Miracle in the Mud

Punters may have been hit for a six with some horrendous results, but we all need to take our hats off to the Cape jockeys and administrators after Saturday’s amazing achievement at Kenilworth. Everybody involved has expressed disbelief that the meeting went ahead. But it also proves what can be done when the urge arises.

We know well that the racing authorities cannot please all of the people all of the time. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. That’s just the nature of dealing with a fickle public and hard-pressed owners and trainers. But Saturday’s Kenilworth meeting really went ahead against all the odds and it looked 5-10 to me that it would end like it usually does. I am still trying to work out what actually made the difference in the end and what the catalyst was for this renewed sense of service and commitment from the usually wrapped in cotton wool jockeys.

I even thought at one stage that they were exaggerating the extent of the conditions, but when one listens to an old salt veteran like Tellytrack’s Stan Elley, who has been around Kenilworth for the past forty years saying repeatedly , ‘I cannot believe we are still racing…’ – then maybe we should just sit up and take notice and give credit where it is due.

A reflection of the conditions is contained in the Stipes statement after the first race that all the jockeys weighed in an average of 1kg overweight. A surprised looking trainer Paddy Kruyer just smiled as he explained the mostly formerly moderate 33-1 shot Olympic Winter’s win in the opener. This race also saw the welcome return of that magician Andrew Fortune. But the streamlined former champion jockey and local hero, incurred the wrath of the Stipes at only his second ride back, when riding the 3-1 favourite Testing The Wind for trainer Mike Stewart:
The Stipes said: Jockey A Fortune, the rider of TESTING THE WIND, was charged with a contravention of Rule 62.2.8, in that he failed to ensure that he kept to a straight course parallel to the running rail and relative to his drawn position until a point not less than 200 meters from the start, as indicated by a marker or, by markers, on both sides of the race course. Jockey A Fortune signed an admission of guilt and was fined R1,000.00.

The second race saw the day’s most successful jockey nineteen year old Apprentice Girish Goomamy, score with a 2500-1 double that had the Stipes asking questions. It was remarkably the Mauritian born rider’s second double within a week. Goomamy’s first winner was for veteran conditioner Ronnie Sheehan in the second race.
The Stipes said: When questioned regarding the improved performance from SMART COLLEEN today compared to her previous race on 23/06/2012, over 1000 metres, when she finished 15.80 lengths behind the winner, Trainer R Sheehan told the Stewards that he could offer no explanation other than this filly showing a natural improvement since her first run two months ago. Mr Sheehan’s attention was drawn to the Rules pertaining to inconsistent form and he was advised that her future performances will be monitored. The Board reviewed the filly’s first run and was satisfied that the filly had raced and was ridden on merit.

Goomamy’s second winner was recorded in the seventh race when the formless Mellifont gelding Offertory registered the first leg of the Riaan Van Reenen double. If I had gone with the field in the jackpot, I would have left this battler out and must say that I find the Stipes comment regarding his last run rather strange – what about the previous three runs to that?

The Stipes said: When questioned regarding the improved performance from OFFERTORY (App G Goomany) today compared to its previous race on 18/08/2012 when it finished 30,45 lengths behind the winner over 1200m Trainer R van Reenen told the Stewards that the gelding had benefited from the apprentice’s 4kg claim and it had finished the race off strongly today when in its previous races it had tired in the closing stages. He added that the 1000m distance for today had suited the gelding. His explanation was noted and his attention was drawn to the rules regarding inconsistent form and the gelding’s future performances will be monitored. The Board reviewed the gelding’s previous run and noted that OFFERTORY had been tightened for galloping room and had been steadied losing position at about the 400m. Thereafter Jockey B Morgenrood, the rider of OFFERTORY on 18/08/2012, had not persevered with his riding. Jockey B Morgenrood will be interviewed regarding this matter.

Van Reenen, who has hit a purple patch of late, was the day’s most successful trainer and also sent out the smart looking Trippi, Girl’s Best Friend to win the very next race over 1200m. She is bred to sprint and has won down the straight – what her connections were thinking by running her over 1700m at her last start is puzzling indeed.
The most successful stallions on the day were Western Winter and Right Approach with two winners apiece
Caution needs to be taken with Saturday’s opportunistic form in the next few moths. It surely cannot stand up to the test of time. So where do punters stand with these ridiculous results and country mile winning margins? Be cautious and study form closely –and make amental note of the day that almost never was – 25 August 2012.
As regards the formalities of handicapping and impact on merit ratings, NHA Manager of Handicapping Roger Smith assured me that cognisance is taken of the conditions prevailing : “ When the going is heavy with slow times, we obviously take a more cautious and lenient view. Some horses are suited to the conditions and others are not. Big margins are not taken literally. We try and make sense of the results presented before us,” he said.

