20 Years Ago: Sands Of Time – May 1991

May 1991



Daily News racing editor Stewart Ramsay scoops news of South African interest in racing on Madagascar. A group of Natal business people, including Greyville chairman Labuschagne, plan to pump money and expertise into a venture aiming to revive the islands deteriorated industry.

M-Net announces it has secured coverage of a feast of local and international racing. Billed as the “Festival of Racing”, the first of the English classics (1000 and 2000 Guineas) herald the start of the festival, which runs from May to July.
Michael Roberts scores in the 2000 Guineas, riding a peach of a race on the grey colt Mystiko. Both classics are won by grey horses. Mystiko is bred by Australian David Hains, who after Mystiko was born twice mated the dam to Southern Hemisphere time to Seattle Slew. The progeny will race down-under. Hains, who won last year’s Melbourne Cup, claims racing and breeding is a hobby. He uses a computer programme to choose stallions. “It takes the emotion out of the business”, he says. “A lot of people in racing instinctively know something, but my knowledge of bloodstock is relatively short-lived. I need something precise to tell me what to do.”
Hains, who has interesting ideas on bringing up horses, runs a dozen mares on a 500-acre property in Australia, while on his 300 acres in Kentucky he has had a peak of no more than twelve mares.

A press report surfaces in the Cape, on the likelyhood of night racing on the Rand. Newmarket is said to have investigated all aspects, with plans well advanced. Estimated cost to install the lighting amount to R9 million. Modifications to the grandstand (glass enclosing for winter racing) would run to double that amount.

Two-year-old filly Got The Giggles breaks the Scottsville 1000m course record, clocking 56.62 sec. Many are sceptical of the accuracy of the timing equipment, but trainer Guy Rixon shows little surprise. He rates Got The Giggles in the class of other class filly Wainui.
At Germiston the horse Real McCoy is scratched – the reason is that the horse has no passport. Unreal.

The Natal Winter season opens with the running of the Clairwood Nursery. Natal clubs are set to stage fifteen big races during the month of May, with R1.8 million in prize money.
Divine Act runs (and wins) his first race outside his home province, and finishes a fraction outside Bush Telegraph race record in the Rupert Ellis Brown Memorial at Clairwood. He’s right on course for the Gilbeys Stakes late in June.

5 – 11

After a below-expectations performance of Cape breeders at the National Sales, Robertson breeder Jan de Clercq highlights the “onslaught of the Natal breeders on the well established and best breeders in the country” in a letter to The Argus. De Clercq claims that unless and until the Cape is able to match incentives given in other provinces, the situation in the Cape will deteriorate further.

The Enchantment filly Jasmine Way becomes the first two-year-old in the country to win in open company. She does so in a Novice Plate over 1000m at Milnerton, defeating 6 older opponents, after being backed from 3/1 to 12/10.

The racing roundabout starts a new turn when jockey Piere Strydom joins the Ferraris stable, and Lloyd goes freelance.

The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club confirms the appointment of Basil Marcus as its retained rider for the 1991/92 season, together with UK jockey John Marshall. The pair replace Tony Ives and Nigel Tiley, who will be retained by Hong Kong trainers in the next year.

Conservation scientists at UCT pronounce themselves shocked at the destruction of rare and endangered plant species in the in-field at Milnerton. The Cape Turf Club is excavating to build dams.
The UCT botanists claim to have communicated with the Turf Club as far back as 1988, when assurance was given that club management had the well-being of the fynbos at heart and would inform the botanists of any relevant developments. Botanist Clive McDowell offered to produce an in-depth survey, but nothing was done.
When questioned by journalists about the matter, new Milnerton chairman Kirton says he was aware earthworks were proceeding, but “did not know much about the matter”. Milnerton’s assistent GM Mike Louw stresses that the earthhworks did not contravene any conservation controls, and that his management was under no obligation to commission the type of study suggested by McDowell. Louw states that the earthworks were unavoidable in the interests of business. Rumour has it that the botanists at UCT are eating worms.

