It would have remarkably been the late Princess Diana’s fiftieth birthday today. Besides the fact that the years pass swiftly by, this is possibly a pointer to the current July favourite and South African Horseracing’s very own princess. Igugu means jewel in Zulu and she won the Triple Tiara in scintillating fashion.
Arlington in the Eastern Cape on Friday 1 July resembled something of a war zone with the betting public dashing for cover as their July Day budgets took an advance hammering with awful results. But Punters have enjoyed quite a fortnight with Saftote commendably introducing a few innovative touches as regards their betting products in the build-up to the Vodacom Durban July tomorrow. What the changes have really done is highlight the fragmentation and inequalities prevalent in the industry in this country with Gold Circle lagging way behind Phumelela in terms of technology.
It feels like just the other day that Princess Di was killed in a car accident at the age of 36. There was no internet gambling then and cell-phones were few and far between. And we seemed a helluva lot less stressed out! But innovation and technology in the supposed name of progress moves on!
The all to come bet on local and overseas racing this week into the Vodacom Durban July has been marketed ad nauseum by Tellytrack and it should certainly serve to boost the win and place pools in the big race tomorrow. It is a dramatic innovation as tote punters have never been able to play on different days into one big race, and the effect of a drag of cash into the July pools as the final leg should be discernible. We also have six tote places payable on the big race , which, while diluting the dividends somewhat, will go some way to ensuring that the winnings are more widely spread. Rounded fractional betting has also been introduced. Whereas previously we could only take fractional bets at 1% units, they are now being rounded off. In other words we won’t be getting irritating small change from our R20 note. If you want to spend R20, then it will give you a decimal fractional percentage for the full amount. Good news.
Indeed these are changes for the better but there are catches. Only Phumelela outlets will be offering the all to come bet and the decimalised fractions. Apparently this is because Gold Circle do not utilise the Amtote system. In this day and age we fly men to the moon and can speak face to face to our relatives in the Antarctic, but it boggles the mind that a programme or solution cannot be found to level the playing fields so that Gold Circle punters can also enter into the excitement and spirit. After all, we contribute and punt into the same pools. Sure we will all benefit from the increased pools, but the fun is why most of us bet.
It is, we believe , a move on the part of the JSE listed Phumelela to further flex their muscle in the power game at play at the water coolers and behind the closed doors of our industry captain’s offices. Gold Circle is in the process of a messy provincial divorce – we call it messy because we know so bloody little about it but string half-baked stodgy cookies together. They issue vague couched press releases about main board resignations with a touch of fresh cream splattered on it to hide the bitter taste and acrimony, so often associated with broken dreams and dented egos.
But tomorrow is Africa’s greatest horseracing event and we are going to put the politics aside and shout the good horses home and have a great July party. Arlington today was not a great curtain raiser. We got very hurt with nasty results. But punters are fighters and we will be up and jousting tomorrow again. Trainer Gavin Smith pipped his arch adversary Alan Greeff 4-3 in their weekly game of cat and mouse at Arlington and neither of them have runners at Greyville. But Muzi Yeni and Felix Coetzee rode two winners apiece and must be considered the form jockeys.
Felix rides the three year old Run For It in the July for Justin Snaith. His sire Dynasty won the race from the worst draw in 2003. His jockey that day, Robbie Fradd, has returned home this month from the East to live in SA. He will be watching from the stands courtesy of a suspension. Felix and Robbie are friends and colleagues. Muzi rides Happy Landing for Joe Soma. There wont be a dry eye in the house if Muzi becomes the first black jockey in history to win Africa’s greatest horserace. It’s a fairytale and it’s an open race. There is romance and a story in any possible winner. Whether its our princess, Felix or Muzi, let’s enjoy it. Either way, it will be a right royal affair!