will find the heart of a champion that no one else can see.

Colorado King

Colorado King

To see all this behind the scenes work be tarnished by exposes of the unfortunate instances of bush racing, and the media using outdated images of racing not even taking place in South Africa, makes me think, perhaps it is time for re-education.

Perhaps if we are to save this great sport, we need to open up and help people to understand how much goes into this.

Think not of the gambler who is unable to bet on something, think of the groom who has acquired animal skills that could not be applied elsewhere, the work rider and jockey who dedicated their lives to perfecting a style older than time, the trainer who wakes up at the crack of dawn to watch over what goes on in the stable yard.

Yes, I have rambled on in what seem to be my own emotions, but if you sit down and talk to these people and you will realise these emotions run through all of them.

By not allowing the resumption of racing behind closed doors through the assumption that it is about the gamble, will not only cost jobs, but could cost the lives of many horses as well, not just animals who turn a profit, but companions.

A sport as old as kings themselves, a relationship older than many of us can even comprehend, not a man and his servant but a man who is doing all he can to serve his companion in a time that is making it so difficult to do so.

If we are going to survive this pandemic, we are going to have to stand together not only to fight these lockdown laws but also the negative media attention we are bound to receive.

So, this my friends, is a call to arms, not a call to government.

I am calling on all of my compatriots in the racing industry to stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves right now. It’s time to show the world what they truly mean to us.

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