M-Net makes its big-race debut by showing the SA Guineas, direct from Greyville, providing much needed competition on the South African TV-scene.
The Gr1 race is won by the Atlanta Syndicate’s one-eyed gelding State Control, who is blown up the straight by a strong tailwind and wins easily – at 12/1. The win provides part-owner Rob Knuppe with a most unusual double: he’d earlier in the season won the Gr1 Gosforth Fillies Guineas with State Treasure. State Control and State Treasure are not in any way related, and were bred at different farms. Even so, Rob, what must the ANC think?

12 – 18

In the US bloodstock sage Bill Oppenheim estimates that about a third of all owners leave the game each year.
Also in the US the Owners and Breeder’s Association is actively trying to attract new people. Ads, placed in racetrack programmes, attract about 60 interested people each week. After an initial mailing, the genuine respondents are invited to attend seminars, held during racing, and these are followed up by more intensive workshops.
Now for the good news: the Kentucky Oaks is won by Lite Light, who had been purchased by new people in town. They operate under the name Oaktown Stables, the newcomers having paid $1.2 million for the filly last March. Oaktown Stables is owned by Lewis Burrell senior, who has run a poker parlour in Oakland, California, for most of his life. Burrell’s youngest son is rap music megastar MC Hammer.
Still in the US, state lotteries are becoming serious competitors for the gambling dollar. To counter, in a country where racing barely gets coverage in the national press, the idea of a nationwide jackpot bet on the Breeders Cup is mooted.

The Jockey Club appoints a sub-committee of Head Executive stewards to consider the recommendations of a board it had appointed earlier to investigate a complaint by trainer Forbes against former Transvaal OTA chairman Ruffel and committee member Jayes. As Forbes’ complaint originally had nothing to do with the Jockey Club, the first board had been appointed by the Club in terms of Clause 24 of the constitution of the Jockey Club (Duties and powers of Local Executive stewards). Even so, the new sub-committee is now empowered to make a decision on the complaint of Mr Forbes. Its findings, according to the Club, will be issued as soon as possible.

The TAB (Transvaal) publishes its Annual Report, showing that punters on the Rand wagered R1.17 billion in 1990. Of this amount almost R800 million came from off-course punters, who increased their amount wagered by 35% over the previous year. TAB profits rose by 40% to R16 million, while the Transvaal Province collected just under R69 million for the year, up 27% on 1989.

Trainer Millard barely hides a smile when the draw for the Rothmans July takes place. Four of his horses draw in the first ten, Al Mufti at one, Jungle Warrior four and Olympic Duel at 8. Bookmakers promptly make Al Mufti the 6/1 favourite, not least because he had beaten last week’s Guineas winner State Control pointless at their last encounter. Olympic Duel comes in to 10/1 as second favourite.
Trainer Snaith is less fortunate, as his Queens Plate victor and J&B Met third Flaming Rock draws 66 out of 66. Snaith indicates that Flaming Rock’s mission may now become the Schweppes and Mainstay.

A weekly racing publication carries an advertisement which invites readers who are “expert enough to beat the toughest game in the world” to join the “Racing Academy”.
The advertisement states that “the Academy will discuss, investigate and evaluate new racing theories, findings, laws, principles and patterns as put forward by its own expert group.”
It continues: “This group, which will probably consist of the best minds in the country in this field, which will include knowledgeable bookmakers (sic) and professional punters, will then analyse the information to determine the most advantageous ways of using it”.
The cost? You need not worry: “No membership or other fees are required, as the Academy will generate its own funds through practical application of knowledge”.