Emerald Cup Looms

It was quite out of the ordinary to have a Vaal Sand meeting on a Saturday, but well done to Phumelela for putting on an entertaining programme as a build-up to Africa’s richest race on sand, the Gr2 Emerald Cup. The winner of Saturday’s race, the Gr3 August Stakes, gets a free ticket straight into the big race on 22 September and like former August Stakes winners, Across The Ice looks like he will be a big runner there- together with his stablemate, that magic sand specialist, Mr Tobin.

With the J&B Met and the Summer Cup recently having moved sideways on the calendar, I was quite puzzled though to see the Emerald Cup being run on 22 September , and thus quite some time off month-end and the optimal betting turnover periods. While I made some effort to research popular paydays, little statistical information is available, although historic betting turnover trends leave little doubt as to when Joe Public has money to splash.

I approached Phumelela for comment and their Executive tasked with Sales and On-Course Marketing, Clyde Basel explained.

“The Emerald Resort have been sponsors of the race for 10 years or so and are loyal sponsors of our sport. Their CEO Martin Rice, in particular, is an owner of horses and an avid supporter of the game. But, like any sponsor, their support and patronage must have a solid business basis and the day has always been associated and linked to Heritage Day. This falls on Monday 24 September,” he said.

For the uninformed, Heritage day is also known as National Braai Day as the result of a pointed 2005 media campaign.

It was not originally intended to be an official South African public holiday. But when the Inkatha Freedom Party refused to sign the Public Holiday’s Bill that was being presented to Parliament as it omitted Shaka Day,a concession was made. Quite aptly, just as King Shaka was instrumental in uniting Zulu clans into a cohesive nation, Heritage Day now encourages South Africans to come together to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and the diversity of our rainbow nation. It will be celebrated on 24 September this year.

Basel continued: “ Sometimes the public holiday cycle falls in our favour where we land up having the race within days of the month end. This year, the date hasn’t featured ideally on our racing calendar, but we needed to look at the bigger picture. We met with Martin Rice and proposed the possibility of staging the Emerald Cup one week later but he explained that for Emerald the drive is to attract feet through the gates of the resort on what would be relatively quiet weekends. The Emerald Cup raceday has worked well in terms of attracting people to the resort and bringing patrons to the casino in the past. Let’s face it, the resort and casino is always full at the end of the month, so it would negate the purpose to stage it then. He also mentioned that they prefer to have their day somehow associated with Heritage day, which has been the case for most of their involvement over the years.”
Basel continued by explaining that it was Phumelela’s policy to have a close working relationship with its sponsors and said that high-value supporters were an important cog in their business.

“We respect and understand their rationale and would rather accommodate the sponsor in the short-term and look after what has become a mutually beneficial business relationship in the long-term. It’s a case of swings and roundabouts. The last two years we’ve raced on 25 September 2010,24 September 2011 and now 22 September 2012 – all three years very close to the public holiday of the 24th. For the 2010 Emerald Cup we achieved record high attendances and were well over on-course budget. Then last year we were thrilled with the turn out and betting turnover, despite the fact that it was an unseasonally ice- cold September day at the Vaal. 2012 will be challenging but we thrive on challenges and nobody said this was an easy business. We will do everything we can to make it work as best it can, for the game at large and for our sponsor and ourselves,” he said.

The entertainment line-up for the day includes the Afrikaans electronic band from Bellville, Die Heuwels Fantasties (The Hills Fantastic), RnB star Toya Delazy and DJ Vin Deysel. Other entertainment for the kids includes Face Painters, Magicians , a Stilt Walker, Juggler/Unicyclist, Kiddies Carousel, Gladiator Jumping Castle & more. Basel added that entrance was free.

From a media perspective, it makes things so much more positive when we understand some of the forces at play. And it makes us all want to get behind the effort and support it to the fullest. Not rocket science, is it?

Maiden Cup on Sunday

There is exciting racing from Mauritius this Sunday with the Maiden Cup being run.

200 passionate locals attended the gallops earlier this week where Hatt’s mount and the likely favourite Il Saggiatore put in good work. He worked with last year’s winner Senor Versace with Mark Neisius in the saddle. Il Saggiatore looks to follow in the footsteps of other runners from the Joey Ramsden yard to have gone on and done well in this 2400m event.

Ramsden’s Have Mercy won it in 2003 and 2005 and Captain’s Knock won in 2010.

Glen Hatt may have had his confidence knocked after being warned by the Stewards after last Saturday’s meeting. Riding the former Kannemeyer runner Eskimo Roll, Hatt was reminded to ensure that he is clear of other runners before shifting his ground.

Johnny Geroudis was the only jockey formally sanctioned after last Saturday’s meeting.He was found guilty of not having ridden new comer Ghost Dog in the eight race to the satisfaction of the Racing Stewards. He was suspended for two weeks and fined R 30.000. He was also asked to leave more space for horses on his inside during an enquiry concerning the fifth race in which he partnered From My Heart.

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