Scottsville stages its usual star studded Smirnoff meeting, with three Gr1 races in one meeting. Empress Club wins the Gr1 Smirnoff Sprint. She slams her field by five lenghts, and the Argentinian half-sister to Ecurie and Epoque looks to be even better than her illustrious sisters.
Sounds of Light gives the supporters of sire All Fired Up a boost when she wins the Gr1 Fillies Sprint. Star Effort, at heavy odds-on, looks somewhat fortunate to scrape home in the Gr1 Natal Fillies Guineas – she encounters all sort of traffic problems, but clearly is not her old-self. The filly Forest Fantasy collect a bonus of R10.000 for her efforts in all three legs of the Fillies Triple.

Racefigures scale new heights when the Pietermaritzburg Turf Club compiles the number cloth order for the Fillies Guineas. As usual the club lists the runners in order of racefigure. The odds-on favourite Star Effort is allocated number two! This because her racefigure of 43 is three less than the racefigure of Forest Fantasy, who is number one and rates 46.
Of course, as any racefigure handicapper will know, all this makes perfect sense. After all, Star Effort has only won eight races (against Forest Fantasy six), for earnings of a mere R640.000 (against Forest Fantasy R230.000). Then on the other hand, Star Effort only beat Forest Fantasy by 10 lengths in the Cape Fillies Guineas, at the one time they met. Clearly, Forest Fantasy deserves to have the higher racefigure.
The Clubs have never paid much attention to the racefigure anomalies highlighted by Karel Miedema in Winner’s Circle magazine. Some years ago the Jockey Club wrote him a letter stating that their licensed handicappers ‘are professionals and entitled to treat weights in any way they want’. Quite.

Jeffrey Lloyd wins seven races in one day at Turffontein, a feat that equals the South African record.

And here is a novel one: trainer Frank Agliotti refuses a pre-race blood sample to be taken of one of his runners at Turffontein. The stipes withdraw the horse, and fine Aggliotti R2000.

New Zealand sire Imperial March, sire of two Holiday Inns winners in South Africa, dies at stud in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean Yearling Sales buck world-wide trends, and post an increase in average over the previous year. The 1991 average is $27.000, with top price of $230.000 being laid out for the filly Island Again (by Sun Tonic out of the Jamaico mare Island Farewell). Highest priced colt at $170.000 is Tilden’s son O’Malley, first foal of a mare by Divine King.
The catalogue for the Zimbabwean sales could easily be mistaken for a South African one, with yearlings by a host of local SA sires: Bay Express, All Fired Up, Capture Him, Divine King, Fair Season, Fearless Lad, Free State, Freedom Land, Hard Up, Lost Chord, Jungle Rock, Mount Hagen, On Stage, Politician, Russian Fox, Shoe Danzig, and more.

19 – 25

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water, out come the entries and weights for the GR2 Chairman’s Stakes at Greyville. It is not so much the weights, but the attached Race Figures that draws attention. And in particular the figure attached to Running Footman, a graduation winner of 3 races. Running Footman ran a close second to Alnwick in the Concorde Stakes, and for that had his race figure increased from 36 to 70.
Of course, the handicapper has the right to express his opinion about the relative merit of Running Footman. But this Racefigure of 70 makes Running Footman a superior racehorse when compared to Queens Plate winner and J&B Met-third Flaming Rock (race figure 62, ten points less), and marginally less in ability than Olympic Duel (race figure 72, two points more). This has to be an unrealistic assessment for a 3yo winner of 3 races and R66.000 in total stakes.
It is now just over a year ago that the Jockey Club promised to probe and investigate handicapping in South Africa. By the looks of it the intellectual rape, disguised as Race Figures, will have to be endured for a while longer.

Muslim groups in South Africa call for a change of name for Rothmans July favourite Al Mufti. The horse’s name has strong religious connotations in Arabic. But as Al Mufti has been bred and raced by Sheik Maktoum in Europe, the muslim objections become less convincing.

The Cape’s third ever claiming race is cancelled for lack of entries. The Western Province Owners and Trainers Association calls for an urgent meeting with Cape trainers to discuss dwindling fields. The OTA indicates that small fields may lead to cancellation of midweek racing in the Cape.
At the meeting, held after the racemeeting at Kenilworth, trainers air (for the OTA) unexpected grievances. The matter is deferred for further discussion.

NatFed chairman Basel confirms a new remuneration package for jockeys, to give all of them a chance to earn a living wage. Jockeys are set to receive R1500 per month, plus R25 per ride, and seven percent of stakes won. The scheme includes work riders at all recognised training centres.
A few weeks later the new scheme has Natal trainers up in arms. Some trainers cannot see why jockeys should be singled out for such preferential treatment. Irony is that the jockeys package was strongly promoted by NATFED, which is short for National Federation of Owners and Trainers. So who’s representing whom?

Rand trainer Malherbe saddles his first winner since returning to the trainer’s ranks six month ago. His horse Danger Bay wins at Tote-odds of 100/1, and the trainer wins a healthy sized Pick Six as a result (of course, he “knew the horse would win” and bankered Danger Bay). There is joy all round, as Danger Bay is the first winner (and first runner) for his owner.

French bloodstock agents vote to accept a 50% cut in commission at auctions. As of August (Deauville), they will receive a five percent commission from the sales companies for purchases made. Previously, vendors paid a ten percent commission direct to agents.
French TBA president Michel Henochsberg calls it “a responsible way forward” and says: “The French market will now be more moral”.

On the eve of the Highveld Breeders Sale at Germiston, the TBA hosts a think tank, attended by scores of people from throughout the industry.
The Highveld Breeders sale average of R10.300 is 14% up on the previous year. Highest price of R50.000 is paid by trainer Ferraris for the Hobnob-filly Peachy, an own-sister to three winners.

Clairwood Turf Club celebrates its 70th anniversary (the Club raced for the first time on May 24, 1921) with a PA and Pick Six carry-over. It is the first time in Natal’s racing history that a Place Accumulator pool is carried forward.
Contributing to the carry forward pool are the runners in the day’s feature race, the Gr2 Woolavington Handicap. Admiralty Arch (20/1) holds of two 16/1 and a 33/1 shot. The favourites run nowhere and for many the chances to get into the Rothmans July become bleaker.
The Del Sarto filly Family Code wins the Debutante Stakes on the same day at Clairwood, while in PE the Cape trained Practical Joker comes home alone in the EP Derby. Practical Joker is the biggest winner in South Africa for his sire Comedy Star, who died earlier this year in March.

Peruvian jockey Guillermo “Willie” Figueroa, on a working holiday in South Africa, rides his first South African winner aboard the Faul-trained Pearl Lake at Turffontein. The horse starts at 8/1.
Waichong Mawing decides to give Rand racing a miss, and indicates he’ll ride in Mauritius from June onwards.

26 – 1

The Robertson Broodmare Sale is a quiet affair, but Oakfields dispersal provides fireworks. The mare Up The Creek goes for R600.000 to the fearless Norman Tilley, who had secured Devon Air at the Scott’s dispersal last year for an equally formidable amount and kept high visibility high with several purchases at the National Sales this year. Up The Creek is in foal to Northern Guest.
Most of the mares (all in foal) are secured by different buyers, and at good prices – giving rise to the thought that rumours of a recession are nothing more than a figment of other people’s imagination. The Oakfields aggregate is just over five million Rand.

In an interview with Winning Form, trainer Dennis Drier makes some interesting observations. Under the heading of miscellaneous dislikes he lists “the media talking rubbish”, while his biggest drag in racing is “making excuses for bad horses”.
When asked what can be done to improve racing in SA, Drier says: “We should have a national handicapping system, so trainers would know where they stand”.
And who is Drier’s favourite jockey? “Robbie Sham, when he is not unconscious”.

Within the space of two weeks all of Computaform, Racing Digest, and Winning Form make changes to their format. Computaform shows it is now finally what the name says it should have been for years, Racing Digest throws out the tabloid format and goes A4 again (by its own admission “to please toilet readers”), while Winning Form further increases its lead in the Comprehensive Statistics Stakes.

In the long awaited case of trainer Alan Forbes vs The Jockey Club, judge Justice van der Merwe finds against the Jockey Club and orders the return of a fine of R10.000 to Mr Forbes, with interest of 15% p.a. from January 4, 1990 (when the fine was paid).
The case arose from a contravention of Rule 78.7a (The person responsible for the care, treatment or training of a horse … etc.), relating to Forbes’ horses Fastoll and Northern Sheik.
Forbes had incurred two separate fines of R5000 each, which on appeal to the local Executive were reduced to one fine of R5000. On further appeal to the Head Executive the two R5000 fines were reinstated.
The judge said he was perfectly satisfied that Mr Forbes had been victimised, and that Forbes had proved conclusively that the prohibited substance found in the urine samples could not have passed through the horse from which the sample was taken. The judge further found that the Jockey Club had charged Forbes under the wrong Rule, had acted in a high handed manner and had approached the matter with a measure of stubborness and possibly not with an open mind as to the true interpretation and meaning of the Rules.
The Jockey Club is applying for leave to appeal. But whatever the outcome of that appeal, the implied self-protection simply has to be another nail in the Jockey Club’s coffin. Christie’s thinking may not have been so wrong after all.
One wonders, could the Club charge itself under the Rule that includes “bringing the game into disrepute”?

In England the Jockey Club and bookmakers find themselves on the wrong end of a report published by the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee.
“From what we have seen”, the report reads, “we do not believe that the racing industry at present has the commercial skills or unity and clarity of purpose necessary to take on the bookmakers in the open market”.
Of the Jockey Club it says: “The Jockey Club is hardly a democratic organisation, and is perhaps the antithesis of all that the phrase ‘classless society’ represents”.
If the Home Office concurs with the Committee’s views, the Jockey Club will lose its autonomy and be combined with the Levy Board and HAC “to form a powerful and competent single body to speak for and manage the racing industry”.
Does that sound familiar?

Early Rothmans July favourite Al Mufti blots his copybook when unplaced in the Racing Digest 1900, a false run race in which Bluffing makes all the running after his jockey looks around rather desperately in the early stages to see what, if anything, will give him a lead. Nothing does – and Bluffing, aided by a tail-wind up the Greyville straight, wins by two lengths.
Bookmakers react quickly, pushing out Al Mufti from fives and sixes to tens. Bluffing comes in from 50/1 to 12/1. New favourite (at 4/1) is Olympic Duel, after she puts up an eye catching sprint in the Gr2 Chairman’s Stakes won by Harry’s Echoe.

In a short interview with Racing Digest, Al Mufti jockey Mark Sutherland comments on the pace in the Racing Digest 1900. “Often jockey’s are reluctant to go out and set the pace”, he states. And: “You should ride as close as possible to your pre-race instructions, but sometimes you have to use your initiative. If you find yourself in front – and it’s not really where you should be – you shouldn’t spoil it for others”.
Ironically, it is in the pen-picture on Bluffing in the 1990 Racing Record Annual where the following is recorded: “was given a very poor ride when unnecessarily restrained in in front in very slow run handicap in June, and outsprinted, his jockey following orders rather than showing enterprise”. No prizes for guessing which jockey was aboard Bluffing that time …

Natal racing editor and M-Net presenter Stewart Ramsay advocates the introduction of an exotic bet that is more difficult to win than a Place Accumulator, but not as difficult as the Pick Six.
Ramsay believes that the Cape already has the answer in the form of the quinpot (horses designated must be in the first two in five consecutive races). But Ramsay suggests that in Natal such a quinpot should have six legs. Of course, then can’t be called quinpot any longer. Logically, with six legs it will have to become a sexpot.
No wonder Ramsay thinks it’ll drive Natal punters wild.

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